The machine pictured here is a Sony XDCAM EX, a 1080p tapeless HD camcorder.  It is a so-called “prosumer” model that lists for $7800.  I bought a pair of these cameras (new in the box) at the beginning of July to use for shooting this summer’s Startup Tour.  Many video professionals think these are the best HD camcorders you can buy for under $20,000.  The video is stunning — clearly network-quality or, indeed, feature film-quality.

If only they both worked.

The cameras came from  Abel Cinetech in New York City and we paid about $14,000 for the pair. The cameras worked fine for a few weeks until one froze-up in Boulder, CO.  We couldn’t get the camera to boot.  We sent it in for repair and Sony checked it into their system on 8/4. I spoke to one of their reps a few days later and was told they were waiting for parts but the camera would probably be repaired by the end of the next week.

I called that Friday and was told the parts were in and the camera was being repaired — and that I should call again in a few days. So I called back Tuesday, then Wednesday when we were in Portland and was told essentially the same thing again — they were working on it and it would be a few more days.

I called again this past Monday and was told that they needed more parts from Israel which they were expecting sometime around September 16th. The guy I spoke to was very direct and said that considering the last time they ordered parts they came in a few days late, as well as factoring in repair time — I was looking at it being ready a few days after the 16th.

At this point I started asking for a replacement, explaining that this was a new camera and that we had already spent so much on rentals (this camera rents for $100 per day).  My priority was getting it back ASAP, which  could be achieved by having it replaced. The guy suggested I speak to a manager and it might be possible to get a replacement.

I spoke to a manager named Sylvia on Tuesday of last week who said that they don’t have loaner cameras in the service department, but that it might be able to arrange something with another department. Silvia said she’d talk to the engineers and get back with me later that day. I haven’t heard from her since… In fact, I asked for her direct number at the end of the call and she declined, saying that she was going to send me an email with all of her contact info…. That never arrived either.

I suspect Sylvia isn’t a manager at all, but rather some support rep they put on the phone to appease me.

So I contacted my salesman at Abel as well as the sales manager. They both have been working with Sony, but all I have so far from them is a promise made to them by Sony that the shipping of the part to the service facility would be ‘expedited.’ They are still working on the situation, however and I’m told they will get back to me.

Although this is a warranty repair and thus free, I asked if I could perhaps, for a fee, have the repair expedited. All they could offer was that warranty repairs were given priority anyway, and that if I included a note with the camera requesting expedited repair perhaps they would do so if they had time. I included such a letter detailing how important the camera was to the production and requesting expedited repair.

At no point did Sony contact me about the status of the repair, even when it was delayed. Also, at no point did anyone at Sony offer an apology, even when I expressed to several people just how displeased I was.

These are great cameras when they work, but when they don’t work they are simply $7,800 bricks.  Sony clearly doesn’t care about its prosumer customers.  Interestingly you can get customer support on the weekend for Sony’s cheapest consumer camcorder but not for this baby.

Tell a friend.  Tell them that Sony makes fine prosumer camcorders but doesn’t support them worth a damn.  Tell them that Sylvia is a liar.  Tell them to expect to pay $3000 to rent a $7000 replacement camera if they need a repair.

And tell them to do what I probably should have done in the first place, which was stick with Panasonic.