Several Duke OIT Staff members were on site today at the 2013 Convergence Technology Summit. In addition to several seminars, numerous venders were on site to showcase their wares. I thought I would focus on one of particular interest, the Sony BRC series cameras.
For several years I have been using the BRC series with much success. The products have a near broadcast level of quality at a reasonable price point. Indeed, several network television productions such as Hell’s Kitchen have employed them with a good deal of success but a true broadcast grade camera it is not. The BRC-H700 will always have a special place in my heart but I was happy when Sony announced a still higher quality version in the BRC-H900. They also began the sunset process of the H700 by upgrading it with the Z700. I was also excited to take note of price reductions that make them more competitive to lower end PTZ cameras that are deeply penetrating the market place.
I was able to get hands on with the H900 and Z700’s today as well as their little cousin, the BRC-Z330. Let me run down a list of features and thoughts. First the Z900.
Comparing the H900 to the H700, you will notice the units kept the same basic chassis and previous R2D2 form factor. The big difference comes in the sensors and lens. You can easily see the lens is considerably larger than the H700. Instead of the 1/3″ 3-chip CCD design the 900 uses a 1/2″ 3-chip CMOS array. On top of that, you could see the lens glass itself was improved, there is a considerably larger surface area on which to collect and focus light. The lens structure also has a threaded assembly to accept lens adapters for a greater range of wide or telephoto shots. The chassis itself accepts a large range of cards that make it an integrators dream. There is literally not situation in which this could not be installed due to a lack of connections. Other features are very welcome for pro video users including tally lights and various mounting systems. While the PTZ movement is not surgical like high end products from Eagle or Vinten/Radamec it is still better than lower end PTZ’s and good enough to be considered broadcast grade in wide shot situations. The addition of network control, that allow 112 units to be manipulated from a single control surface located anywhere is sure to leave behind the dated RS-232 standards that PTZ’s have long relied upon. I was very impressed with this camera, the light gathering capacity of the relatively large chips and the color fidelity was very impressive. I hope to see one in our facilities at some point.
The Z700 replaces the venerable H700. Though it’s important to note that the H700 is not discontinued it’s obvious it’s in its twilight. The Z700 has a very nice Zeiss lens but transitions to 1/4″ 3-chip CMOS sensors away from the 1/3″ 3-chip CCD used in the H model. Frankly, this was disappointing and I felt a bit cheated. The CCD vs CMOS debate is ever present. While in general both chip designs have their pro’s and con’s, no one will ever argue that smaller sensors are better in anyway…unless you’re building a spy cam. One could argue the 3-chip design does increase the light gathering area when multiplied out but that division happens across a spectrum. The commitment to keeping a 3 sensor design ultimately did impress me in terms of color but I still have reservations regarding sensor size. Other cheaper PTZ cameras on the market make use of the larger 1/3″ chips, though in a single chip design. From what I saw I was very happy with the color the camera produced but the lack of light gathering capacity in the dark show room was an obvious weak spot that would keep this camera out of low light spaces like theaters or dim classrooms.
The last camera in this line is the BRC-Z330. This is the value champion of the group. It actually steps back up to a 1/3″ sensor but on a single chip design. So the good news is you get your light gathering surface area back but reduce the color fidelity you see from the 3-chip CMOS’s in the Z330’s big brothers. That said, the camera is at a price and feature point below many of the low cost competitors that have under cut this line for years. This did well in the show room’s low light and had a precision of movement that while far from watch like, was acceptable for wide shot on-air movements.