Sony PMW-EX1 vs Panasonic HVX-200? Easy Choice.

A Pair of Hands tested two pro flash media cameras side by side.



The $7000
Sony PMW-EX1,

The $5200
Panasonic HVX200.

I have already discussed the media.
But now we can compare image quality.
How do you think three 1920×1080 chips looked compared to three 960×540 chips?

On the site Pair of Hands, there’s 8 video and 36 image files that compare the Sony PMW-EX1 to the Panasonic HVX200.


This first image is a crop from the PMW-EX1 (left) and HVX200 (right).
The files presented on the PairofHands web site were PNG files which showed little sign of compression. I cropped, moved the two vertical resolution sections closer together and then saved as a JPG with 50% quality. Visually, they are near identical to the source PNG files you can see on their web site.

The most telling point to me is that the HVX footage starts banding and blurring at 600 whereas the EX1 footage is clear through 800. It looks like it could have kept providing clear lines beyond 800 but the standard-def chart that was used goes no higher.

To me, it also looks like the HVX has a weird banding or some effect happening at 500 that is not present on the PMW-EX1. Gott give credit that Panasonic gets that much resolution out of those small chips.

For an extensive and interesting hands-on review of the EX1, from late 2007, check out DVuserUK. There’s an article by Nigel Cooper who had his hands on an EX1 to shoot footage in preparation for IBC:

nigel-2.jpgThe image quality beats Sony’s own Z1 and Panasonic’s HVX200 by a mile; the difference is blatantly obvious. However, from what I’ve shot on this pre-production unit so far, it falls a tad (and I do mean just a tad) short of Sony’s professional full size XDCAM HD camcorders. There is a reason Sony make a camcorder costing £5,000, and another costing £15,000 and another costing £29,000 and another costing £40,000… Having said that, I would defy anyone to see the difference between PMW-EX1 clips and F350 clips once graded together on the same timeline.

At the end of the day professionals will always prefer a full-size shoulder mounted camcorder and all the benefits that come with then. Benefits you can only find in a professional shoulder mounted camcorder, and not in a handy-cam.

But resolution charts have little relation to reality.
A Pair of Hands provides plenty of real world comparison shots. Here’s one:


I think this pretty much demonstrates how you can’t actually use three near-SD chips, offset the pixels vertically, horizontally, average, interpolate, extrapolate, and then come up with a 1920×1080 image. I’ve read some discussion of these images (and the others that are on the site) and the discuss the coring artifacts (you can see some of this in the reflection of the light in the purple ball) on the PMW-EX1 (left), and the extra detail in the shadows in the footage from the HVX200 (right).


These discussions start to take us to the realization Adam Wilt ended up with when many HDV and HD camcorders were compared in the Texas Shoot-out. He was intrigued by the results and continued to experiment (and experiment, and experiment…) with just one camcorder and came to the conclusion:

wiltest2.jpgTo get the best image from modern camcorders, you can’t just set exposure and focus and push the red button. Most camcorders offer you a degree of control over their sharpness, colorimetry, and tonal scale rendering, and some provide a staggering set of picture-painting choices.

With judicious use of these controls, you can get crisp, pleasing images from almost any camera. Conversely, misadjusting them may make your pictures disappointingly soft or irritatingly edgy; pale and washed-out or garishly oversaturated; limp and lifeless or harsh and contrasty with crushed shadows and blasted highlights.

We always say you should shoot tests to learn how a camera works. I proved that here: I should have shot these tests before the Texas Shoot-Out. Had I done so, the [insert the name of your own camcorder here] would have turned in a noticeably nicer performance. Its pictures would have appeared sharper, and its highlight handling would have been more pleasing.

Finally, I learned that there are secrets beyond what the manual holds, and beyond what one might reasonably expect. Even though I’ve been shooting with the [camcorder] for some time, it still surprised me with the differing detail levels between cine and non-cine gammas.

You may find that spending a day or two just playing with your camera may yield similar insights, allowing you to paint more elegant pictures with your chosen tools.

I don’t know of a more thorough, hands on, camera nut.
And I mean that in the most complimentary way.

I agreee with Adam in such that, any single given test is flawed. No camcorder is set up perfectly to do all tests. No camcorder is set up perfectly to do what you want it to do until you do it. Just as filmmakers pick and choose their film stock, push or pull, filtering, bleaching, and then spend weeks doing digital intermediate coloring to get it to look the way it looks in their head.
What the camera can do when pulled out of the box is irrelevant.

What can you do with the camcorder?




4 thoughts on “Sony PMW-EX1 vs Panasonic HVX-200? Easy Choice.

Add yours

  1. Thanks for the great comparison. I want to pass this on, I found a shoulder brace that is made just for the EX-1. [link removed]

    Jeff Peters

  2. I checked out the link you provided for the Studio 1 Productions brace and it is no better than any of the other shoulder braces out there. In fact, numerous other braces are more comfortable and look a hell of a lot better than that brace, which has a flat piece of metal that sticks straight out sideways- if you were a bystander, it’s nearly impossible to see as it come right at your face.

    The Stasis looks better.
    The Mighty Wondercam looks better.

    Heck, even the long-discontinued Steadicam JR makes a better looking shoulder brace… AND it’s a handheld camera stabilizer too!


    Stefan, thanks for the link!
    Google was having issues translating it when I tried but here’s the direct link to the German page:

    The pictures are worth 1000 words in any language.–Panasonic-HVX200-vs-Sony-PMW-EX-1.html

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