Size matters: Sony PXW-X70
Last summer we found ourselves in need of a new camera package. We were already very familiar with the Sony PMW-200 and its newer sibling the PXW-X200 and we considered those for event and conference filming, along with the Panasonic GH4 for interviews and corporate videos. But whilst researching we discovered a single camera that potentially could act as an all-rounder for both types of work. We picked one up and, liking it so much, bought a second almost immediately.
The Sony PXW-X70 was launched in summer 2014. The specs are detailed here but the highlights are a 1.0” sensor, 1080p XAVC HD422 10-bit recording (with optional 8-bit 4K) to SD cards, built-in ND filters and great lens with a 12/24x zoom. The PXW-X70 is a highly-versatile camera. The 1.0” sensor (similar to Super 16mm in size) can handle deep depth of field (DoF) for event work such as lecture filming or conference filming, but can also replace something like the GH4 with its 1.3” sensor for corporate video production, interview filming and B-roll footage. With the paid upgrade the camera can also shoot 4K. Although much of our delivery is still 1080p, where possible we now always shoot in 4K. Even the lower-bitrate (60Mb/s) 4K codec provides a noticeably-sharper picture and less grain than the 50Mb/s 1080p codec whilst increasing file sizes by only a modest 20%. The 100Mb/s 4K codec is ideal for an unmanned wide/audience camera allowing us to crop or zoom in considerably during the edit. But perhaps the biggest advantage of the camera is its size. This thing is tiny which means one cameraperson can easily carry two cameras in a single backpack to all shoots. For the highest quality videos we always advocate multi-camera shoots to our clients, and the Sony PXW-X70 allows us to offer this service at a highly-competitive price. Whilst extolling the virtues of this camera to fellow filmmakers, they expressed concern that clients might be turned off by the camera’s diminutive stature; that it would look unprofessional. But in our 12 months of using the camera these concerns proved to be unfounded: the miniaturisation of camera technology has progressed so quickly over the past decade, thanks in large part to the iPhone (on which a critically-acclaimed, theatrically-released feature film was shot in 2015) that people know not to judge the quality of the image by the size of the camera. Sony has continued to update the camera with new features and, for our needs at least, the only features now missing are a Log/flat profile (to increase the effective dynamic range for more flexibility when colour grading) and a marker button (to mark points in the recording for special attention during the edit). But these are minor gripes.
As filmmakers we always use the right tool for the job, and there is no one-size-fits-all solution for every task, but this camera has proven itself to be remarkably capable in a variety of situations and we see it remaining part of our toolset for some time.
You can check out some of our work - both event and corporate - much of which was filmed using this camera, on our homepage at www.filmshed.com.