I know several happy users of the Sony PXW-X70 1080p 4:2:2/10-bit camcorder, with its promising 4K Ultra HD future. Those who edit with Final Cut Pro X already had two lingering reasons to consider purchasing a recorder/monitor, be it a Shogun from Átomos, PIX-E5 from VideoDevices, or even an Odyssey7Q from Convergent Design. At NAB 2015, Sony unveiled the price and specs of the US$500 upgrade to 4K UltraHD for this camcorder scheduled for June 2015. After hearing the specs of the upgrade, many of those same PXW-X70 users now have a third reason to purchase one of the mentioned monitor/recorders: They will resolve the two existing issues, plus a deficiency in the 4K upgrade itself (as explained by Sony at NAB). That deficiency fortunately only affects internal recordings in the camera, not the live external output that would be used to record externally. Details ahead.
I know several happy users of the Sony PXW-X70 1080p 4:2:2/10-bit camcorder, with its promising 4K Ultra HD future. Those who edit with Final Cut Pro X already had two lingering reasons to consider purchasing a recorder/monitor, be it a Shogun from Átomos, PIX-E5 from VideoDevices, or even an Odyssey7Q from Convergent Design. At NAB 2015, Sony unveiled the price and specs of the US$500 upgrade to 4K UltraHD for this camcorder scheduled for June 2015. After hearing the specs of the upgrade, many of those same PXW-X70 users now have a third reason to purchase one of the mentioned monitor/recorders: They will resolve the two existing issues, plus a deficiency in the 4K upgrade itself (as explained by Sony at NAB). That deficiency fortunately only affects internal recordings in the camera, not the live external output that would be used to record externally.
Things to love about the PXW-X70 so far
- 1-inch type sensor
- Balanced XLR audio inputs
- The most affordable Sony WorldCam to date, offering many desirable progressive framerates derived from the ex-NTSC and ex-PAL worlds, including 23.976, 25, 29.97, 50, and 59.94. (Street price now only US$1,999.)
- One of the most affordable Sony camera with 3G-SDI, in addition to HDMI
- 1080p internal recording to 50 megabit 4:2:2 10 bit recording
What is not to love about the current version of the PWX-X70
- Although based upon my Pro XAVC Long GOP compatibility bulletin 2015.1 of February 2015, we know that many video editing programs can now read professional XAVC Long GOP directly [Adobe Premiere CC, Avid Media Composer (via the free XAVC/XDCAM Plug-in for Avid (PDZK-MA2) from Sony, and Blackmagic DaVinci Resolve], Apple’s Final Cut Pro X still requires external transcoding to read the professional XAVC Long GOP format. We don’t have enough information to know whether to blame Apple or Sony for this extremely long delay. In any case, the use of one of the mentioned external recorder solves that issue, since they can record directly to different variations of ProRes 422, which is already directly readable by Final Cut Pro X, and they solve other problems too, as you’ll read ahead.
- As of the current firmware, the PXW-X70 unfortunately rounds non-integer framerates in menus, like 23.976 to “24”, 29.97 to “30”, and 59.94 to “60”. This unfortunate decision by Sony is still causing innocent editors to take it literally in their editing software and then later suffer the consequences. I really hope that Sony will correct this with the upcoming firmware.
See my Video framerates and the Tower of Babel: a translation guide from June 2014 for more details.
What Sony has announced for its paid firmware upgrade
According to Sony representatives at NAB 2015, in June Sony will offer PXW-X70 firmware v2.0 and its paid CBKZ-X70FX. Here are the promised benefits:
- Proxy Recording
- FTP Transfer — This feature supports FTP file transfers on the PXW-X70, allowing content files recorded with the XAVC Proxy Recording feature, and other content files shot in XAVC (4K/HD) and AVCHD formats to be sent via the Internet for remote storage on an FTP server. SECURITY ALERT: As of publication time of this article, I have not received any confirmation from Sony as to whether this feature will include SFTP (Secure FTP), which is a must nowadays since standard FTP sends the password in plain text through the Internet for any hacker to “sniff” and later take down your website. I really hope that Sony will include SFTP.
- Streaming — This feature allows images to be streamed live from the PXW-X70 for viewing at a remote location. Data transfer rate, specified by three image quality menu settings (6, 3, and 1 Mbps), can be selected to suit the network environment used. I would like Sony to offer the option of higher bit rates in addition to those already listed. That way (when we have a better ascending connection, we’ll be send a cleaner signal to the CDN, which will re-encode it anyway at different sizes.)
- Wired LAN Connection — When a wireless LAN is unavailable, this feature allows the PXW-X70 to be connected to the Internet over a wired connection via a separately available USB adapter cable VMC-UAM2 and Network adaptor CBK-NA1R, which is included in the CBK-NA1 Network Adaptor Kit, allowing files to be streamed or transferred by FTP (or hopefully by SFTP, as indicated earlier).
And here come the disappointing details from Sony about the CBKZ-X70FX 4K UltraHD update.
After the upgrade, inside the camera, you’ll be able to record 4K Ultra HD using the professional XAVC Long GOP, but unlike the 4:2:2 10-bit that the camera can already do at 1080p, with UltraHD, you’ll unfortunately be limited to 4:2:0 and 8-bit. That’s because the maximum payload will be 60 Mb per second (only 10 Mb per second more than what the camera can do in 1080p).
Sony says that it is: “exploring support of a higher bit-rate recording mode than 60 Mbps for 3840×2160 XAVC-L in the future.”
This is quite interesting when we see that Sony’s latest consumer 4K UltraHD camcorder model FDR-AX33/B (shown above) costs under US$1000 and can already record 100 megabit per second. Of course, the FDR-AX33/B does not have a 1-inch type sensor, balanced XLR audio, nor does it use the professional XAVC Long GOP códec. Instead, the FDR-AX33/B camcorder has a 1/2.3″ sensor and uses the same consumer XAVC-S códec used in the A7s, although at up to 100 megabit per second. The point that I am making is: If the data bandwidth capability of a consumer sub US$1000 Sony camcorder is already up to 100 megabit per second, why can’t the professional PXW-X70 which costs at least US$2500 after a user pays US$500 for the upgrade to make it capable of UltraHD reach 100 megabit per second too? Something is wrong with this picture, and it will likely entice many to purchase one of the external recorder/monitors mentioned earlier. In fact, if Sony doesn’t yet want to make the internal recording of the PXW-X70 go beyond 60 megabit per second, perhaps Sony should offer a lower-priced UltraHD upgrade for those who want 4K UltraHD for external use only.
Recap of the three issues resolved by the Shogun, PIX-E5, or Odyssey7Q monitor recorders
- They will record several variants of ProRes 422, a format that is already readable directly by Final Cut Pro X.
- They will show proper framerates onscreen, at least to two decimals (not rounded to the closest integer nonsense on the current PXW-X70, which confuses innocent editors and helps no one).
- They will record 4:2:2 10-bit or better (not the inferior 4:2:0 8-bit that Sony is currently proposing with its US$500 upgrade).
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