Sony’s first 50Mb/s handheld camcorder – The PMW-100

Introduced from early 2009, the venerable PMW-EX1 and PMW-EX3 series of 1/2″ 35Mb/s XDCAM EX camcorders have now entered the twilight of their existence and we’ve been wondering for a while what Sony’s next generation models will look (and more importantly perform) like?

It seems to have taken an extraordinary amount of time for Sony to catch onto the fact that when the BBC and other leading UK broadcasters stipulate that their source material for mainstream broadcast must be captured at 50Mb/s (or higher) there’s no point arguing the merits of lower bandwidth formats with them…  Whether they’re right or wrong, they are incredibly influential and all producers want to be able to supply them with approved content!

But as the old saying goes it’s better late than never, and clearly Sony have been listening to their customers because here is a snapshot overview of the new PMW-100, doubtless their first in a new line-up of 50Mb/s capable camcorders:

Sony PMW-100 LHS view

Many people are claiming that the PMW-100 is a 1/3″ camera, but a cursory glance at the specifications tells a slightly different story because it actually features a single 1/2.9inch CMOS sensor – Smack bang in-between the size of a 1/2″ and a 1/3″ and hopefully this means that the PMW-100 can deliver superior low light performance when compared to other 1/3″ cameras.

The integrated lens features a 10x optical zoom which has a focal length of 5.4 – 54 mm (equivalent to 40-400 mm on 35 mm lens).  This is not as wide as the lens on a Canon XF100 series, so I suspect that owners may want to carry a wide angle adaptor for use in tight situations…  Of course the flip side of this is that at the telephoto end of the zoom range it is usefully ‘longer’ than the Canon.  The lens’ aperture is f/1.8 at the wide end, varying to a still reasonably ‘fast’ f/2.9 at the telephoto end.

In its maximum quality HD422 mode the PMW-100 captures full HD using an MPEG-2 422P@HL Codec at 50Mbps / CBR (Constant bit Rate).  The PMW-100 is a ‘worldwide’ camcorder, so you can shoot material for output either side of the ‘pond’ with standard frame rates that include 59.94i, 50i, 29.97p, 25p, 23.98p.  In 1080p the frame rate can also be varied from 1-25fps in UDF mode (or 1-25fps if using NTSC settings) and in 720p mode you can ‘over-crank’ up to 60fps (NTSC area settings).

PMW-EX series owners will be pleased to read that the PMW-100’s recording media is SxS cards which utilise the Expresscard/34 interface and have proven to be ultra-reliable – The PMW-100 has dual card slots for continual recording capability and at 50Mb/s a 64GB card will store over 120minutes of footage.  In common with the PMW-EX camcorders, the PMW-100 is also compatible with Sony’s 12V BP-U series batteries and therefore easy to power from larger professional grade 12V batteries and shoulder-mount rigs.

With an operational weight of 1.5Kg (bare), the PMW-100 is 30% lighter than a Z5E, so it’s a very manageable handheld camcorder that can be taken anywhere.

In summary:

At £3,433 the PMW-100 is great value.  Whilst it doesn’t have the 3 separate lens rings a professional camera operator wants it’s combination of great image quality, compact size and ease of use make it ideal for broadcast video journalism applications.

3 thoughts on “Sony’s first 50Mb/s handheld camcorder – The PMW-100

  1. My PMW 100 arrived last week. The first one in Ireland. This is a great little camera. Compact. Lightweight. Great image quality. Shame there are no ND filters and the separate lens cap dangling from a string is a bit naff. But, it’s a very impressive piece of kit. Well done Sony!

  2. hi i love this camcorder just ask a question can we put a stand on it and what kinds of parts come whit dose it have a training dvd to learn it as a professionally thanx for replying me

  3. Bought mine just before Christmas and love the camera. Buying a PMW-200 soon too. The only grumble is the lens cap and its very slow to auto focus. The latest firmware has helped the issue, but it still needs some work.

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