Sony upgrades 3G HDV camcorders to universal, for a small fee

Now you can upgrade your Sony 3G HDV camcorder to 25p and world-class compatibility!


Readers of my recent articles in ProVideo Coalition, past articles in Latin American magazines, and those who have attended my seminars are aware of the many 25p production advantages over “24p” (23.976p) production, especially when the video is shot on HDV and the workflow is to take advantage of HDMI or HD-SDI capture. Up until now, producers in the USA (and other 60Hz American countries) who have chosen progressive Sony HDV cameras and appreciate the advantages of 25p had no choice but to go through “unofficial channels” to purchase the 25p/50Hz version of the camera. The ones I know are all very happy with the choice and with the workflow. However, they aren’t so happy that after spending so much extra for the camera and optional worldwide warranty, they still don’t have the flexibility of the 60Hz (59.94Hz) modes, in order to be able to shoot at “30p” (29.97p) or even “60i” (59.94i) for a slow-motion shot. Although most of them prefer 25p for their own productions, some of them are also often subcontracted to “shoot only” for other producers who aren’t so informed about 25p, and often request video to be shot at “30p” or “60i”. Fortunately, Sony USA has now recognized the need for a universal version of their 3G (3rd-generation) of HDV camcorders, which now encompass the HVR-S270, HVR-Z5 and HVR-Z7. See details about Sony’s upgrade program later in this article.

Bonnelly Productions shoots events in HD 25p in Miami, Florida

Bonnelly Productions shoots weddings and other events in 25p in Miami, Florida. Back in 2006, Carolina Bonnelly was looking to replace her old SD cameras with HD models, and happened to read one of my 25p articles. To make a long story short, Carolina eventually purchased several Sony HVR-V1 25p/50Hz models and has been doing her own productions in 25p ever since. In post, Carolina captures the HDV 25p footage via HDMI using a Blackmagic Design Intensity card to Final Cut Pro, to a 1080p25 ProRes422 timeline. When the client requires an NTSC DVD, she conforms 25p to 23.976p and delivers it as an NTSC “24p” (23.976p) DVD. For HD delivery, Bonnelly offers three options: AppleTV and WDTV at 25p (since both of these devices automatically liberate her clients’ potentially segregated monitors), and Blu-ray at 23.976p after conforming. Now in 2009, Carolina wanted to graduate to Sony’s 3G HDV, so she just purchased her first Sony 3G HDV camera, the HVR-Z5, from Virgilio Castillo at Midtown Video, a leading dealer and rental house in Miami, Florida. Immediately after receiving her HVR-Z5, Carolina Fedexed it to Sony in New Jersey to be upgraded to full universal capability. Carolina comments:

“I am so glad that Sony USA has finally recognized the need for 25p in the United States. Now I can buy my cameras from a local dealer, get local service, shoot 25p for my own productions, and retain the flexibility to shoot any other format when I am subcontracted by another producer or TV station.”

Details of the Sony Universal Upgrade

The universal upgrade catapults the standard, off-the-shelf 3G HDV camera (HVR-S270, HVR-Z5, or HVR-Z7) to full range, world-class compatibility. The standard models sold in the USA offer “24p” (native 23.976p or pulldown), “30p” (29.97p), and “60i” (59.94i) in HD, and 480i NTSC only, in SD.

After the upgrade, the camera continues to have all of that, plus 576i PAL in SD… and 25p + 50i in HD, all selectable via the camera’s menu. (The procedure for switching between the 50Hz and 60Hz modes in the upgraded camera is shown above).

The cost of the Sony upgrade is US$300 including return freight from Sony to the user. This upgrade is offered only to end-users who have purchased one of the three 3G cameras mentioned via official channels in the USA. When sold through official channels in the USA, these cameras have a “U” suffix (i.e. HVR-S270U, HVR-Z5U, HVR-Z7U). The end user must send the camera with a photocopy of the invoice showing purchase in the USA, and Sony will only return the camera to the end-user’s address listed on the invoice. This upgrade is not available via dealers or to dealers. Contact Sony Professional Service in your area of the USA to schedule your upgrade. If you are outside of the USA, contact Sony Professional Service in your region for pricing and availability of the upgrade.

Status of other HD cameras and their universality

  • Other professional Sony HD cameras (HDCAM, HDCAM-SR, XDCAM-EX, and XDCAM-HD) are all universal as shipped from the factory, and don’t require any such upgrade.
  • The Panasonic AG-HMC150 is not universal and when a friend contacted Panasonic USA in December 2008, there was no option to upgrade it. However, the European AG-HMC151 is universal. Other Panasonic cameras are universal in the USA starting with the AG-HPX500 (US$14,000 list price).
  • All professional JVC HDV cameras are universal in HD modes only (but not in SD).
  • Canon offers a similar universal upgrade on their professional HDV camcorders, although the last time I checked, it was in the US$500 range. Contact Canon for details.

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

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