HD Film Making On Your Palm: Sony CX700

Last week we were engaged by french liquor brand owners, Pernod Ricard, to film their Premier Awards night. It was the perfect opportunity for us to test out a new ‘B’ roll camera. We call it ‘B’ roll because this new camera will not be the main camera.

All images displayed here were shot on location at Pullman Putrajaya Lakeside Hotel.

HD film making in the palm of your hand: Sony HDR-CX700

HD film making in the palm of your hand: Sony HDR-CX700

The Sony HXR-CX700 was launched sometime in 2011, amidst the HDSLR hype. Many many event videographers have been using HDSLRs like the Canon 5D MK II for videos but often times, an actual video camera does the job much better.

The CX700 shot all the exteriors and interiors. We are happy to say that the shots are all good enough to make it into the final edit.

We created the mini film clip above for the very purpose of showing off the CX700′s prowess. All the cuts you see are shot with Sony camcorders (refer to the list below). The CX700 shot all the exteriors and interiors. We are happy to say that The shots are all good enough to make it into the final edit.

The CX700 (seen attached with a F&V Z96 LED light) sports a G lens and 1/2.88" Exmor R CMOS sensor

The CX700 (seen attached with a F&V Z96 LED light) sports a G lens and 1/2.88" Exmor R CMOS sensor

We deployed a NX5p camcorder, a FX1000 camccorder, a Canon 7D HDSLR and a SE500 Datavideo video switcher. Here are the equipment in brief:
1) Sony NX5p video camera
2) Sony FX1000 video camera
3) Sony CX700 video camera
4) Canon EOS 7D with 24-70mm F2.8L
5) RedRock Micro followfocus
6) Datavideo SE 500 video switcher
7) Datavideo HDR 50 rackmountable HD/SD SDI HDD Recorder
8) Righton LCD monitors
9) Lots of cables.

Battery size comparison. The CX700 uses a much smaller battery compared to the other professional camcorders.

Battery size comparison. The CX700 uses a much smaller battery compared to the other professional camcorders.

Amongst its larger brethren, how did the CX700 fare? We were pleasantly surprised by the CX700 ease of use. In the HDSLR world, getting a HDSLR is your first step to spending more money, more accessories. All that just to turn your HDSLR into a video camera. This is where the CX700 really shines.

Equipped with built-in 96GB flash memory stick, located at the hand-strap.

Equipped with built-in 96GB flash memory stick, located at the hand-strap.

Firstly, since it’s a video camera, it is ergonomically designed to fit into your palm for long shooting periods.

The CX700 has a small (very small) form factor, allowing you to take it into confined spaces.

The video quality is exceptionally good: it performs very well under low light conditions; there are very little noise, the colour rendition is very vibrant, there is no smearing of colours and hardly any chromatic aberation. Much of this is attributed to its 1/2.88″ ‘ExmorR’ CMOS sensor. The size of its sensor almost matches up to the larger cameras eg. the EX3 sports a 1/2″ sensor.

The multipurpose dial just below the lens adjusts focus, shutter, iris and exposure (gain).

The multipurpose dial just below the lens adjusts focus, shutter, iris and exposure (gain).

Sony decided to endow the CX700 with a G lens, which according to Sony, ‘G Lenses stand shoulder to shoulder with the outstanding Carl Zeiss optics’.

Here’s a video review on the CX700 from Cineasta Productions:

Our shoot for the awards night was over 4 hours long. Throughout it all, we shot all pick-up shots (hotel exteriors, interior deco) and the entire event itself, with the internal 96GB Flash memory card at AVCHD (FX) 24 Mbps.

Part of our live video feed setup includes the Sony FX1000 with LANC controls on the pan handle.

Part of our live video feed setup includes the Sony FX1000 with LANC controls on the pan handle.

All of the recording are being edited real time through the Datavideo video mixer into the HDR 50 recorder. This means all our video cameras, including the CX700 needs at least SD video output and the CX700 doesn’t fall short.

One of the problems with HDSLRs for live events is showing their feed. It will come with a clearly visible white outlined square right in the middle of the frame. Not so with the CX700.

Datavideo SE500 video switcher processes signals from all 3 cameras. The operator decides what gets broadcasted.

Datavideo SE500 video switcher processes signals from all 3 cameras. The operator decides what gets broadcasted.

Another issue with HDSLRs for live events: Their short recording segments. The CX700 has no such issues. It does long form recording and even records to proprietary Memory Stick Pro Duo or the much more common SDHC cards.

One of the most impressive features however, is its image stabilization called the Optical SteadyShot. A small camera suffers from vibrations but with the SteadyShot function, we are able to reduce vibrations and camera shake significantly.

Datavideo HDR 50 records the edited signals from all 3 cameras in real time.

Datavideo HDR 50 records the edited signals from all 3 cameras in real time.

A weakness of the CX700 is its inability to give us individual control over the shutter, iris or exposure (gain). We can only choose to adjust one but the camera will compensate with another.

Regardless, we are impressed with the CX 700 but we are concerned about its size. In this industry, size still matters. Most clients tend to relate smaller cameras to amateur use and they don’t like seeing one used by the professionals they hire.

Until that mindset is changed, the CX700 will continue to be our secondary camera but a very practical and very useful one at that!

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About Baron

Film Director, Certified Steadicam Operator, Authorized Glidecam Trainer, Sony Pro Trainer, Apple Certified Pro (Final Cut Pro), Grass Valley Authorised Trainer (Edius), Part-time Lecturer (Saito College)
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