BillyRadd Music

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Sony PXW-X70

During my long career as a professional film and video maker, I used and owned many really wonderful state-of-the-art film and video cameras, so I've seen the rapid evolution from silver halide emulsion imaging to orthicons, vidicons, plumicons, saticons, newvicons, trinicons, and then into CCD's, HD and now 4K.

In my work. I used cameras made by Arriflex, Panavision, Cinema Products, Ecair, Bell and Howell, Bolex, Mitchell, Beaulieu, Canon, Panasonic, RCA, Ikigami, JVC, Sony and recently, GoPro.

But, I'm retired now and last year I sold my 4-year-old pro video camera (a beautiful Sony EX1) while it still had some life left in it. So, when my wife, Anita Gayle, wanted me to shoot more videos for her cooking blog and promotional videos to help market her paintings of fruits and vegetables, I thought that I could shoot them with my really nice Sony Alpha 65 DSLR since it shoots beautiful HD video images as well as 24MP stills..

That's what we did and her videos turned out pretty darned good, if I do say so, etc., etc.

But, there were some issues with the camera that presented me with particular challenges I had not experienced before during my career-for-pay.

First, the audio. The thought of using a built-in camera microphone is as foreign to me as a surgeon using a butter knife to remove an inflamed appendix. It can be done but the results take longer and are less than optimum. Sure, the A65 does have a little mini jack that allows plugging in an external mike, but there is no manual adjustment of audio levels  possible, no limiter, and no headphone jack to monitor sound quality when recording. But, hey, you might get lucky, right?

Second, the kit lens that came with the A65 camera is f3.5 and gets slower as one zooms in. No chance of using "available" light without shooting at ISO 800 or above resulting in a big increase in grain. And, oh yes, the zoom lens only operated manually and not very smooth, either - not acceptable if desiring professional video results.

True, the images were stunning enough, but I had to play back each shot to check the audio and pump light into the scene when shooting indoors, and oh, yes, NO MOTORIZED ZOOMING, rather like attempting to trim the branches of a fruit tree using a shovel - less than satisfactory.

So, we kept the Sony A65 since we also take stills and it is perfect in that role, but, after much research, came up with the best, most economical professional video camera I could find in the long, drafty halls of the internet stores - Sony's PXW-X70. It's lightweight, sports a new 1" Sony CMOS imager, has all the audio controls one could ever want, and a relatively-fast Zeiss zoom lens. I won't bore you with the specs, but you can find out for yourself at Sony's site about their PXW-X70

I note on the portrait I took of the camera above:  I took that image today on our kitchen table. The reason I choose the checkered tablecloth and the blue-tinted 50's look to treat the subject was because if, in the late-1950's when I first became interested in cameras, movies and TV shows, this Sony digital video image and sound capturing device would have magically appeared on my mom's kitchen table, we would not even have recognized it as any kind of camera at all.

So, the bottom line is that it's great living in the future - even for a "seasoned" Camera Geek like me.

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