At A glance: Sound Devices PIX 240i

With the ability to output data via HD-SDI or HDMI, video recorders such as Convergent Design’s nanoFlash, AJA’s Ki Pro Mini and Atomos’ Ninja and Samurai have become extremely popular with indie shooters looking to capture higher-quality 4:2:2 files rather than H.264.

Sound Devices, which is primarily known as a high-end audio equipment company, has recently released the PIX 240i, a production video recorder that lets you capture either Apple ProRes or Avid DNxHD files from video cameras or DSLRs and features both HD-SDI and HDMI inputs and outputs. (FYI, the advantage of 4:2:2 ProRes or DNxHD files over H.264 is better color depth and less compression, which should give you a little more leeway during postproduction.) But what really sets the recorder apart from most current video recorders is its IPS (In-Plane Switching) five-inch LCD display, which gives you a nice 800×480-resolution image. Like most good external LCD monitors, the PIX 240i gives you Exposure and Focus Assist, as well as False Color, Zebras, Peaking and 1:1 Pixel Mapping. In terms of codecs, the PIX 240i lets you capture ProRes or Avid DNxHD 8- or 10-bit files at 36, 100, 145 or 220 Mb/s. At the moment, because of its Clean HDMI output, the PIX 240i has become a popular solution for the Nikon D800, although it’s important to remember that the D800’s output is 8-bit 4:2:2 instead of 10-bit.

I recently had a chance to test out a PIX 240i with a Sony FS700U, capturing ProRes 422 (HQ) files via HD-SDI. Although the LCD monitor on the PIX 240i is much better than the monitor on the Atomos Ninja, I probably wouldn’t recommend substituting it for a good seven-inch (or higher) LCD display for most professional productions. But if a large monitor isn’t in your budget, the PIX 240i should be sufficient for composition purposes, and you won’t have another device hanging off the camera to deal with. What I really like about having the LCD display on the recorder is that you have the confidence that you’re actually recording the shot. You also can play it back after you’re done shooting.

The size and weight of the PIX 240i is good (5.5×4.0x2.4 inches, two pounds), although if you’re mounting it to a hot-shoe on a DSLR, it will seem a little bulky. The PIX 240i is powered by either DC power or two Sony L-type batteries.

Because Sound Devices specializes in audio gear, the PIX 240i’s audio circuitry is modeled after their 7-series audio recorders, which provide low-noise professional preamps (-128 dBu), 48 kHz, 24-bit sampling rates, two-channel output on a 5-pin XLR and a low-noise headphone amp. For me, the ability to record your separate sound track into the PIX 240i is perhaps its greatest feature because it streamlines a double-system workflow. The 240i also includes a timecode reader that can accept incoming SMPTE timecode that will match the camera file’s timecode with no drift.

In terms of menu operation, the PIX 240i is simple to use, with a rotary knob on the side of the unit and buttons on the front to navigate through menus. The control buttons for Playback, Stop, Fast Forward, Rewind and Record are large and easy to operate.

The PIX 240i can record and play back files to CF cards or removable 2.5-inch SSD drives. The SSD drives fit inside a proprietary Sound Devices caddy, which inserts easily into the side of the device. List Price: $2,995.

Contact: Sound Devices, (608) 524-0625, www.sounddevices.com.

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