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Hands-On Review: the Sony PXW-Z150 4K XDCAM Camcorder

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As tempting as it is to create fanfare about getting my hands on a pre-release version of Sony's 4K professional camcorder, the reality was very much like the camera itself: quiet, and to all appearances, unassuming. There is quite a bit that I liked about the PXW-Z150, things that most people who shoot for a living are going to find both exciting and, yet, very familiar. But first, a brief look at the tech aspects, before I get to the really good stuff.

A professional camcorder that captures 4K out of the box

The Sony PXW-Z150 design has retained the NX-100 form factor and upgraded the sensor and codecs. The sensor is an Exmor RS—the “R” still stands for Back Side Illuminated, for low light capability, and the S stands for “stacked,” which is important because it enables a faster readout of the data from the sensor. The camera also does XAVC Long GOP—4:2:2 8-bit in 4K, and 10-bit in HD. Let us also mention MPEG2HD (4:2:0 and 4:2:2 in 8-bit), as well as AVCHD, making the camera suitable for existing broadcast workflows and matching legacy production. Please don't get upset that it is only 8-bit in 4K; yes, 10-bit would be nice, but 8-bit is perfectly acceptable, and the camera can capture pleasing images. If you are upset that Sony has not included the DV codec, then this is clearly not the camera for you, and you should please go visit the B&H Used department—there is an occasional time machine available in which you can travel back to 2006.


The Fun

As much as I come from a “use primes” mindset and must have a camera with interchangeable lenses, I have spent a significant part of my career shooting with various ENG cameras, and this style of camcorder. So, the Sony PXW-Z150 felt very natural for me to use. It is nice to be able to pull the camera out of its case, put in media and a battery, and just go shoot. There is something very comforting about the body style. Yes, it has all the buttons you could want, six are assignable, and I like the layout. But what matters to me with this camera is that the size and shape provide me with a whole different style of shooting, compared to other form factors.

Yes, it has an EVF, but with this style camera, maybe I use the EVF if I'm recording someone standing at a podium, and I'm on a tripod. Yawn. What this camera screams for is movement and action. So I recorded a practice session for a band I know. Suddenly it is like being unchained, the flip-out LCD screen, more than sufficient, and shooting by holding the top handle. Go wide and get in tight on the guitar—running down the neck and getting the fingering up close, then moving off and zooming to a close-up. Then, of course, I wanted to get in front of the singer, but with all the instruments and amps in the way, it was impossible to negotiate and still get to the shot before the verse was over. Oh wait—who said you have to hold the camera by the handgrip, or the top handle? A quick shift of my hands and I've got the camera by its back, where the battery goes in, and I'm arcing out the camera and getting the shot. Running around the small rehearsal space, I felt a good deal younger than I am, and the camera just felt good in my hands.

The Surprising

4K—okay, not surprising, but clean, nice, even with gain, even with lots of gain. Yes, everything came up, but the black levels stayed clean, not really noisy. The images surprised me by how clean they remained (shooting mostly by little decorative LED lights and a few 60-watt bulbs). For you bokeh lovers, the zoom lens produced extremely smooth out-of-focus highlights. Nice to see. UHD 4K at 24 (23.98—which is really 23.976) is what I like to shoot at, with a “180-degree” shutter. I just like the look, but in 4K you can shoot up to 60p (really 59.94). If you want a higher frame rate, switch to HD and shoot using the extended S&Q motion of 120 fps.

The “Leaves Room for Improvement”

As much as I liked the integrated lens, which is both manual and servo, I prefer a lens with a mechanical link between the lens ring and the movement, even if that means occasionally pinning the lens. If I can't have a mechanical link, then an electronic link that imitates the mechanical link is my preference. I am not fond of a lens that adjusts more the faster you spin the ring—just a personal preference. It’s not anything that would stop me from shooting with the PXW-Z150. On the other hand, you can manual focus or zoom or use the servo without having to switch the lens from one to the other, so that is nice.

Overall

Hands-down, for the right job, or for most gigs, this is a good overall camera—a solid grab-and-go camera that looks perfectly at home on a set or location, and allows you to capture good, clean images in 4K and HD.

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63 Comments

Hi

i want to buy professional camera for indian based wedding function & outdoor . which one is best plz any suggestion me..

PXW-x200 or pxw-z150

which one is best ?

thank

sakthi

Hi Sakthi - 

The Sony PXW-X200 XDCAM Handheld Camcorder is the successor to Sony's PMW-200, featuring three 1/2" Exmor CMOS sensors with higher sensitivity and improved signal-to-noise ratio. It records up to 1080p60 video using the efficient XAVC Intra and Long GOP codecs with 4:2:2 10-bit sampling. To fit into existing workflows, MPEG HD422, HD420, and DV recording options are available. The camcorder is equipped with a 17x Fujinon zoom lens with a 35mm equivalent focal range of 29.3-498.7mm. The lens has independent focus, zoom, and iris control rings with hard stops, offering full manual control.  

The SDI connector lets you interface with professional video equipment. It is switchable from SD, HD, and 3G-SDI signals, outputting 1080p 59.94/50, 1080i 59.94/50, 720p 59.94/50, or SD resolutions. A 1080i 59.94/50 signal can be output for monitoring while the camcorder is set to 1080p 59.94/50. The PXW-X200 can also be connected via HDMI to HD displays for monitoring. An i.LINK connector is also provided which can be used for HDV when SP 1440 (FAT) made is selected and for DV when DVCAM (FAT) mode is selected.

Additional Features:

  • Multi-Interface shoe for compatibility with optional accessories
  • GPS data recording as metadata (via future firmware upgrade)
  • Picture Profile function (Gamma, Matrix, etc.)
  • Genlock In, Time Code In/Out for multi-camera shoots
  • Focus Assist functions (Color Peaking, MF Assist, One-push AF, Focus Magnification)

This camera is easily the superioe model over the Sony PXW-Z150 4K XDCAM Camcorder 

What are your thoughts on this camera for House of Worship application?  I want to connect this camera to video mixer on weekends, then disconnect and use to shoot video testimonies and church event videos during the week.  Is there a clean feed from SDI to connect to viceo mixre for IMAG?

Mark

Hi Mark - 

This is an excellent choice for church and worship applications. Pay careful attention to your lighting on the alter and other key areas that will need to be well illuminated for the best results.

I would like to get thoughts on this camera for documentary work. I shoot on my own and I am wondering how good it would be for that sort of video work. I would be doing environmental awareness and interviews.

thanks.

Mark Jones wrote:

I would like to get thoughts on this camera for documentary work. I shoot on my own and I am wondering how good it would be for that sort of video work. I would be doing environmental awareness and interviews. I meant to also say I currently use a Canon XF100 but want to go to 4K option. How would it stack up against Canons new XF400 4K camera.

thanks.

Great review. Sadly, however, this camera does not produce 4K60fps.

im having trouble importing my video content to my computer. When I connect my SD card I see a file PRIVATE and I click every single file available and can only see certain snapshots of what I recorded (actual pictures). I'm not able to see the video content i recorded when I connect the SD card to my computer. What am I doing wrong?

The video files are there.Just right click and open file contents and another file like stream ,playlist ...will show up. 

Hi Daniel - 

Solomon's offered you spot-on advice.  Please contact us via e-mail if you have additional questions: askbh@bandh.com    

Hi. Congratulations for the review. I have a camcorder Sony NX3/1 and really like it. I use this camera to record indoor musical shows. I am interested in buying Sony Z150 for work together, but before I want to know if I to configure two cameras to no picture profile, 0 gain and exactly the same white balance, aperture and shutter speed, the image appearance in relation to colors will be the same or very similar. Thanks.

Dear Sir/Madam,

Greetings!

Sony-Z150 is fixed lens camera  or changeable? Please let me know.

I will be so nice of you if you please inform me.

Best reagrds

Abu Musa

Hi Abe - 

This camcorder offers a non-interchangeable/fixed ,18/24x Clear Image Zoom/48x Digital Zoom lens.

How would you compare the Z 150 to the DVX 200 from Panasonic. Price difference not being an issue, but rather picture to picture.

Hi Jeff - 

It depends on your application really. Sony designed this camera for the corporate/wedding event shooter.  It also a great tool for the ENG videographer or indie filmmaker.  The Panasonic is best suited for film work in my opinion.

As far as the image quality of both or even the UX 180 if that would be a closer macth to the Z150. All seem to have the same f4.5 lens so none are low light lowers. That being said which fares better in low light in your opinion.(4k)  Clearly the DVX has a larger sensor but does that transfer to a cleaner low light image?

what is the difference in image quality with sony FDR-x100?

Hi Gabriel -

The sensor, processo,r and lens are all upgraded professional components on the PXW-Z150 4K XDCAM.  The differences in clarity, sharpness and color details are significant.  At this level of camera the included dual XLR audio inputs must be appreciated as well.

I own two of these cameras, have used them for 4 months now on numerous corporate talking head shoots, dramatic acting scenes, a couple of events, and on green screen, and they are a pleasure to work with.  Having come from s35 sensor cameras and learning that they are really not so run 'n gun, I missed my old EX3's but I really needed HD 422 capability this time around for green screen.  I use the 4K feature for talking heads. I rarely used 4K slo mo on the s35 cameras so going with HD slo mo on the z150 is just fine. I will say that the lens ramps up to f4 quickly, but adding +3 or +6db is not even noticeable, even +12db has a very slight but acceptable grain texture. The camera needs a lot of light, or gain, because it's rated at ISO 320, as were the EX's. The zoom lens really reaches out there.  I'd say it is perfect for sports, as well.  It's a super small camera, about EX1 sized, and that is fantastic for travel. The picture profiles work very much like on any other Sony and they look really good. It's super easy to use with a sharp and easy to focus fixed lens, which is refreshing in this day and age, and the lens has a very nice bokeh when the scene is lit properly, even at f4. 

Hi there,

I am in the market for an upgrade and I have been delaying for too long. I currently still use the EX1 - I love it. How does the z150 compare? (I used to use the PD150 - back in the day!) I mainly shoot head and shoulder stuff, documentary, but with some nice panoramic shots, macros, etc.

Thanks so much for your thoughts.

Hi Richard -

If you are looking for an easy to use 4K camera with a 1" sensor - look no farther. This camcorder performs very favorably when compared to the PMW-EX1 at a fraction of its cost.  Come on down and try it out and see for yourself - you will not be disappointed!

Hi

Can you please suggest me the video camera between PXW-Z150 & NX5R

Hi Sourabh  -

We have no SONY cameras between the price of the two you have mentioned. Currently they are only $50 apart in price.

I have the PXW-X70. Would you recommend the Z150 over the X70? Is it enough of a difference to make the change?

Hi Steve -

Of course it depends what you are shooting.  if you want to move to 4K, thengo for it! 

For a start, it uses Sony’s Stacked Sensor technology. This is quite different from Sony’s previous 1” type camera , the PXW X70, which is itself a very good performer. Stacked Sensor Technology means that all the processing is in a layer that’s parallel to and close by the light-sensing elements. This makes it fast. While it doesn’t mean that you can film bullets slicing through peaches, it does give you a very useful 120 fps in HD resolution (30 fps max in 4K). And there’s very little rolling shutter, unless you do things to deliberately provoke it. These are things that you mostly wouldn’t do in your everyday work as a video maker.

The new camera shoots in UHD 4K. It records to Sony’s efficient XAVC Long GOP codec up to a maximum of 100 Mbit/s in 4K.

I'm curious - according to the specs it only does UHD at 30fps but you said somewhere in the Article it will do 4K at 60? or was I wrong.

reason I'm curious is that the older Z100 model does 4K @60fps which would be very nice to have, and I don't understand why this model seemingly doesn't do that.

Hi Adam -

There is no 60 fps mode in 4K UHD at all. This camera records UHD 4K video (3840 x 2160p) at 29.97, 25, and 23.98 fps, in XAVC Long GOP in a choice of 100 Mb/s or 60 Mb/s.  Thank you for bringing this error to our attention. Much appreciated, Adam!

is 4k output in sonypxwz150 ?

Hi Praful -

Yes, it will output a 4K signal to a 4K or HD recorder like an ATOMOS, or Video Devices recorder.

Check "Setting the output destination when recording in 4K mode" (page 38) on operation manual. You can't use at the same time LCD and OutPut when 4K recording is active.

Thanks for the review of the PXW Z150.  I edit with Avid Media Composer 8.4.4 and I'm wondering if I will have any problem ingesting the video from this camera especialy in 4K?

Hi Everett -

According to AVID, this camera should be fully supported.

How would you compare this video camera with the PXWX200?

I need a video camera that would be used for news stories both on the web and broadcast.   

Hi SD -

Not a fair comparison as the Sony PXW-X200 XDCAM is a different tool for different work.  The Sony PXW-X200 XDCAM offers

  • 3G-SDI Output
  • Genlock In, Time Code In/Out
  • Three 1/2" Exmor CMOS Sensors

It has been designed with the ENG professional in mind and is ideal in a TV studio or for other livew ork out on  the street .

Hi Steven,

Thank you for your review.

We're looking at buying this camera or the Panasonic AG-DVX200. Do you have any thoughts on the two? How do they compare to each other? We are a media department in a school board where it's mainy event coverage work.

Thanks

Gord

Hi Gord -

For corporate video applications, you may be best served by this Panasonic camera for no other reasons than its 3G-SDI output and longer focal length zoom lens.

Please contact us via e-mail if you have additional questions: askbh@bandh.com    

Hi Mark, 

Can you clarify your recommendation a bit? 

What is the major 'form factor' difference between the Sony Z150 and the Panasonic DVX200?

What rigging would you need to add to the Sony to have it be comparable?

Thanks!

Andrew

Hi Andrew -

The  big difference is the built-in LCD monitor position of the SONY.  It is a better ergonomic design.  My apologie's as my previous response was directed to Ty Turner's question, regarding the Canon C100mkll below.

Please contact us via e-mail if you have additional questions: askbh@bandh.com 

I'm torn between this camera and a c100 Mkii and I know this they are 2 different Pye of cameras and this has 4K but other then that would you choose this camer over the c100 mk ii and why either way for corporate video.

$4500 for the C100, body only, NO ND filters, NO 4K, huge money to add a power zoom lens, big bucks for batteries and no 3rd party lanc remote pan handle remotes. Verses the $3200 Sony with all this stuff? OMG total no brainer! Dump the Canon!

c100mkII does have built in ND filters as well

Different cameras, different purposes. Should I dump my Cannondale mountain bike for a Fisher road bike?

I have both and for the high paying gigs, I use the c100 everytime.  Only had the z150 for a few weeks but so far I am liking it for the run and gun aspect, easy setup and does well in low light shooting for smaller events, presentations, etc.  The c100 does take some time to put together but image is much nicer, and yeah you need the lenses but if you are already a canon guy, its worth the extra money and your clients will like it, looks like all the other pro vids out there.  good luck choosing!

Thanks for the great review; I've been waiting to read more about this camera. Do you think it is a good workhorse for wedding receptions and other low light situations? Also, how did you light that excellent candle footage?

Hi Vincent, thanks for reading. Do I think the camera would be a good workhorse for weddings? To be fair, I have only shot one wedding video, and that was with the Sony EX-1. While I think many wedding photographers like a DSLR camera that does video so they can capture stills, and then also shoot video, there are a lot of things I like about  the Z150 that, I think,  lend itself well to wedding or event video. Not the least of which are the built-in XLR inputs, extremely clean gain, and the clean image, sharp lens, and the round out of focus highlights. The 1"-type chip, is an Exmor R, so it is already pretty clean, and I'm impressed by how clean the gain up was. I would be confident using it in low light situations. I do think the camera is a good all around workhorse, although I imagine Sony would prefer a different term, and it certainly has advantages for wedding and event video.

The Candle was lit by a single inky (tungsten light - FEV bulb) about as a backlight, and then I brought in a soft silver reflector on the camera left side of the frame for some fill. In this case I used a large sun reflector that is made for the windshield of trucks and RV's to keep them cool when parked in the sun. It was tall enough for the platform I had the candle on, and since it was folded accordion style it would stand by itself and I didn’t have to set up another stand. I set up black fabric about a foot behind the candle for a background.  

Hope this helps clarify things, and I’m glad you found the review useful. For more info and tips, check out the B&H Wedding page.

Best wishes, and good shooting.

Hi, thanks for such an interesting question. It is hard to not want after a C100MK II (or C300MK II for that matter), but for the majority of corporate video – talking head presentations, or corporate events, then I feel the Z150 is the way to go, especially if you are one man banding it. The built-in lens of the PXW-Z150 means you can go from out of the case to tripod or shoulder significantly quicker and with fewer members of a support crew. While less crew is not ideal, the all-inclusive form factor does have advantages. That doesn’t mean that you can’t use a C100MK II for corporate or event work, but in general I would probably pick the PXW –Z150. Plus 4K origination is a nice option, especially if you think you might be doing an repositioning and are delivering in HD.

Hope this Helps.

In your opinion would this be a quality camcorder for shooting sporting events (high school) ?

Hi Joseph, thanks for reading. I've never shot sporting events, so I'm not sure I'm qualified to offer a solid opinion on that. If you are shooting games for later review by the coach and players my concern would be that the camera does not use a global shutter. However it has a fast readout of the data, which ought to reduce artifactcs. The high speed options in HD are nice to have, and I suppose could be useful. If this is for shooting and making highlight release tapes for the players and their families, then this camera and a good tripod (or solid hand held shooting technique) seem to be a good fit. The built-in ND filters will help in day games, and the gain adjustment will help with night games (if you need it).

Best

Hope this helps.

I have few questions: 1) Is it Touch screen like FDR-AX100?  2) Does it have Manual Focus Assist like a7SM2? 3) Can it take Still photo like FDR-AX100?  4) Does it have typical Sony Power Sw? 5) Does it have S-Log2 and S-Log3 PPs? 6) Can I save modied PP under different name?  At maximum/longest focal length, does its AF take Center of the frame as main focus point (ignore front object or back object) during panning a landscape scene (For example street light poles at the front of buildings will be out of focus)?  Thank you.

Hi George -

There is no touch screen or S-Log.  PP's cannot saved with custom names. AF or MF modes are available, but no focus assist like the A7smk2.  We will have to wait until these cameras are available to us on-premises at B&H so we can answer your other questions.  

Please contact us via e-mail if you have additional questions: askbh@bandh.com    >Mark<   

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