Using the Sony PXW-Z90 to shoot news

So I’ve just purchased the Sony PXW-Z90. If you’ve never heard of it then here are a few basic stats that helped to sell it to me:

– 4K right out of the box
– 3G-SDI and HDMI outputs
– 1” Exmor RS sensor
– Amazing autofocus
– 12x optical zoom

I’ve been shooting with a Sony A7S and a6300 for a while and I love them…But, I have really started to miss having a decent zoom lens with built-in ND filters. I also find the autofocus on my A7S (yes, it’s a mark 1) a bit rubbish.


I am 40 (very) soon and in recent years I have started to use the auto-focus more and more on my cameras when running and gunning. For me, good face-detection auto-focus is a really big deal in a camera and the Z90 ticks that box, and then some. I am no techie and so won’t go into how the auto-focus works, but trust me it does.


For interviews with a busy background or with lots of people then I use the “spot-focus” option and have set assignable button 2 to bring up the “focus area” where I can quickly switch the focus from wide to spot and zero in on my target. This works perfectly.

Below is the first film I made with the camera while on a recent assignment in South Sudan:

There are a few super wide shots in the above piece and they were from my A7S with a 10-18mm lens attached. The lens on the Z90 could be a bit wider for my liking but as I like to carry a second camera anyway it’s no hardship to pull it out and get the super wide shots that I love when I need to.

If the lack of a wide-angle lens is a deal breaker for you then check out this adaptor that I am hoping to purchase:

In terms of the picture quality I was blown away. For those of you, like me, who are used to B4 mount 2/3 inch sensors then the image from the Z90 will look quite familiar. I would happily place these shots next to those from a camera like the Sony PMW 350 or 400 and I doubt anyone would know the difference.

Before you ask, no I don’t shoot Log – I need good images straight out of the camera and so after a little bit of trial and error I settled for using PP4 with the Black level set at -8. I think it looks great. Please comment if you have a preferred PP for run and gun, quick turn around shooting.

The other great thing about this camera for me is the active stabilisation – it means I can go handheld and still keep the shot steady. I’ve shot a number of pieces to camera where I was handheld and people thought I was using a gimbal.

So to wrap up I am now a massive fanboy and hope to use this camera for the next few years. I want to play more with the slo-mo and time-lapse features and when I do I’ll post examples. Cheers!

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5 thoughts on “Using the Sony PXW-Z90 to shoot news

  1. Thanks. As someone mid-stride in a buying decision (having traded in my PXW-x70) this affirms my choice for the upgrade.

    I’ve read several reviews about indoor/low-light performance being questionable, though – any experience with the camera on an indoor shoot?

  2. Hi Christian, what wet suit/rain cover is your choice for the Z90, just looked at the Camrade version specific for this model but not totally impressed with the fit especially around the lens hood and my rode NTG1 mike with dead cat fitted! I appreciate any suggestions you can make.
    Best Regards
    Alistair Bates

    1. Hi Hamish – thanks. Yes, I’m still using it and loving it. If I can get the wide angle adaptor then it will be even better…

  3. Awesome thanks! Out of interest, if you could only pick this or a Sony A7S ii (w/ 24-70 f4) and had to regularly product content, which would you choose?

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