As I was choosing my video gear to bring to this year's CES, I had several goals: I wanted to go lightweight, carry as few external devices as possible, and use a camera that produced a clean crisp picture requiring very little color correction. I was going to be shooting a lot of videos, and I didn't want to come back to the office with any flat or log footage that would require grading in post. I also didn't want to deal with an external audio recorder (like the one I use with my BlackMagic Pocket Cinema Camera rig) that would add extra points of failure, especially during an eight-hour convention day.
Shooting for that long, weight was also a big consideration. I thought back to the previous years shooting video CES. It's not just about the convention floor: I'm carrrying my gear through hotels and casinos, waiting in cab lines, wading through thousands of people, and doing a lot of walking, all before making that trip back to my room at the end of an eight-hour shooting day to unload a 10 pound camera rig that's been weighing on my arm. In the past, I improperly rigged a heavy camera, and paid for it with blisters on my hand and a wrecked shoulder.
This year I decided to put a little bit of thought into it. I shopped around for a new camera to test at the convention, and eventually decided on the Sony PXW-X70. It's a little tiny ENG (electronic news gathering) style camera that records 1080p video in the XAVC codec, with 4K potential.
It checked off a number of requirements that I had: lightweight, onboard XLR audio, recorded to SD card (redundant slots, too!), built-in ND filters, and zoom lens. That sounded great, lets try it! We were getting it loaned to us from B&H for a month, which gave me plenty of time to get comfortable with it and take it on the road.
Taking the camera out of the box for the first time, I noticed that the thing was much smaller than I anticipated. It is about the size of a Sony Handycam, with hot shoe mount on top that locked on the handle with the XLR inputs. Putting it together, the thing felt like it weighed nothing. I shot a couple pieces of test footage with it, rigged a simple shoulder rail with a single hand grip, and packed it up in a tiny bag for CES. It was the smallest gear bag I've taken to any convention, and I was okay with that.
I had to do some playing around with the custom buttons to get controls where I needed them, but after that, I rarely needed to head back into the menu setting (which, really, isn't that bad especially with the nice thumb stick to cycle through the settings). The rest of the button placement is very similar to the Sony FS700--a camera I have lots of experience with--so finding specific settings quickly wasn't an issue.
However, the lens handling was at times a bit challenging for me.