PDW-700 Owners - Please Read
As a 700 owner I am a bit upset at Sony's decision to create a completely different line of camera with the introduction of the PDW-800. I just purchased my 700 in February and I was made to believe that the 700 would be "current" for the foreseeable future, especially with the promised upgrades in June. Now Sony has dumped the entire "700" series with the introduction of the 800. I am hoping that there are others out there who agree with me and want to do something about it. I propose that we contact Sony en mass, and ask that they offer current PDW-700 owners two options:
1. An ability to upgrade our cameras and have them re-designated PDW-800
2. Create a trade-in program so that recent 700 owners can upgrade to an 800 for a discounted rate when they become available.
As a freelance cameraman, I make my living by having the most popular cameras available to my network clients. More often than not I am contacted by Production Coordinators or Producers who have been tasked to find a crew with a specific camera in a specific area of the country. If Sony choose to call this new camera the "750" then it would have been a lot easier to sell my 700 as being in the "700 series" but Sony's decision to designate it as the "800" has ensured that I will lose rentals come June, hurting my bottom line.
Technology does change rapidly but this camera has only been available to the general public for 3 months. It is ridiculous for Sony to schedule a replacement so quickly - putting at risk the profitability of those customers that paid a premium for their latest and greatest offerings.
I believe that if enough of us organize and approach Sony as a group, we will be heard and our concerns will be addressed. If you are interested in joining this group and are willing to provide your PDW-700's serial number, please email me and I will compile a list of individuals so that we can continue this conversation via mass email.
Strength in numbers people.
What do you see the are benefits of a PDW 800 over a PDW 700?
Aside from the re-introduction of dual filter wheels, the PDW 700 can have all the options fitted to it that an 800 comes out of the box with.
Yes, you can add SD recording in IMX35/40/50 & DVCAM, 24p as options to 700, but you cannot add duel filter wheels, image invert, user gamma, variable speeds 1-60 (although half res at 30-60 in 1080) that comes with the 800. Two different cameras that make exactly the same picture and recording but a few features add $11000 to cost vs $6600 in options.
Benefit is small, although I really do like the duel filter wheel (just like PDW510 and 530 distinction) and could possibly use the variable speed function. User Gamma allows Steve Shaw's curves which are more aggressive than Hyper Gamma 3 & 4.
As a LONG time adopter to the Sony XD Cam HD format, I do understand, to a point, where you are coming from, and why you feel the way you do! I bought my F350 camcorder several years ago, and have truly loved the format. I often say, if I never shoot tape again, I'll be a happy camper! Not long after I purchased my F350, the F355 came out... four months later to be exact!
HOWEVER, I got a "SMOKIN' DEAL" on the F350. That camcorder has TRULY paid for itself SEVERAL times over! Sony came out with an upgrade to the F350s that made them identical to F355's save two things (true 24p output on the HD SDI output (it has a 3-2 pulldown in 60i) and that it can not shoot 50 GB discs!) In the end.. I have REALLY made out well, and saved a LOT of money in the process!
I would FIRST ask you where you purchased the camera? I think some of the "blame" if there is any, starts there! MANY dealers knew WELL ahead of time what was on the horizon as far as the release of the F800 goes! I have an AWESOME relationship with my Nir Reeches at Band Pro in LA... he couldn't "confirm nor deny" the existence of such a camera, but in January he suggested I hold off and see what happens at NAB...
Further, Nir indicated that I take a look at Sony's "history" of releasing products, often they release a model to test the waters so to speak; a scaled down model if you will, and then the following year release the higher end version of that camera.
I did LOTS of research on the PDW-700, and as far back as NOVEMBER of 2008, there were rumors being "leaked" on the internet out of Latin America, Europe and Australia that there was something BIG going to be shown at NAB 2009!
My local Sony rep told me there was no new camera on the horizon. I truly believe that he didn't know it was coming, as Sony tries to keep a lid on their product developments as much as their competitors. Sometimes that means they don't share info in house!
Depending on where you purchased the camera... it has been available since last fall! If you "pre-ordered" it, you may have had it sooner! This camera was in HIGH DEMAND, so there weren't many "sitting on shelves" around the country. Therefore, I have to respectfully disagree with your three month availability comment.
I'm currently on the "Sony Ice Team..." we aid Sony in developing products, marketing them and instructing folks on how to use them. I'm NOT an employee of Sony. I'm more of a consultant. At first, I had the same opinion as the one you have now. However, upon hearing the explanation of how they see the two models co-existing, I do understand their reasoning.
You should know that Sony has NO PLANS to quit manufacturing the 700. In Sony's eyes, the cameras are "aimed" at two different markets. The 700 is less expensive, the price has just dropped, and is intended to be used by the "news market." Entities like CBS News/Sports have jumped onto this camera in a HUGE way! So has ABC! These "types" of clients "have no need" for 24p. They don't want their material shot with that frame rate. Many of the shows shot on CBS are shot at 60i. A few, like 60 Minutes are shot in 30p. They like the progressive look, but don't want what they perceive as a "hassle" of the mismatch time-codes to be an issue in broadcasting.
For clients like these, the PDW700 is a GREAT camera out of the box! One may never even "need" any of the options... Sony saw the success of other companies utilizing the "modular" approach to releasing cameras. With that in mind, the end user, or entity can CHOOSE what options they need and will use, and pay appropriately.
Therefore, if you will NEVER be a "pool" camera, you don't have to "pay" for that option. If you never need to "record" from an external source in SD... you don't have to pay for that either. If you've NEVER shot anything in 24p, and don't think you'll need it, at least you have the OPTION of changing your mind later.
The release of the PDW700 in this fashion was in direct response to REQUESTS of their customers! Although many folks out there may agree with you, many do not! They didn't want to pay for all the "bells and whistles" they just didn't need.
The second market is "production" oriented. In turn, guys like me (and you) who "freelance" for a host of different outlets may need BOTH feature sets! Therefore, I'm willing to pay for the majority of the "options" on the PDW700 as "standard" equipment on the new F800! In fact, there aren't many "options" for the F800, as it's really loaded for anything you want to throw at it, out of the box! It's the best of both worlds! It has all the features of the proven F350, and the higher quality/dual HD frequency selections of the PDW700.
I worked VERY hard to convert MANY of my clients from SD to HD. I accomplished that task with XD Cam HD. I'm on the "other" side of the spectrum! NEARLY ALL of my clients shoot in 24p, with the exception of a few of my news type clients.
I had to take a long hard look at the decision on whether or not to purchase the 700. Sony would like for ALL of their ICE Team to be out there shooting with the 700! The image is gorgeous! However, I had to explain that my clients fell in love with the "film look" of 24p, the over cranking to provide SMOOTH slow motion in post, and a few other features the 700 just doesn't have. However, the gamma structure on the 700 is MUCH closer to an F900 than my F350!
I was certain, with no indication from Sony, that the next "logical step" for them would have to be what I called an "F1055!" It seemed reasonable to expect those "accustomed" to shooting with the early adaptations of the format, would like the same feature set they currently employ with the higher quality sampling and increased gamma/paint controls. So a marriage between the two cameras the F350 and the PDW700 (Thus my F1055!) was inevitable!
With that being said... I have shot HUNDREDS of productions for clients that wanted an F355! They didn't know the difference! I think this is MORE than possible for you too! Ask questions upfront. KNOW what will be expected of you! If I REALLY HAVE TO HAVE 24p output to a monitor, than I rent an F355 for the day. Far cheaper than buying that model! In many cases the move to the XD Cam HD format may even fall on your shoulders.
There are a few differences between the models, for sure. HOWEVER, with ALL of the upgrades, your PDW700 is VERY similar to the F800. One feature you "can't upgrade," as Sony feels it's a "production" element to shooting rather than a news element, is the dual filter wheel. I have to admit, I really missed going from the dual filter wheel on my D790/600/F900 to the single wheel on my F350. However, it didn't take long to "get used to it!" In many respects, I found I could make changes FASTER due to this fact! Now, I love it! I can make changes going from outside to inside (if in preset white balance) with a push of a single button! That means no filter wheel is spinning in the middle of the shot, and the editor can use the entire shot for the full length of its duration!
You will NOT be able to under/over crank. If you've been using the 700, you probably haven't missed that feature. Clients either love it or hate it! Some ALWAYS want to slow it down in post! Some love the freedom from the hassle of rendering that effect. You should know the frame size of the final shot is reduced while in that mode! That's why some clients prefer to do that "effect" in post. Further, there is NO AUDIO when over/under cranking... I have to try to shoot things with my audio being recorded elsewhere when I shoot this way; or I have to shoot two versions, one with audio. You could use your marketing skills to "explain" why you'd prefer to shoot that shot in a traditional manner: full frame size, and there's audio! I've done that many times, and it always works!
Please take the time to evaluate how you will use the camera. Who is your clientele? Chances are those clients who fell in love with the PDW700 many not want or need the F800. Further, they may not be willing to pay more for you to USE that camera in the field. (that was another issue for me with the F350/700... my clients became accustomed to a price point and didn't want to alter that!)
I think when you've had time to review your situation, after the initial shock and anger have dissipated, you'll find you're in a pretty good position. You're able to upgrade to the majority of the features of the higher priced camera for $5K less than the purchase price of the new model. That's what happened with me, and I couldn't be happier!
Picture This Productions
Sony ICE Team
Adobe Premiere Pro CS3 HD/Matrox
If you do any freelance work with the networks at all then you know that which camera models are accepted and which are not, are determined by a nebulous "powers-that-be". The production coordinators and production managers are given their marching orders and told to find a crew with a certain camera model. This is the main reason why people bought the F900 over the 750 despite the added cost. Production companies want the F900 even if they shoot plain old 60i footage. There's no rational reason for it, it's just what is demanded and no 28 year-old production coordinator is going to ask their superiors if it's okay to use another model camera because a crew out of Salt Lake City swears it's almost the same camera. Your idea of "marketing yourself" to say; "oh, you know, my 700 does almost everything an 800 does", may work for corporate clients but it's not going to fly at the Network level.
Back in the BetaSP days, production companies would demand a BVW-D600 over an HL-V55. They recorded onto the exact same format at the exact same resolution and yet some people got it into their heads that one was better than another. It was my sensitivity to this potential, irrational preference that influenced me to buy the 600 over a V55.
As for your assertion that Sony has positioned the 700 as the "news camera" and the 800 as the "production camera", this really does make me wonder who you work for because it is straight out of the Sony brochure . . . well at least the brochure that came out in MID-APRIL, just before NAB. Previous to that date no one was talking about the 700 as a lower-end 800 because the 800 never existed. In fact Sony promoted a 24P upgrade rebate to anyone who purchased a 700 before 02/2009. Before April, Sony was marketing the 700 towards people who were interested in 24p (i.e. - production people not news people). Now they are actively marketing against the 700 as a production camera and branding it a lowly "news camera". Do you think that Nat Geo and Discovery are interested in hiring a news crew to shoot their shows???? Do you think that anyone who shoots for the higher-end networks would be interested in a "news camera"?
The plain fact is that Sony actively marketed the PDW-700 as the latest and greatest flavor of "production camera" they had to offer. They reassured potential buyers that the 700 would be upgradeable to 24p along with all the other features that a freelance cameraman could wish for. Then at NAB, they all but dumped the model in favor of the 800. Today they are actively marketing against the 700, painting it out to be a low-rent version of the 800 and thanks to this marketing, unless you shoot exclusively for the news networks, in 6 months, the 700 will be useless in the freelance market.
You can argue against that assessment all you like. but you and I know exactly how this really went down and if you spent $27,500 on a camera body that Sony now markets as a cheap, stripped down, "news camera", I guarantee you you'd be singing a different song.
In the end Curt I'm not looking to get anything for free here. I'm not trying to paint Sony out to be a big bad money grubbing monster. I am hoping that someone at Sony will do the right thing and allow previous 700 owners a reasonable path to upgrade their cameras to 800 capabilities and designation and/or offer a trade-in program for a new 800.
I honestly think it's too bad that you could not accept the genuine nature of my response. After all, I too have been in the EXACT position you are in now. I think it becomes a question of attitude. I'm a "glass half full" kind of person.
I won't dissuade your feelings. I too wanted a trade in for my F350 in the beginning. I MADE my camera work. It was my attitude and hard work that persevered!
I can tell you for a FACT that national news networks do INDEED "take what they can get" in certain situations and in certain locations! I can tell you that up until the inception of the F350, certain networks preferred the 530 XD Cam in the SD flavor... NOT ONCE has anyone asked me, at the network level, "DO YOU HAVE MODEL XX" in the XD Cam flavor. I've been told "we want standard definition, DV Cam 25." "We want SD IMX 50." "We want XD Cam HD, 50, in 30 frames per second..." etc.
I have SEVERAL friends in the same boat you are in, and have asked their BIG clients like 60 Minutes, 48 Hours, CBS Sunday Morning, Evening News... "Do I have to have an F800 now?" The answer is "We want XD Cam HD, 50 Mbps, in 30p or 60i..." I too have made the calls to MY CONTACTS at the same networks to verify! The answers are the same! It's a situation where you MUST have one of the two cameras... if both models are on the same show... you can MATCH THEM! With a waveform monitor, a vector scope, and a little knowledge on how to paint, this task isn't that complicated.
ABC News only does HD for certain shows or certain situations. They are all over the board in what they want! The fact of the matter is that the PDW700 covers every aspect of their needs in HD and SD as well.
Often representatives at BOTH of those networks are ecstatic to hear we have XD Cam HD at all! Then the next question is what can I provide in terms of format, and bit quality... Model numbers just don't come up in conversation. In fact, most of the network "regular shooters" are just now getting up to speed on the 700. I know, I've trained several on the west coast. The process to GET to HD was hard enough. I truly don't think you have to worry about them replacing all of their gear at this point.
As far as D600 cameras being demanded by production companies, I can tell my thoughts for the reason behind that. I too own one of those! I was often emailed camera settings or a producer sent set up cards for our work with that camera. Many network shows have particular looks, which still holds true, and want their crews to follow guidelines. However, I have been on MANY network level shoots where in multiple camera situations, another shooter had an HL-V55. THEY WENT THROUGH THE TROUBLE OF MATCHING THEIR CAMERA TO THE CLIENT LOOK! They took the initiative to make what they owned work in that situation.
That's what I'm trying to explain. If you have good relationships with your clients, I think you can explain your situation, and they'll be willing to work with you.
I have producers, corporations, and networks that "trust" me. As long as I can deliver within the specs their boss' mandate, and I make them look good in the process, they don't care what I do. Our camera set ups rival the best. Our colors pop, our detail levels are flattering, we have rich blacks, and our clients flip over our results. And yes, that's on the corporate, cable, and network level!
If you feel that I was regurgitating the viewpoints from Sony reps, perhaps that did happen. I will tell you, in genuine conversations, in "off the record" situations with personnel at Sony, this is how they truly feel. They weren't looking to screw people over. They were responding to BIG corporations viewpoints in spending money. Companies that had to buy hundreds of cameras. These entities felt they only needed certain feature sets in their cameras and didn't want to pay for what they believe to be "frivolous" extras. This isn't one company. This happened with SEVERAL companies.
Sony truly does listen to their customers! Many "network" level camera men who NEVER shoot in 24p asked Sony to produce a high end cameras with features that would make their lives easier. That's exactly what they did. Many features on several models are a direct result of feature requests sent in by everyday users.
I feel that you are putting a negative association with the term "news camera" in contrast to a production camera. There was no malice aimed at one or the other, just that they are different. Those differences in shooting styles often mandate different features. For the first time, Sony decided to offer a high end product with features in an affordable range for people who wanted them. Further, they made upgrades a modular decision.
The 700 is NOT a lower end version of the 800! They have the same exact chipset in them! They can produce identical images in certain situations. Once camera has a few more bells and whistles that appeal to a certain range of client. The 700 will STILL be used in productions with 24p as the boards are being shipped out.
I happen to know for a FACT that the 700 is of the highest standards of acceptance with Nat Geo and Discovery! Others on the ICE Team have paved the way and made sure ALL of the camera owner/operators out there won't have to struggle to use that camera on shows! (More than "sales," that is what we do! I don't make a DIME off the sale of ANY camera!) Keep in mind that a MAJORITY of the time, the Networks/Outlets BUY programming from others, or pay a certain amount for 1/2 hour or hour of airtime. They give a list of guidelines to those companies and they often have several choices in the parameters of gear they are allowed to use. In the end the production company responsible for producing the show will make that final decision on format and/or model.
I had someone tell me that Discovery would ONLY accept material from an HDX900! I promptly emailed them MY LIST of acceptable cameras and formats, that I had received from Discovery Networks when I was pitching shows to them myself. That company did own up to having a choice and informed me of THEIR DECISION on what they wanted to use in the field based of their post production work flow.
For clients like this... you have to get creative! I've purchased SEVERAL PDWU1 drives and sent those as a free loaner (and after a while I RENT THEM) to my clients to use in the post process. (Think of it as the hook to "set the bait!") This makes life easier for them, they don't have to buy expensive decks and I get to keep using my camera, thus making money. (Now you can reel them in!)
Ironically, I have been personally responsible for converting SEVERAL high end, network level clients/outlets into XD CAM HD! Once they see how easy the format is to use, and how great it looks, they are sold. I've been an evangelist. I've been a pioneer. I've been an instructor. I've been bold! I've called people and said, "let me shoot with my new XD Cam HD camcorder... if you aren't blown away, and it doesn't surpass what you've been using, I won't charge you for that shoot and we'll go back to using -- (whatever)." I ALWAYS GET PAID! WE EXCEED EXPECTATIONS! What's better, I get to use my XD Cam HD from that point forward.
Perhaps I'm a good salesman. I doubt it! I'm slow just like others in the business. I'm not that good at "BS-ing" people either. I tell it like it is, make suggestions and then kill myself to back it up.
This is a tough time economically for everyone involved in our field and at every level! When I get creative, I tend to be able to make things happen.
You have to keep in mind ANY camera manufacturer is marketing to THOUSANDS of potential clients. Your particular range may fall within one or two models. I agree that you have to make decisions based on your individual needs.
Again, I do understand your frustration. I too have been in your shoes. I too was angry. I DID SPEND $20+K ON A CAMERA, only to have a new model show up in months. I wanted an upgrade. I wanted a trade in. No one would listen.
After time passed I did understand that the onus is on the buyer. As I was upset with my salesman, I continually chewed on HIS ear. He indeed DID know the next model camera was coming, and never elected to share that information with me. However, in the end, I have to take responsibility for my actions.
It's not like I haven't made money with the camera. I got a great deal, and the dividends have been HUGE for me. So honestly, I can say that I've saved about $9K on the price difference and it hasn't hurt my business, although I truly expected it to hurt my business. I found that it was the way I approached ALL of my clients on every level that made the difference.
One of my largest hurdles was when Sony removed "my" model of XD Cam HD camcorder from their website; which made using a camera many had never even heard of... HARDER! Heck, I paved the way for people like you! I was out there calling people everyday trying to get them to let me use my camera, let me show them the XD system! So when I told them about it and they checked out Sony's website, and my camera wasn't there... It became a harder sell!
So please excuse me when I tell you I DO KNOW how things go down! I will not let you invalidate my personal experience. I was NOT a member of the Sony ICE Team at that time... it was through my hard work of building that network acceptance that you are concerned with, that Sony became aware of me.
You are fortunate enough that your camera is STILL viable in the world of news and production. Your camera is still listed on their website. I just checked the site too... You know what, F800 is the last camera listed on their site! They aren't touting it as a better camera than the 700, just different. Allow me to QUOTE the website: "With features such as Slow & Quick Motion (over-crank and under-crank recording) make the PDW-F800 ideal for cinema and TV drama productions, as well as ENG applications."
This camera is being marketed for that indie type production/cable drama/regional commercial market. Surely you would agree that you wouldn't use a D600 to shoot a "feature film!" Sony has cameras that do that! They are in two different classes! The same applies here. In fact the same applied in the world of Digital Betacam! The introduced the 709, then the 790 was released. The same applied in the world of HD Cam SR... the F23 was released and then the F35. All have their place. All have price points. You can't knock them for realizing they are "onto" a great technology and then improve upon that technology. Sony's "hope" is that XD Cam HD becomes the "NEW Betacam!"
I can only contradict your statement about NAB 2009. Sony, in NO WAY, "dumped the model (700) in favor of the 800." You couldn't be farther from the truth. I know. I was ON the XD Cam Stage, along with Jody Eldred. In fact, we only BRIEFLY mentioned the F800! Instead, we focused on the F355 and the PDW700! Our presentations revolved around those cameras. Others like Greg Boston and Dave Sperling,and Doug Jensen answered questions at the camera pavilion. Sony NEVER instructed or requested us to reduce the stature of the 700 in any way! In fact, it was quite the opposite... Often I asked people "What are you going to do with the camera? Who are you clients? What are you using now? What is your budget?" I believe that if you don't need or use 24p and over/under cranking, and you are on a tight budget, then the PDW700 is a perfect camera for you.
I'm not accusing you of slandering Sony in any manner. I understand your position as an individual trying to service your clientele. I understand that you want to feel secure in your choices and have security with that choice for a particular time period. I feel that Sony has indeed done "the right thing" by offering the 24p option, along with all the other options to upgrade your 700 to 800 capabilities. Technology will continue to advance. Equipment will continue to improve. You should have solace in knowing that Sony is committed to the XD Cam HD format, and ALL of the current 50 Mbps camcorders they offer today.
I wish you the best of luck in your endeavors. If you owned a D600, that means that you've been at this a while! If you've been at this a while, and still going strong, that must mean you have talent. A individual with your skill set and equipment will continue to turn heads. Keep up the great work.
I apologize for the length of the this post.
Picture This Productions
Sony ICE Team
Adobe Premiere Pro CS3 HD/Matrox
You put infomercial hosts to shame with that zeal of yours. I'm sad to hear that at the end of the day you think Sony has no interest in supporting the concerns of it's loyal customers - that my concerns are misguided and belie an uncreative, pessimistic mind. It's interesting that you think it's a cameramen's job to convince clients what cameras they need, not to provide them with the cameras they want. If it's okay with you, I'm going to still beat my drum and see if I can get Sony to do the right thing with those of us that bought the 700 thinking they had purchased a soon-to-be popular production camera not just an ENG rig.
Finally, Curt I want to thank you for explaining that it's actually raining. I wasn't quite sure what that was running down my neck. . . . .