Quick review of the Sony PMW 200 and a ten minute challenge!

The Sony EX1 is a very important camera to me. It was the camera I started my blog with back in November 2007, and I shot some of my favourite pieces with it (albeit with a 35mm adaptor). It really was and still is a cracking camera. 1/2″ CMOS sensor, pretty good in low light, nice Fujinon fixed lens with full manual iris, zoom and focus on the actual barrel of the lens (a huge thing this, not a crappy little iris wheel off to the side. The downsides were: it recorded only in XDCAM EX at 35mb/s and 4:2:0. Below the minimum spec for most HD broadcasters. Did it mean the image didn’t hold up? Not all all. It was great but a 50mb/s 4:2:2 version was much needed.
I sold my EX1 though I still have its bigger brother the EX3. But, I do miss her! 🙁
Out shooting Piccadilly Furs on the EX1 and Letus Extreme
Shooting the documentary “One Nightshift” on the EX1
Canon have really taken the market for self shooters with their XF300 and XF305 cameras with 3 CMOS 1/3″sensors. Full HD with 50mb/s 4:2:2. I myself have the baby brother the XF105, just a single sensor 1/3″ CMOS . Very small though.
Sony have had their better codec the XDCAM 4:2:2 around for a while now, but this is just the second time it has been implemented in a small-ish camera – the PMW 100 has a single 1/3″ sensor but with the better codec. The PMW 200 is much better, and bigger, with 3 CMOS 1/2″ 4:2:2 sensors. Larger sensors mean better low light performance generally and a little bit better ability to get a shallow depth of field.
Unfortunately, having never shot with the Canon XF300, I cannot compare. All I can say that as a replacement for the EX1, it’s better in a few ways. The low light is improved. The codec is improved and the lens is better. There are other improvements such as better button placement, and the EVF is pretty good!

The interval record mode for timelapse is as good as the EX1/3 and so much better than the Canon XF one, down to the wonderful 16, 32, 64 frame accumulation mode meaning incredibly good low light streaky timelapses and 1 frame per second intervals. The Canon can at its fastest do 2 frames per 1 second, which isn’t as smooth.

Slow motion is STILL only 720p for anything over 30p. A crime! Come on, we need 1080 for 60p these days. The EX1 is 5 years old and we are STILL only at 720p in this codec for slow motion!!
There is, without a doubt, a place for smaller sensor camcorders. Large sensors are a pain in the butt. Trying to maintain focus in fast moving/ unpredictable situations like observational documentaries is a pain with those cameras. Also the lack of a nice big range lens-wise is sorely missed. The Fujinon lens on the PMW 200 is 31.5mm to 440mm (35mm equivalent). Pretty damn good. That is a 14x zoom. This comes in SO handy when trying to grab shots fast. To demonstrate the usefulness of this, I took the camera out to Leeds where two of my films where being premiered, and just outside my hotel is a nice canal spot.
I set myself a challenge….
Go to one spot, don’t move the tripod, but you can pan, tilt, zoom the camera. Hit record and don’t button off for ten minutes, and try and get as many varied shots as possible. This is what I did and you can see my results below…
Oh, so in sum up…with my brief time with the camera, I enjoyed it very much. Certainly a nice step up from the EX1 (it also shoots DVCAM like the EX1r) with its better codec, but missing a trick with no 1080p slow motion….but for a great BTS camera, a great ob-doc broadcast camera for PDs. It’s pretty damn good. I would very much like to revisit this camera and compare it to the XF300s…one thing it has over that camera is that the PMW is a world camera out of the box. 24p,25p, 30p, 50p, 60p and interlaced. The Canons need paid firmware upgrades for that…
One final note: The camera is a pre-production camera and may not represent the quality of the final image. I noticed a teeny bit of aliasing. Am sure it’s a glitch in one I had….I will look more into it.

The Sony PMW-200 10 minute challenge from Philip Bloom on Vimeo.


  1. Beautiful! I’m usually skeptical about these ENG style cameras (for no good reason, I’m just spoiled on DSLRs) but this is just another reminder of the fact that it is not the camera that makes a great image, it’s the person behind it (though it does help that your a Capital DP).
    I hope to be able to shoot with this camera sometime, and give it a whirl.

    It looked like it had some rather decent Dynamic Range, do you by any chance know what it’s rated at?


  2. Brilliant stuff….

    I have benn following and learning with you these last few months, as I am gearing up for my first mini documentary of an 86 year-old British inventor, living in Miami Beach….. the next one is of a sculptor who explodes metal objects and uses the resultant pieces to create some really unique art-work….

    Thanks for all your efforts and help.


    Miami Beach

  3. Thanks for your review PB. That lens is great! such a diverse range. Makes me want to go back and shoot with a camcorder again. Did you grade that edit or is it straight from the camera? Also any indication on price?

  4. Hi Philip,

    Thank you for your review, i have been waiting for Sony to make a smaller 4.2.2 camera for a while, These small traditional style cameras definitely still have their place. just hope it gets noticed by Broadcasters and becomes accepted.

    Just a quick question for you if you have the time, i am (finally) in a position to buy some of my own kit, do you think an FS700 and a PMW 200 is a good combo to cover quite a few basis? I do freelance news / sport for broadcast and high-end (ish) corporate. I figured the pmw200 for news and fs700 for the corporate / documentary jobs.

    My other option would be a canon c300 but i haven’t used this camera and i’m not sure of it’s ‘run & gun’ capabilities.

    I currently own a sony A77 (a lot of people don’t seem to like it, but i love the swivel OLED screen and the image isn’t too bad in good lighting conditions) which means i have 2 nice (tokina and the sony kit) lens’ to go straight onto the FS700 if i get it.

    The cameras i use the most at the moment at the companies I freelance for are the DSR-450, Sony F3 and the EX3 so i know sony quite well and i notice your a big fan of the c300 so i’m tempted to jump over!!

    any advice would be greatly appreciated. I’m spending all my money soon and i just want to make sure i am buying the right thing!


  5. PMW-200: moderately interesting. I could probably make do with the cheaper hpx250 if such a job surfaced, but I’m still probably a year off from upgrading my small-sensor cam – loved the EX1 but bought into the HVX early and never found sufficient financial reason to switch.

    Watching how a shooter like you (well, a shooter who IS you) goes about capturing B and GV’s in a location on the quick: absolutely priceless. Follow-up questions then:
    – clearly you watch for movement and then set your composition so whatever’s moving enters the frame, then hold the shot until it exits. Do you then monitor the movement during the shot or lock down and scan for your next “target?”
    – Do you have a mental shortcut on a “ratio” of wides to CUs?
    – Thinking back to some of your other works, you really don’t seem to bother with much camera movement (zooms, pans, tilts, even rack focus), or (except for sliders) at least use it sparingly. I’d chalked this up to working with DSLR, but here with this servo zoom you’re still just altogether avoiding movement except to track and reframe. I trust you can do moving shots, any particular reason you (seem to) avoid them (again, except for sliders)?
    – In a typical doc situation, do you often shoot like this (rattling off quick B from a single location) or is this just hearkening back to your SkyNews days?

    1. hi kevin

      i move the camera if it is motivated and needs it. in this piece they would have been pans, tilts for sake of it. only ones i did were motivated following shots.

      you always need to know what will cut and during the 10 minutes i was piecing it together in my head!

      the movement for me, as mentioned before is all dependent on film!

  6. Thanks for the review, Philip. But don’t you think it would make more sense to buy Ninja 2 or Samurai to use with an existing EX1 then to buy a new camera.

  7. Hi Philip, how do you generally react when you’re in public shooting a random person, your subject notices the camera, stares straight down the barrel, and there’s a deer-in-the-headlights moment? Looks to me like you caught a few. Do you just keep pointed at them? Do you turn away and pretend you were looking at something else? Do you come out from behind the camera and wave and smile?

    What would you have done if that girl stretching, with her backside pointed at the camera, turned around and glared at you?

    Incidentally, I’ve just rewatched one of the James Miller lens-whacking videos, about a couture opening. To my eye, it looks like most of the subjects there were deers in headlights. But I also suspect that this won’t be obvious to most viewers of the video…

  8. Lucky Man! That boat saved your 10 minutes! 🙂
    What about rules for minimum cut version?
    Should be not less than 1-2-3-4 minutes?
    I got intrigued by the challenge and will go out to practice!
    Lot depends on how to choose the set…

  9. Wow i know this is not what you want to hear but the footage out of the d800 is stunning!
    the Sony is also nice but does what it can for a 1/2 ”
    i still own a xha1s and am glad to have it for events but if not for my dslrs things just seem bland and boring, but of course this camera has its place

  10. Awesome Review! love the 10 minute challenge. Keep up the good work, I’ve been watching reading your blog since you reviewed the sony ex1 and ex3, really enjoy your blog looking forward to future reviews/blogs.

  11. Mr. Bloom did you use a picture profile or was it off? I’d also want to say that i loved your color correction very much 🙂

    Thank you for the video. It’s inspiring to me 🙂

  12. I don’t really know much about camcorders, I’m only from a manual controller SLR/DSLR background doing photos and videos .. so on the lens of this PMW200, it looks like max aperture of 1.9 – that’s f/1.9 yes? And is the lens variable aperture? And why is it referred to as “iris” and not “aperture”?
    Looks beautiful anyway! Such a great image Philip, you always smash it!


  13. Hello Philip,

    What frame rate and resolution were you shooting in regards to the 10 min. challenge. Also, you mentioned that when zooming in, it gets darker or there is a loss of exposure- how much of a stop would you say that is lost and is it similar to that of the Z-5 when zooming in? One last thing, did you feel that is was easier to obtain a shallow depth of field in comparison to the EX 1? Thanks!!


  14. Hi Philip,

    Thanks for your exploration! I was wondering, is this camera squeaking & creaking as much as the EX1 or EX3 when shooting handheld?

    Thanks in advance, kind regards,


      1. No problem,

        I own one now and the squeaking & creaking is mostly gone! Furthermore I do love the 50 Mbps!
        It gives me just the bit of extra room I needed for proper grading. Ex1 (and Ex3) material was often too quickly overexposed or became unnatural.

        At your service!

  15. Very interesting to see that Sony have .now introduced this camera

    I have recently bought the Panasonic HPX250 and while I think it is an amazing camera and am not necessarily convinced that the new Sony is any better it would have been nice to have had the Sony PMW200, the Canon xf305 and the Panasonic all available to test before I bought a few months ago.

    The Broadcast Standards set by the BBC for HD (ie. 50mbs, 4:2:2/!0bit colour) are not necessarily universal. There are plenty of broadcasters around the world, including in the UK that have been happy with output from the EX1 and I can hear all those people who have now invested in the Nanoflash to supplement their gear groaning! However, with virtually every ‘obs doc’ for TV these days is shot on a small ENG camera and with Canon (xf305) and Panasonic (HPX250) now setting the pace, Sony have now clearly responded with this upgrade to the EX1.

    Interestingly though, the tech spec on this new Sony still does not make the grade for Sky which requires AVC Intra 100 4:2:2/10bit Colour, wrapped in MXF files (bascially P2) and only the Panny (of these 3 small doc cameras) can produce this without a Nanoflash. The HPX250 is a P2 camera.

    But techno-babble aside, the main point is to look at what these cameras were designed to do – single camera documentary film and for this purpose they are the business. Broadcast zoom lens with a full audio package – spot on. And the package is delivered at very affordable prices. Hard to argue with that.

  16. Hi Philip!

    Firstly, I wanted to say thanks for all the pearls of wisdom you have released into the world! I’ve been following your work since 2008 and its always given me real practical insights into the pros and cons of all kinds of video equipment and production!

    Anyways, I was hoping to get your opinion as to whether getting this camera would be advisable for someone looking at filming a variety of subjects such as corporates, weddings, web content and such…? The 50Mb/s 4:2:2 recording and 1/3 inch chips are a big draw for me, however I dont think I will, as of yet, need to record much content in this format, though I do hope to produce content for broadcasters in the future and I always try to future proof myself as much as possible in any of my purchases.

    Any help would be most appreciated!



  17. As with every camera that I look at, it’s always one spec short of being perfect for me.

    In this case, the PMW 200 is an 8 bit camera. I don’t understand why they would make you need an external recording device to get 10-bit. Philip, is there a good reason for this?

    I will gladly pay more money for a camera to avoid having to purchase and use more hardware.

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