New Sony 4K Camera: European Launch Perspective from Norbert Paquet

Sony’s headline product launch at NAB is the HDC-4300, claimed as the world’s first 4K system camera with three authentic 4K image sensors. Not only has Sony developed its own new two-thirds inch CMOS sensor for the purpose, but it has also listened to a marketplace that really needs a 4K camera to double as a hard-working HD camera for everyday sports productions.

“As the name states it’s part of the HDC family and it’s proposed especially for sports production environments,” confirmed Norbert Paquet, Sony Europe, Strategic Marketing Manager for Live Production, in conversation with Sports Video Group. “You can attach any two-thirds inch lens to the camera; whereas with the current brother F55 model via the CA-4000, you need an adaptation from the PL mount to two-thirds inch lenses.

“That already exists and we have used the solution several times including the World Cup 4K production last year. We have more than 40 units of this F55 live solution on the European market, producing every day in different environments such as sports, entertainment, soap operas and concerts.

“Some productions are looking for the film-look style,” said Paquet, “and PL lenses are widely available so it’s not that much of an issue. But a key feedback we have had, especially working on the World Cup and other sports projects, was that while the adaptor is good and works well, there would still be a need for a single piece camera with native two-thirds inch 4K sensors.

“Sony has specifically developed a new two thirds-inch CMOS sensor with native 4K resolution, from our semiconductor group,” he said. “So we take three of these CMOS sensors as well as a brand new prism design – because when you come to talk about 4K it is not only a question of pixels to take into account but also the color reproduction, which needs to be more accurate in the ultra high definition world. To reach the BT 2020 color space (from SMPTE) we had to activate these three new sensors together with the new prism, meaning we are able to reproduce the full colour space of the 2020 required for ultra high definition production.

“We fit all of these into a standard studio camera body, exactly the same as any HDC camera, which means customers can use all the common accessories they are already using with their equipment – viewfinders, large lens adaptors, CCUs, master set up units – and everything is compatible. This gives a lot of flexibility to a rental company, for example, and they don’t need to reinvest in everything from scratch.”

The point: it comes as a standard HD camera

“4K production is not just about pixels, it’s about color space and dynamic range,” continued Paquet. “But also for our customers, another very important point is that 4K is not a mainstream production format as of today. So the investment they have to make to produce 4K needs to be secured over their HD productions. This is the point of the HDC-4300, because the camera itself comes as a standard HD camera, so you get your chain outputting 1080/50 I or P, as well as standard 1080/100 and 150 I or P.

“You have a standard HD camera that does one times, two times and three times speed. This can be seen as the direct successor of the HDC-3300 in our offering for sports production because most of the European football championships require three times speed at the moment. This gives the production companies a two-set for their mainstream production for sports or studio environments, and then when they have the need for an extra 4K job they can get the 4K capability with just a license that can be purchased for a week, a month, or permanent.

“This provides a lot of flexibility to purchase equipment that’s future-proof, minimising the capex from the first investment point,” he said. “Then, when 4K becomes more mainstream they will be able to go for permanent 4K capability in their camera.

“The other thing we’re going to propose with the camera license is high frame rate in HD. So as standard the camera can go up to 150 frames per second, which covers the three times speed for football or rugby, for example. But there are productions that require higher frame rates, and the camera will propose up to 400 frames per second, or eight times speed.

“With another license, which again will be available as weekly, monthly or permanent, customers will unlock four times, six times and eight times speed – up to 400 frames per second from the new camera.

“We really wanted to provide versatility for OB companies and rental companies. We care about the return on investment that they need to have and it enables them, philosophically, to have any kind of tool they can use from Monday to Sunday on any type of production that they want.

“At NAB the camera is being shown in two configurations; in 4K mode, and in high frame rate mode showing the eight times speed. Availability will be summer time, tentatively ex-factory middle of June. So, very importantly, ready for the next European sports season,” Paquet told Sports Video Group.

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