There’s a lot to be said for a good camcorder-styled camera — a format that, in recent years, hasn’t been given the love and attention I feel it deserves. While not the most exciting camera, more often than not (and especially for event and corporate shooters) — it is by far the most practical.
The market was given a glimpse of the future late last year, with Panasonic’s release of the DVX-200. The camera provided a Micro Four Thirds imager, with a camcorder-styled body and attached zoom lens. The idea being that run-and-gun shooters needn’t compromise on depth of field any longer. By using the larger sensor, shooters could finally get images that rivaled those of their DSLR counterparts in the sub-$5,000 market. It’s a need that won’t be going away any time soon, either — producers and content creators have come to enjoy the shallow depth of field “look” that one gets from large imagers (the Canon 5D Mark II is probably to blame). But, rigging these small cameras with external recorders, audio interfaces, shoulder mounts, top handles, and shotgun mics was never the end-all, be-all answer shooters needed. The DVX-200 delivered on these issues, but many users still felt that the borrowed GH4 sensor wasn’t quite what they were looking for.
Enter the Sony PXW-Z150, Sony’s newest offering in the PXW line, sitting happily alongside the popular FS5. At a little over three grand, this camera packs a punch. Its imager is slightly smaller than that of the DVX-200, but compared to the ⅓” and even ⅔” sensors of the prior generation of camcorders, the Z150’s 1” sensor adds just enough depth-of-field options to feel very versatile.
In addition to its sensor, the Z150 has a few more tricks up its sleeve to bring it in line with its fancier, smaller counterparts. Sony has built the foundation of the camera’s acquisition on the now tried-and-true XAVC-L codec. While it’s not as dense as the FS7’s XAVC-I, it’s a huge improvement from the price-comparative a7SII (XAVC-S).
The Z150 records a UHD 4K image internally, using the same SDXC cards as the FS5. It also has the ability to overcrank to 120fps in HD formats. Slowmo seems to be the new battleground for this market, and it’s great to see that Sony has matched the challenge.
Perhaps the most interesting feature, for a humble colorist to appreciate, is its ability to record 10 bit HD. Traditionally, any camera under $10,000 recorded 8 bit images internally. To see a camera like this recording a nice and dense 10 bit image is a huge improvement. This camera has far more in common with an FS7 than an EX1.
After that, the features meet all the new standards easily — built-in ND filter, a powerful autofocus and full auto mode, and XLR inputs. Run-and-gun shooters will feel right at home with the familiar Sony layout, and even though they’ve simplified the menus — I don’t find myself wanting anything extra. A common criticism of Sony’s latest camera lines is how complicated their menu structures are, so to see things paired down a bit in this camera is a welcome addition.
It’s slightly disappointing that the Z150 doesn’t include any LOG gammas, but the normal picture profiles fill any creative gaps you may have. I don’t foresee many people shooting LOG on a camcorder, but with 10 bit, my question is ‘why not’? I would love to use the Z150 as a B camera to an FS7. Those are small potatoes, though, and I find myself very satisfied shooting with the Z150. For folks who are comfortable with the EX1 or NX cameras, this is, most likely, the 4K upgrade you’ve been waiting for.
We are currently selling and renting the PXW-Z150, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or 800-rule-com (800-785-3266) for more information!
Alex Enman, Engineer, email@example.com