Pro video blog…Produced by Philip Johnston DoP/Editor

STATEMENT : Firstly it’s important that you understand that I do not get paid by Sony or do any consultation work for Sony so what you read is my personal findings on a camera that I had intended to buy from H Preston Media. I do part time independent consultant work for H Preston Media but H Preston Media have no input to this blog or it’s contents. What you get are my honest findings with no bias towards Sony, Panasonic, JVC or Canon. 

UPDATE : Looks like my PMW-200 was faulty so my findings are correct but not representative of a working PMW-200.

Probably the shortest amount of time I ever spent with a camcorder for review, the new Sony PMW-200 has gone back to H Preston Media…why ?

As you all know I have spent time with the Canon XF305 for run and gun but the 1/3″ chips don’t do it any favour’s but the media is a God send…Compact Flash is as cheap today as it’s going to get for a 32G 600x card at about £60 per pop.

The media is my main gripe with the PMW-200 and the reason I sent the camera back, I discovered the following…

The PMW-200 out the box is typically set up with far too much edge detail, this is common with most Sony camcorders. I was able to resolve most of the detail problems by tweaking the crispening and HD detail, this caused the picture to loose a fair bit of detail as you can imagine but preferable to the awful edge detail.

I also discovered that you can only use the MEAD adapter in FAT mode (35Mbps) taking away the 422 and giving me an organic picture that I had not seen with my EX-3. (This may be attributed to the fault in the camera).

Fortunately I had a 32G XQD card plus adapter that allows you to film in 422 full quality but the playback picture was not as good as I had been expecting which was very disappointing as this £130 card was to be my saving grace, this I hope was part of the fault within the camera.

Back to SxS and here the quality finally shines which is why Sony advise you use XQD as an emergency only in 422 mode. The XQD card is more than capable speed wise to handle 50Mbps 422 footage at full HD quality.

SxS is far too dear for my productions at £355 per 32G card it’s 5x the price of CF media and not any better in my opinion.

This is the part of the menu system that allows you to choose from PAL/NTSC, UDF (422) or FAT (420), HD or SD and Format 1080 50i/720 50p etc.

The bottom line is to get the best out of the PMW-200 you are going to have to use SxS cards which may not be a problem if you are coming from an XDCAM background, for me this expensive media is a step to far as I get very good results using my Canon XF305 with inexpensive CF cards but you don’t get the 1/2″ Exmor chipset for low light but then the majority of my low light filming is done with my Canon C300.

I really was expecting good things from my PMW-200, after all most of my professional cameras have been Sony and was not expecting to keep the Canon XF305 in favour of the PMW-200.

The camera produces great pictures via an HDMI feed and definitely better than my XF305 in low light but Sony have learned a hard lesson with the EX3 using SDHC card adapters so much so they have in my opinion gone too much the wrong way forcing you to use SxS in 422 mode only !

The one thing I do know is that SxS and P2 are far to expensive when compared to SDHC and CF cards, as I have said before we don’t mind paying for good camera equipment but I for one will not accept overpriced media due to the type of work I get involved with. I need archive, usually that means keeping the original CF cards for 6 months at a time, I don’t rely on computer hard drives as they have let me down in the past, so for archivists like me SxS and P2 camcorders are a no, no.

Further update : Someone correctly asked me what the fault was, during my testing I noticed the playback to be full of artefacts and some pixelation, I phoned Alister Chapman who told me that all modern camcorders should playback as faithfully as the picture was recorded. I also noted that the camera performed better at 35Mbs than at 50Mbps which gave me a good clue that the camera was faulty.


Having been working in the video business since 1988 I have amassed a great amount of knowledge of both the kit and production values over the last 30 years.

22 thoughts on “Sony PMW-200 mini Review “Faulty”

  1. Really? You ordered a camera to review not knowing what media it would require? It’s no secret (if you had done some minimal research) that SxS is required to make best use of this camera.

  2. Your review of the PMW-200 is disappointing to say the least. I was thinking of upgrading to the new PMW-160 as more and more clients are expecting better quality from my training videos, but like you, I was also considering not using SxS cards, but rather the adapter. I think that I will be better to stick with the NEXCAM range. I am very pleased with my NX70 which I bought mostly following your Arran review of it. (Thanks for that!)

    P.S. Thank you also for the kind reference in your recent article about the VG900.

    Tokyo, Japan.

  3. So any complaints about image quality when using the SxS cards? Unfortunate that they are a must buy for this camera.

  4. Sony have always produced harsh detailed pictures out of the box, my PMW-350 was terrible till I removed the edge detail.

  5. The NX70 is a great wee camera, SxS is out of my budget, I am producing a 1.5 hour educational video that forces me to keep the footage on the original CF cards till needed so £350 per 32G is crazy money.

  6. Also an NX70 owner due to Arran 😉

    On the NX70 you can dump footage directly to any USB storage device, that then mounts just like the camera and can be played back from the camera.

    What I have is two 1Tb rugged hard drives, one in the camera bag one in the firesafe, and just dump all footage to those and clear down the internal drive once it’s on the 2 hard drives. At £100 each it’s great value. Slight downside is that it’s USB2 so you need to leave it doing it’s thing over a tea break.

    Can the higher end Sony’s not do that? I guess the NX70 internal 100Gb drive helps here.

  7. The price of the media is the key. I’m with you, HD Warrior. SDXC cards or Compact Flash are OK. If you want extra protection, use dual recording. That’s all. Or make cheap SxS cards. But that prices are crazy.

  8. Backup is key today so I have a working copy on the hard drive and then archive to LTO3 data tape. Fast, cheap and secure for a long time. Video for me is a serious retirement hobby and I am always surprised how many professionals have such poor archiving of their paying work. I use NX5U plus a bunch of Sony consumer cameras ( CX700, XR500 etc). I have FMU128 for the NX5U and use the built in media on the others. Transfer to PC using the Sony transfer software, verify content and backup after every shoot is a routine now.
    I agree that all the Sony’s need a little tuning !!!


  9. Faulty in what way? As in you should get full quality with an XQD card?

  10. Hi Philip!
    As I just ordered a PMW-200, I’m happy that something was wrong with the unit you got. I hope you give it a second chance as I really would like to know your point of view concerning this camcorder. I fully agree: the media question makes the difference as the SxS are very expensive. At least they have an extremely high data throughput – nice for transferring the stuff to a Mac, for instance. Sonnet sells a SxS thunderbolt reader for around 160 Swiss Francs. But yes: the SxS media are still too expensive and I expected the XQD cards to work for the 422/50Mb codec without any issues. After your harsh review I don’t know what to believe now…
    Do you plan to re-check another unit as the first one was faulty??
    Thanks and regards, Roland

  11. John, let’s be fair: Sony offers the new and cheaper XQD cards for this camcorder too (via adapter). So there is a chance that the unit records on these with 422/50Mb. As Philip’s PMW-200 review unit was faulty we do not yet know whether it works with the cheaper XQDs or not. At least I do not know…

  12. Faulty or misunderstood? I was looking forward to your review on this camera, disappointing. I’m pretty sure it was clearly stated in the press release that 4:2:2 only works on SxS. I can’t remember where I read it but as an average user I knew. I use SD cards in my EX1 but truth be told SxS isn’t that expensive I never film more than 64Gb per day per camera & I’ve used the same 32Gb SD cards for two years now. So you’d only have to invest into a set of reliable worry free SxS cards once. Com’on give us a better review.

  13. Hi Nicholas

    Concerning XQD and 422/50 Mb I found this:

    Sony has also said their Broadcast Camcorders (XDCAM and XDCAM EX) will also support the XQD cards. For their broadcast products the XQD card will be classified as a secondary media as XQD is based around a DSLR consumer technology however the cards will support acquisition in the broadcast quality HD422 50Mbit/s.

    In other words: Sony itself communicated that XQD cards are fine for 422/50 Mb.

    Regards,, Roland

  14. Strange. You`ve got another faulty camera again. Why didn`t you change that cam with another unit?
    I think that the best cams made by Sony are the NEX-FS cams.

  15. Depends on what you want concerning the codec. While NEX-FS cams use AVCHD (“prosumer/consumer” codec), XDCAMs use MPEG2 encoding that is well established within the broadcast world for different reasons. If you are happy with AVCHD, the NEX-FS cams are nice, especially the super-slowmo.
    Different people, different requirements – for me it’s XDCAM 422/50 Mb.

  16. I stand corrected. The Sony product page indicates that UDF formatting is required for 422/50Mbps recording. I assumed UDF = SxS. However on this page:

    I found this:

    Q: Can you record at 50 mbit on XQD cards?
    Dave Stannard: It is possible to record at 50Mbps via XQD cards, however slow and quick motion is not possible. We recommend XQD and other consumer media as emergency media as is doesn’t include many of the Pro features found in SxS Cards – particularly important is the salvage function in the cards & recovery service we offer.

  17. The PMW500 with latest software will record 422 UDF to XQD .. but not fast/slow as mentioned before.. But Sony does say for “emergency use” so yes alot of arse covering there.. regarding the whole debate.. as Roland says its horses for courses
    I think the big difference is between people like me,freelance camera people for hire.. and those that are doing it all themselves.. if there is a cock up with SD cards etc.. you can sack yourself but its pretty self contained.. as a freelancer you basically cant afford to ever have a card problem.. therefore the initial purchase of SXS cards is a good investment in your career and just one less thing to worry about.. over time cheaper than tapes anyway.So big difference between a one man production or just being the camera person employed who cant say to a dir I cant restore the card as its not SXS.. but I,ll still be invoicing $1,000 for the day..

  18. I agree Robin, having used SXS adaptors and SD cards with my EX3. I had a card fail on one job, luckily I mananged to salvage the footage, but the whole experience was not pleasant, and was with a new client, so major F up really , especially when they asked if I was using SXS cards!!! since then Ive only used SXS media for professional work, I have a PMW 200 on order now and have been looking at the XQD cards … but when I tried to order one I was told by the website that sony said they have been discontinued .. however on research it looks like theyve brought out a new model … even still , Ive decided to invest in a new 32 sxs, the point is You need to be able to trust your media, worrying whether its going to make it to the end of a shot is the last thing you need to be concerned with when on a job. I think the investment is well worth it the cards last for years and years and when spread over time theyve not expensive , plus their soon paid for by a few jobs…

  19. Hi,
    Ive shot with the PMW 200.When I look at the footage through a HDMI wire on a monitor it looks great but when I few the footage on any edit program the footage looks really noises and low res? I’m shooting 50i UDF mode. is there anything I can do to make it look ok?

  20. I have the same Problem as Jonny. Any advice is greatly appreciated!

  21. hi,I would be very grateful if you could tell me re, too much edge detail, what you tweaked the hd detail/crispening to.
    cheers, Craig

  22. Jonny download XDCAM Transfer the version I am using is 2.11.0. I had problems in beginning until I started using xdcam. We edit on Apple Mac using FCPX Quality outstanding.
    I am sure in the past I used MXF files and edited in premiere with no problems

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