25 Dec 2017

Is the fixed lens camera dead?

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Do professionals still want fixed lens cameras? Do professionals still want fixed lens cameras? Sony/RedShark


RedShark Christmas Replay: One from the archive back in 2013. There's a big trend towards affordable interchangeable lens cameras for professionals, but does this mean fixed lens cameras like the PMW-EX1 are a thing of the past? Definitely not, says Simon Wyndham

In 2007 Sony made a step change to the world of low priced professional cameras with the release of the PMW-EX3. Until that point to be able to own a professional grade video camera with the ability to change lenses meant owning a big, bulky, and expensive ENG style rig.

The EX3 changed this, enabling owners with lower budgets to have a number of potential lens options on an HD camera with a 1/2” chip that was genuinely capable of resolving 1000 lines of resolution without having to remortgage the house. Not surprisingly it became a huge success.

Shoot forward a few years and these days camcorders with interchangeable lenses and S35 mm sized sensors are the new normal. A rig without these abilities is looked down upon somewhat, rightly or wrongly, as being a bit “prosumer” because most fixed lens camcorders are restricted to 1/3” chips or smaller, which of course is so yesterday! The only real exception being the excellent Sony PMW-200, the successor to the almighty PMW-EX1.

The elephant in the room

The elephant in the room however is that the vast majority of EX3 owners never changed the lens. Even owners of ENG style cameras rarely swapped over glass. Some may have owned a couple of lenses, perhaps the workhorse J17, and then maybe swapped for a wide angle if they required it. However generally most just kept one lens on the front most of the time. Most EX3 owners could have happily owned the fixed lens EX1, but for many it seems that the idea that they could swap lenses was far more enticing than the reality, which was that many would never do so.

Changing lenses is, frankly, a pain in the arse. Yes it looks cool to an outsider, and it can make us feel like high and mighty DOP’s, but practical it is not.

There is a lot to be said for the quality of a good prime lens I admit. I could never muster an argument to suggest otherwise. However these days it seems that the way we use camcorders these days is lead more by a cultural movement than it is by practicality. In the quest to be given more flexible options we have made our lives all the more complicated.

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Simon Wyndham

Simon Wyndham is the Editor of RedShark News, a professional cameraman and video producer of 20 odd years. With a background in indy feature making, he has been writing camera reviews and tech articles for as long as he can remember. When he isn't producing bread and butter corporate videos he can be found hucking the gnar on rivers whitewater kayaking and adventure sports filming.

Website: www.5ep.co.uk

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