Sony's tapeless XDCAM EX adopts a standard media format

Sony's XDCAM EX forgoes the proprietary disc technology used by the XDCAM family, instead adopting new a SxS format, compatible with the ExpressCard standard.

Lori Grunin Senior Editor / Advice
I've been reviewing hardware and software, devising testing methodology and handed out buying advice for what seems like forever; I'm currently absorbed by computers and gaming hardware, but previously spent many years concentrating on cameras. I've also volunteered with a cat rescue for over 15 years doing adoptions, designing marketing materials, managing volunteers and, of course, photographing cats.
Expertise Photography | PCs and laptops | Gaming and gaming accessories
Lori Grunin
2 min read
Sony XDCAM EX. Click for more photos. Sony Electronics

This week, the National Association of Broadcasters converges in Las Vegas for its annual convention, a show we here at CNET usually ignore; after all, while the typical CNET reader may have a room dedicated to the worship of the moving image, we don't expect to see a TV studio in an adjacent shrine. And no, producing YouTube videos doesn't count. However, interesting prosumer news floats down every now and then, and Sony's announcement of its flash-memory-based XDCAM EX camcorder landed gently on my keyboard this morning, via Engadget.

In fact, I usually ignore Sony's XDCAM models entirely. Not only do they serve specific niche vertical broadcast markets, but the XDCAM discs are one of Sony's more-annoying proprietary technologies. Plus, the models tend to cost upward of $15,000. (For more info on the format, see our Guide to HD Camcorders.) So I'll take Sony's "prosumer" designation on the XDCAM EX with a grain of salt until the company actually announces pricing. Based on the single extant photo I've seen and the limited specs available--three 1/2-inch sensors, switchable between 1080/60i and 720/60P, and capable of 1080/50i/30P/25P/24P and 720/50P--the XDCAM EX leans more heavily toward the "pro" than the "sumer."

The EX marks the debut of Sony's new SxS Memory Card, an ExpressCard/34-compatible flash array developed in conjunction with SanDisk. According to SanDisk, the SxS card will be optimized for the high-bandwidth I/O typical of HD video recording; the target throughput is 800Mbps. Since the EX will record in MPEG-2, I'm assuming it's the same MPEG-2 HD variant used by the XDCAM discs. Another Sony announcement at the show indicates that the XDCAM disc recording will now support 4:2:2 color sampling, so I'm hoping that the EX format will use that instead of the older 4:2:0. The camcorder will have two slots, and the video seems to require about 267MB of storage per minute: that's 8GB per 30 minutes. When the SxS cards become available later this year, capacities will start at 8GB and 16GB. Presumably the camcorder will ship around the same time.