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Sony PXW-X70 camcorder finally graduates to 100Mbs 4K UHD with firmware 3.0

Sony finally fulfilled its promise to upgrade the PXW-X70 to 100 Mb/s 4K UHD.

CineDigitalTV_PWW-X70_605

Back in 2015, I published several articles about the Sony PXW-X70 camcorder, which offered an optional paid upgrade to 4K UHD, but initially constrained it to only 60Mb/s, instead of the customary 100Mb/s on nearly any other professional or consumer camcorder. Our friends at Mexican-based CineDigitalTV demonstrated the limitations of the 60Mb/s 4K UHD recordings when there is substantial movement. Now with firmware version 3.0, Sony has finally allowed PXW-X70 to users to record 4K UHD at 100Mb/s, and CineDigitalTV again makes a very fair test to show how good the quality can be now, as you’ll see ahead in its video. There are also several other features and upgrades in the 3.0 firmware upgrade which I cover.

List of features & improvements in firmware 3.0 for PXW-X70

First the bullet points, followed by my commentary about each:

  • Network Client Mode for use with Sony’s PWS–100RX1 Wireless Streaming Receiver
  • Ustream distribution and settings already in camera menu
  • MPEG HD recording/playback (“CBKZ-SLMP” —sold separately— is required)
  • XAVC QFHD (4K UHD) 100 Mbps support (CBKZ-X70FX—sold separately… is required, although some of you may have already purchased this.)
  • External output and face detection support when recording internally in XAVC QFHD (4K UHD)

Network Client Mode for use with Sony’s PWS–100RX1 Wireless Streaming Receiver

pws-100rx1

The PWS–100RX1 Wireless Streaming Receiver from Sony offers what the company describes as “high quality” live streaming from certain Sony streamcorders on a single 4G/LTE cellular channel or WiFi network. The PWS–100RX1 uses Sony’s QoS (quality of service) technology or MPEG2-TS to maintain video and audio integrity during transmission. Each unit can receive up to 30 live streams simultaneously and output up to two of them via SDI. The PWS–100RX1 includes reference (i.e. genlock) and timecode input connectors, which enable synchronized operation with broadcast systems. In addition, it can output a variety of broadcast formats, including 1080 and 720p. The PWS–100RX1 system comes with preinstalled Connection Control Manager software that enables easy connection to camcorders and delivers efficient handling of the live streams. The system is compatible with 4G/LTE or WiFi dongles or the CBK-WA100 and CBK-WA101 wireless LAN adapter. As well as live streaming, a planned upgrade will allow the unit to receive files transferred directly from camcorders.

The only disappointing detail of the system is its current limitation of only a maximum of 6 Mb/s according to the Sony web page. I hope that Sony will improve that with future firmware updates if both the camera and the PVS–100RX1. At publication time of this article, the PVS–100RX1 has a list price of US$7985.

Ustream distribution and settings already in camera menu

After you update the firmware of your PXW-X70, you will then have a direct menu setting for Ustream settings, one of many popular CDNs (Content Distribution Networks). I have covered the concept of CDNs and their need in past articles, including Live streaming essentials from your multicam studio.

MPEG HD recording/playback (“CBKZ-SLMP” —sold separately— is required)

The CBKZSLMP US$629 paid license —together with the free 3.0 upgrade— adds MPEG HD422 50Mbps and MPEG HD420 35Mbps recordings to the PXW-X70. Both of those are the older MPEG2 códecs, and are for HD, not 4K UHD.

My understanding is that XAVC L (which comes standard with the PXW-X70, and I have covered extensively here in ProVideo Coalition magazine) is an advanced Sony version of H.264 (MPEG4 part 10), which is much more advanced and more efficient than MPEG2 at the same bit rate, so I would expect higher quality 50 megabit per second 4:2:2 from XAVC L than from MPEG HD422. Perhaps Sony has had requests from PXW-X70 users who want to edit HD with older editing systems… or don’t like to do proxy editing. I have asked Sony the purpose or reason, and when I get a response, I’ll publish an article about it.

XAVC QFHD (4K UHD) 100 Mbps support (CBKZ-X70FX —sold separately… is required, although some of you may have already purchased this.)

If you purchased the CBKZ-X70FX before, you don’t have to pay for it again. If you never purchased it, you will still need to do so. Either way, you’ll want to get the new free 3.0 firmware. Ahead in this article, you’ll see how much better the 100 megabit per second 4K recording can be.

External output and face detection support when recording in XAVC QFHD (4K UHD)

According to Sony, after combining the paid CBKZ-X70FX described above and the new free 3.0 firmware, the video signal will now be able to be output to an external device while recording internally in XAVC QFHD. The face detection function will also work when recording in 4K UHD.

CineDigitalTV demonstrates the PXW-X70 greatly improved 100 Mb/S 4K UHD

Even if you don’t understand the narration in Mexican Castilian, you’ll appreciate CineDigitalTV’s excellent visual tests of the PXW-X70 using its greatly improved 100 Mb/s 4K UHD internal recording.

For recording 4K UHD with the upgraded PXW-X70, Sony recommends an SDXC memory card (UHS-I U3).

The PXW-X70 has a street price of about US$1999 at publication time of this article.

Reminder about for 4K UHD even if you don’t distribute that way

Please remember: One important use of 4K UHD recording even for delivery in 1080p or under is the capability of zooming in (blowing up) into your footage, panning and zooming over it is without quality loss.

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Born in Connecticut, United States, Allan Tépper is an award-winning broadcaster & podcaster, bilingual consultant, multi-title author, tech journalist, translator, and language activist who has been working with professional video since the eighties. Since 1994,…

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