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.

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.