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December 18, 2008

NIPROS: Truth in Advertising

Please note, this blog has been archived and now lives at www.discretecosine.com

I recently had a chance to test the Sony NIPROS studio package, courtesy of Z Systems here in Minnesota. The verdict? It does what it says on the tin.

So, what is the NIPROS package? Well, NIPROS is actually a company in Japan, which manufactures a fiber multiplexer/demultiplexer rig. Sony takes this, pairs it with an XDCam EX3 camera and some accessories, and sells the whole thing as a bundle for $29k. One end of the NIPROS gear essentially takes all of the various inputs and outputs from the camera (HD-SDI, genlock, remote, power, etc) and spits them down a standard SMTPE fiber cable (two copper + two single mode fiber strands). The other end breaks them back out. The NIPROS gear also adds tally and intercom, not normally found on the EX3.

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You can use your choice of either a Sony RMB-150 or RMB-750 remote (not included) to do remote control of the camera.

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The whole setup is essentially plug and play. Hook up all the connectors, following the clear and concise diagram, and turn it on. No need to tweak settings on the NIPROS gear. It really seems like the sort of rig that you can setup once and then forget about. Because the NIPROS pieces are essentially "dumb" - just multiplexing/demultiplexing, with no regard for the signals being passed - you don't have to worry about SDI formats being passed, etc.

Sony is pushing this as a package - while they will sell you just the NIPROS gear, they'd much rather sell it with an EX3. So, how does the EX3 work as a studio camera? Surprisingly well in most areas. I put it up against a Sony D50WSL with a Fujinon 17x7.6BERM lens. This wasn't a fully scientific test - I just pointed them at a gray chip chart in a variety of lighting conditions and compared them on a Videotek VTM-440HD/SD scope. I checked the EX3 in both 1080i60 and downconverted SD modes, to get a more direct comparison.

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Results? The EX3 did as well or better than the 2/3" D50. When I put both cameras wide open and dimmed the lights till I was at 10 foot candles on the chart, the whites were hitting about 63IRE on the EX3 and 55 on the D50 - essentially equal. That was pretty shocking, when you consider the cost difference and sensor size difference. That's progress for you though.

Other folks have done more extensive reviews of the EX3, so I won't dig into that further. It's a great camera. For studio use, I think I'd be inclined to go with a more traditional lens, like the Fujinon 18x5.5BERM.

Downsides? Well, it'd be nice if the camera unit didn't have a fan, but it's a very quiet fan. I'd like some option for a push-to-talk from the lens remote for the intercom. A tally breakout connector would be nice, since the tally on the front of the NIPROS will be hidden behind a prompter, and is in kind of a funny place in general. That's about it.

For small studios, educational uses and anyone looking for HD studio capabilities for well under $50k, this is by far the best solution I'm aware of. I think it's pretty slick for portable multicamera production as well. Because you don't need a particularly beefy tripod to support the camera, and the "CCU" is relatively small, you could easily carry this in to just about any location. I wouldn't be surprised to see units like this pushing into markets that would have traditionally gone with much more expensive rigs - the EX line has proven that it can compete with much more expensive cameras, and in an era in which the whole world is out of money, a $29,000 1080p studio rig is tough to beat.

Posted by at December 18, 2008 10:35 AM

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