Is Sony’s HXC-D70 the new studio camera of choice?

If you’re about to embark on building a new television studio or perhaps upgrading an existing facility to HD then one of the most important decisions you’ll have to make is your choice of camera ‘chain’. (A camera chain typically comprises a Camera Head, Viewfinder, Cable Adaptor, CCU (Camera Control Unit) and Joystick or Rotary dial controlled RCP (Remote Control Panel).

Simply choosing a studio camera based on its initial price can create problems and require significant compromise or additional expenditure further down the line.  For example, choosing a smaller sensor camera may save money on the cameras but that saving could be more than wiped out by the need for additional studio lighting (and increased running costs) needed to compensate for the lower sensitivity of that sensor.  A smaller sensor will also result in a deeper depth of field at a given aperture and that may create a far ‘harder’ look within the studio due to an increase in focus on background / foreground objects – The more in focus your set is in the background the more detail it must contain and therefore the higher its cost will be.

If there are long cable runs (over 100m for HD), or you demand 1080/3G HD performance for your studio then you may want to invest in a Triax or Fibre based solution, however it must be borne in mind that a typical 2/3″ Triax based camera ‘chain’ is upwards of £30,000 and a 2/3″ Fibre based camera ‘chain’ is over £50,000 (excluding lenses, tripods etc…), making a 2/3″ Multi-Core camera ‘chain’ for under £20,000 a very attractive proposition indeed.

INTRODUCING THE SONY HXC-D70 CAMERA.

Clearly pitched as the successor to the Sony DXC-D55WSPH 2/3″ studio camera, the HXC-D70 has a very familiar look and feel, however it is fully loaded with all of the advanced features contained within Sony’s superb PMW-350 XDCAM EX HD camcorder.

Here’s how the D70 ‘s vital statistics compare to its SD predecessor, the DXC-D55:

The D70 is equipped with a 3 x 2/3″ Full HD Sony Exmor CMOS image sensor which delivers incredible sensitivity of F13 @ 2000 lux (1080i/50) combined with a high signal-to-noise ratio of 59dB.  That’s a whopping 2 stop increase in light sensitivity over the DXC-D55 SD camera!  As with the PMW-350, the D70 also features electronic colour temperature correction (avoiding the usual light loss and increase in noise normally associated with an optical colour correction filter wheel).  ND filters are of course provided too, in the form of a traditional ND filter wheel.  Downstream of the sensor, the D70 has inherited a wide variety of picture adjustments, many of which have previously only featured in Sony’s XDCAM HD camcorders and high-end studio cameras.  These include MultiMatrix, up to 7 Gamma Curves (including Hyper Gamma), Low Key Saturation, Skin Tone detail, Knee Saturation and Auto Lens Aberration Compensation (ALAC)…

The D70’s high quality images are transmitted to the CCU via a 26-pin Multi-core (Sony CCZ type) cable.  Connectivity at the camera head includes DC power input and output, SDI input and output, Gen-lock input, Prompter output, Test output, Audio input, Earphone and Intercom input and output.   At the CCU end there are connections for Sync input and output, Prompter input, Component/RGB output, S-Video output, HDMI output, Composite input and output as well as an additional four SDI outputs!  For a budget camera system the HXC-D70 is extremely well equipped.

The HXC-D70 camera is available from Sony in three base packages: 


As you’d expect, these bundles offer savings when compared to buying their constituent parts separately, however it’s disappointing that there isn’t a configuration available with a large studio viewfinder instead of the 3.5″ ENG style viewfinder because that’s the unit you’re more likely to really need in a multi-camera studio environment.  This means that unless you want to be able to use the cameras in shoulder-mount ENG configuration you might be better off buying the D70H in conjunction with either the optional DXF-51 5″ monochrome CRT studio viewfinder or the superb DXF-C50WA 5″ studio viewfinder instead…  Image magnification and Peaking Plus make the DXF-C50WA the preferred option. 

That said, when you consider that the HXC-D70K includes a 16x lens it’s great value even if you don’t use the included viewfinder!

 

Don’t forget that in addition to the most appropriate camera package you’ll need  to buy a VCT-14 tripod adaptor plate, a CCU, cabling and probably an RCP.  If you’re migrating from an older DXC-D5x based studio configuration and you already have CCU-D50’s and RCP’s in place then you can use these with the D70 in SD mode until the time when you need the additional functionality provided by the newer SD/HD compatible HXCU-D70//U and matching RCP-1000//U RCP.

 

 

 

The RCP:  A luxury or a must-have item?

Whilst it is possible to operate a camera channel without an RCP by using the comprehensive controls on the front panel of the CCU (which control Iris, White Balance / ATW (Automatic Tracing White), Black Balance, Flare,  Master Black Level, Master Gain and Shutter Speed), this method is not recommended for a couple of reasons:  1) The iris control on an RCP is provided by a large joystick or rotary dial providing far more accurate control. 2) The CCUs are normally rack-mounted, making it very awkward to comfortably operate the controls whereas the compact RCP is specifically designed to be surface mounted in a gallery control desk for infinitely superior ergonomics.

Multi-core cabling

For SD (Standard Definition) signal transmission cable lengths of up to 300M can be utilised, however if you are operating in HD (High Definition) then this is reduced to 100M.  Fixed length CCZ cables of 5, 10, 15, 25, 50 and 100 metre lengths are available from Sony.  For other lengths custom manufactured cables are available, usually at a lower cost than a similar length from Sony .

//U

If you’re wondering what the “//U” suffix at the end of the camera’s model name denotes it’s purely to indicate that this product has been manufactured in Sony Broadcast’s European facility in Pencoed, Wales.

In summary:
The HXC-D70 provides far greater camera performance than anything else currently available on the market at its price point, hence it’s the natural choice for anyone seeking to build a new studio (or refit an existing one) without going to the expense of installing Triax or Fibre infrastructure.

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