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Old October 26th, 2009, 02:56 PM   #1
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Nightmare to choose a camera! Arghhhh!

The problem with choosing a camera, trading in from my DVX100B, is that there are no clear and precise winner. All have pros and cons, and not one seem to stand out from the crowd more then the others.... well to my eyes at least... that is in the sub $10,000 range (or close to). Of course, an HPX3000 would suite me fine.... if I had the means! But reality dictates the inevitable road to compromise.

I have my sights on the popular models, such as the EX1 (now EX1R), EX3, HPX170 (even the HMC150), the HPX300 (probably the HPX500 too), and the HM700. All fine cameras in there own rights. Some have better ergonomics, some have better resolution, other have better chroma, better codecs, lower cost media, workflow ease... yadi yada, and the list continues on and on. I've compared the specs, made lists, tested each of them (except the hpx300). I just can't get a fix on one! HPX for 4:2:2, truer film look and richness; the HM700 for ergonomics, low cost media and easy fcp workflow, EX for full raster, 1/2" sensors and arguably less noisy.

I'm really getting a headache! And I really need a third eye on this... some point of view that is more objective then mine. My uses are varied.. it's anything from corporate, event and news, to shorts and docs. But rarely long form... in which case I end up renting anyway.
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Old October 26th, 2009, 03:40 PM   #2
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Dilemma!

I just completed a similar quest, the exception being that I already own an EX3 and was searching for something more portable and hand holdable. I too read all the posts vis-a-vis resolution, chip size, full or less than full raster, etc. But in the end, it all boiled down to the camera's intended use and in my case that meant something light and well balanced with good image quality. After eliminating the Ex1 due to its weight, poor balance and the augmented pricing for the Ex1R plus the fact that I already own an Ex3, I was left with only two contenders: Panasonic hpx 150 and 170 and from that duo I chose the 170. I can truthfully say that it is very light, extremely well balanced and produces great images. I am aware of the posts suggesting that its image is "soft" as compared to the Ex series but after doing a side-by-side comparison between the Ex3 and the 170, projected to a 24" HD JVC Broadcast monitor, the difference, although present, is in IMHO negligible and is more than compensated for by its ergonomics. That said, I have no plans to discard my Ex3. It is a great camera for tripod and, with the proper accessories, shoulder mount use but the fact remains that I would not wish to travel around town lugging it by my side when the 4lb hpx 170 will do what I need.
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Old October 26th, 2009, 04:29 PM   #3
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We compared several HD video cameras at a recent association meeting, and the HMC-170 impressed most there with its surprisingly light weight and good set of features for the price. The other main contender in this price range for our group was the Sony Z5U, but coming from a DVX100B I would think the current Panasonic line would be your first choice.
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Old October 26th, 2009, 11:05 PM   #4
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Dude I hear you on the difficulty of choosing a good HD camera.... I got ruined by the process a couple years ago! I say ruined because after it's all said and done and you've purchased your new camera... You keep coming back to the forums looking for the next amazing camera! Anyways, when I was looking for a camera a couple of years ago the options weren't as rich as they are today... I think I was between the Canon XLH1, JVC Hd200, HVX200, EX1 - I think just came out, and the HPX 500. Long story short I went with the HPX500... I really like the HPX500, I think it produces stunning images... But now that Ive had it for a couple of years I think knowing what I know now my choice would be different... I think if I had to do it all again I would put all the money that I spent on Lens, batteries, tripod, P2, etc.. Into an Hpx170 system with a steadicam vest, and a small crane and dolly system from kessler crane... I think the small size of the 170 would have served me better now that I look at it... But that is my personal opinion and experience... Hope this helps in some way!
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Old October 27th, 2009, 11:36 AM   #5
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What I'm also debating is the "corporate factor". I've also observed that "bigger" is better for corporate shoots... If the client sees a big camera, he's willing to dish out more and treat you more seriously. It's crazy, I know, but most of us doing corporate gigs have experienced this in one form or another. I keeped my DVX for smaller gigs, but rented for larger ones, even though my DVX could do the trick.

Ahhh... the shallowness of it all! hehe
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Old October 27th, 2009, 12:58 PM   #6
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I hear you... I had some pretty high paying gigs using the HPX 500, and the clients didn't question me based on the "big = professional" size of the camera... I think if I had something smaller that they would have raised an eyebrow at the prices I was charging... So it does help in that aspect, however; Ive had fewer high paying gigs... and I wonder if I used a smaller cam = lower rates if I would have had more lower paying gigs that might balance things out!? Hmmm... I don't know? If I were looking for a full size camera right now my choice would probably be the HPX300 because of the good price, high quality codec, lens included, changing market, and because I personally love the Panny look... But again that's just me, so I wish you the best of luck on your decision!
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Old October 27th, 2009, 05:28 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Frederic Segard View Post
I'm really getting a headache! And I really need a third eye on this... some point of view that is more objective then mine. My uses are varied.. it's anything from corporate, event and news, to shorts and docs. But rarely long form... in which case I end up renting anyway.
Then just keep the DVX100b and rent when you need to.
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Old October 27th, 2009, 06:09 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by Frederic Segard View Post
I have my sights on the popular models, such as the EX1 (now EX1R), EX3, HPX170 (even the HMC150), the HPX300 (probably the HPX500 too), and the HM700. All fine cameras in there own rights. Some have better ergonomics, some have better resolution, other have better chroma, better codecs, ........

My uses are varied.. it's anything from corporate, event and news, to shorts and docs. But rarely long form... in which case I end up renting anyway.
In the UK (don't know if it's the same elsewhere) the message seems to be going out that for broadcast acceptance for HD cameras are increasingly likely to have to meet at least the following criteria:

Full 1920x1080 chips and recording.
1/2" chips or above
Codec to be at least 100Mbs if I-frame, at least 50Mbs if long GOP, not sub-sampled, and 4:2:2

So, none of the cameras listed above fully meet the criteria. BUT, in this price range, the EX cameras will do if coupled with an external recorder such as a nanoFlash, so this may be a very strong plus in their favour. And for work where no such criteria are specified, the native media options give a degree of flexibility that is lacking from such as P2 cameras.

My second choice would be the HM700 if ergonomics is of prime importance - far better than the EX cameras or the Panasonic cameras in this price range.

I wouldn't go for the HPX170 or 200 - they meet none of the desirable criteria, and there's nothing that can be added on to make them do so.

Even if your clients aren't insisting on keeping to that spec, it may be a good selling point to let them know your setup does fully meet it, and an EX3 plus nanoFlash may look big enough to look "professional", without being anywhere near the size and weight of a true shouldermount camera. The nanoFlash also helps to keep the cost of memory reasonable.
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Old October 27th, 2009, 08:25 PM   #9
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"I wouldn't go for the HPX170 or 200 - they meet none of the desirable criteria, and there's nothing that can be added on to make them do so.
Full 1920x1080 chips and recording.
1/2" chips or above
Codec to be at least 100Mbs if I-frame, at least 50Mbs if long GOP, not sub-sampled, and 4:2:2."

Based upon your "desirable criteria," the JVC HM700's 1/3 chips do not meet the test.
Furthermore, the HPX 170 is 4.2.2 and its codec is capable of 100Mbs, albeit, with 1/3 chips. But I suspect that you already knew that. Not everyone has broadcast aspirations or needs.
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Old October 28th, 2009, 06:02 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by Ron Wilk
Based upon your "desirable criteria," the JVC HM700's 1/3 chips do not meet the test.
No, it doesn't - and I did say "none of the cameras listed above fully meet the criteria". I also said the JVC was second choice, especially so if ergonomics are paramount.

And they're not "my" desirable criteria - rather defined by the EBU, and criteria which many European broadcasters are looking towards.
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Furthermore, the HPX 170 is 4.2.2 and its codec is capable of 100Mbs, albeit, with 1/3 chips. But I suspect that you already knew that.
It's capable of 100Mbs - but only with horizontal subsampling, and the criteria state "full 1920x1080 recording" (as well as imaging chips). Hence AVC-Intra 100 fully meets the codec spec - DVCProHD doesn't. (Neither does HDCAM for that matter.)

In this context 4:2:2 implies equal chrominance/luminance resolution vertically. As far as the recording system goes, yes, it's capable of that. But pixel shifting only improves LUMINANCE resolution beyond what the chips are natively capable of. The HVX170 chipset limits the vertical chrominance resolution to 540 lines, so 4:2:2 recording doesn't gain you anything. The EX and the 170 are both limited to 540 res vertically for chrominance - the former by codec, the latter by chipset. (But at least you can use the EX with an external recorder.)
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Not everyone has broadcast aspirations or needs.
No - but if for a comparable price you can buy a system that meets that high spec, or a system which doesn't meet any of the criteria, doesn't it make sense to buy the former?

Especially when the latter (the EX) gives better media flexibility, and other benefits like true manual lens operation, better viewfinder etc?

The HVX200 may have been revolutionary when launched, but a lot of people were hoping for a new model at IBC. One of comparable size/price, but with full raster chips and AVC-Intra 100, and ideally 1/2" as well. That would trump Sony - meet all the criteria without a nanoFlash - and be a far better B camera to higher end P2 cameras.
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Old October 28th, 2009, 07:00 PM   #11
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This week was a busy week for me, visiting different vendors, retrying the EX3 and the HM700, as well as seeing and trying out the HPX300 for my first time. Here are my very global and subjective impressions:

Firstly, the EX3! Well, what can I say about ergonomics... For my taste, I really don't like it. Camera balance, or lack thereof, as well as button placement and sturdiness, all feel wrong to me. I love the focus aids on it (but not the focus ring on the stock lens). On the other hand, the video produced by the 1/2" CMOS sensors are great, with minimal noise... but then, the footage is decimated by XDCAM EX's 4:2:0 long GOP codec. Not that I have a strong beef with XDCAM EX, itís great, but at the price of the EX3, knowing what Panasonic can offer 4:2:2 wise, I sort of wince at the thought a bit. But thatís just me and my pickiness!

Secondly, the HM700. With 2 visits and a few hours with it, I fell in love. Around $2K less then the EX3, with cheaper cards, wonderful ergonomics, and native QT filesÖ it seemed the perfect match for me. What can be said about ergonomics and usability? JVC really made something great here! Iím willing to trade someÖ and I do mean ďsomeĒ image quality for hours of usability. YesÖ the EX3 really is better then the HM700 for the most part, but not necessarily by much. I mostly shoot 720p, so side by side EX3 720p footage is not night and day. The HM700 is out of the box a tad warmer and more pleasing compared to the EX3. But then, that can be tweaked.

Thirdly, the HPX300. Hold oh here! I thought I loved the HM700?!?! But I must say I was amazed at Panyís latest prodigy. I also did a side by side with an HPX170 for peace of mind. Ergonomics? Number ONE! On the plus side, up to 4 channels of audio when you have a wireless in the unislot. That is something that I often wished I had. But best of all, itís 4:2:2 all the way, and AVC-Intra to seal the deal. I often recorded in AVC-Intra with the HPG20 for demanding clients, and I really love the quality of it. The HPX300 is indeed more sensitive, less noisy and crisper then the HPX170. Itís relatively the same price as the EX3.

For now, the HPX300 is in my sights! But before taking the plunge, I still have some homework to do. It was afterall only a brief evaluation. But from what Iíve seen, and researched so far, Panyís in my future before the yearís end.

Iím still open to opinions and alternatives, so feel free to jump in anytime!
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Old October 28th, 2009, 07:29 PM   #12
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"No - but if for a comparable price you can buy a system that meets that high spec, or a system which doesn't meet any of the criteria, doesn't it make sense to buy the former?"

Yes, assuming that the former meets all of the intended user's requirements and among those requirements may be the element of portability. Regardless of the codec difference, chip size, MBs, etc., a videographer who does studio work will not have the same ergonomic requirements as an Indie or one who travels and requires a light weight camera. So, if the aim is to compare shoulder mount cameras then your assessment rings true but comparing an 11lb shoulder mounted HPX 300 or the 8lb EX3 to a 4lb hand held HPX 170 makes little sense from a form factor, price point and weight perspective. So, yes, pixel density may be paramount from a purist's point of view but there are often other considerations.
Finally, given the nature of technological obsolescence by design, I suspect that in the not too distant future this bit of discourse will become moot and whichever camera you Jones over this day will quickly evolve into last week's fish-n-chips. A wise self-defense instructor once replied, when asked about which handgun his student should purchase: "the one you will actually feel comfortable carrying." IMO, this applies to cameras as well, be they still or video.
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Old October 28th, 2009, 07:55 PM   #13
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......comparing an 11lb shoulder mounted HPX 300 or the 8lb EX3 to a 4lb hand held HPX 170 makes little sense from a form factor, price point and weight perspective. So, yes, pixel density may be paramount from a purist's point of view but there are often other considerations.
Indeed, but from the form factor, price and weight perspective I'd put the HPX170 in the same camp as an EX1 rather than an EX3. Not identical by any means, but roughly in the same camp. The HPX may be somewhat lighter, but for me that was outweighed by the low light performance, manual control of the EX1 lens, dual zebras etc - that's without any pixel talk. And neither very good ergonomically.

But it sounds as if Frederic wants something bigger than either the HPX170 or the EX1......
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Old October 28th, 2009, 09:17 PM   #14
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Agreed, the 170 and Ex3 do not have similar form factors, I own them both. As for the Ex1, unlike the 170, I would be loathe to carry it by hand for a full day but I do not doubt that there will others who might take issue with that statement.

The 170 does have dual zebras and unlike the EX1 and or Ex3, they both can be set to whatever the user desires, but Zebras pale in the presence of the 170's Waveform monitor which in terms of reliability, with respect to repeatably correct exposures, is a quantum leap ahead. As for the weight difference, the 170 is perceivably more than "somewhat" lighter than the Ex1 and the more refined balance makes it feel even more so. Although its manual focusing feature is servo assisted, it is quite accurate and that, in conjunction with its numerous focus assist features, makes accurate focusing a breeze. Coming from years of fine art still photography, I certainly appreciate a fully manual lens and although the Ex3 does offer that feature, I do not find its focusing ability any better than that of the 170 but bear in mind that I am referring to the lens mechanics, not the EVF which on the Ex3 is superb. Now, in terms of ergonomics, I suspect that we both have a very different view of the definition. That said, I find the 170 to be exceptionally well balanced without any tendency to lean beyond the vertical, something that cannot be said for the Ex1. In any event, on this side of the pond, content is king, the camera a mere tool and I doubt that any respectable news organization would turn down a compelling piece of footage based upon the pixel count from whence it came.

In summary, when I plan for a day of opportunistic shooting, which may mean traveling around with camera in hand, which one do you think sees the day of light...? Hint, it doesn't begin with an E and end with the number 3.
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Old October 29th, 2009, 05:49 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by Ron Wilk
The 170 does have dual zebras and unlike the EX1 and or Ex3, they both can be set to whatever the user desires.....
But (and correct me if I'm wrong) they can't both be displayed at the same time with the 170, can they? It's a case of set values for each, then select one or the other. Whereas the EX cameras do allow both to be displayed together, with distinct patterns to differentiate. Just as I'm used to in much more expensive cameras. My own preference is for one to display peak white, the other between 85-90%.
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.....but Zebras pale in the presence of the 170's Waveform monitor which in terms of reliability, with respect to repeatably correct exposures, is a quantum leap ahead.
Here I must disagree. When I've used in camera waveform monitors I find them OK for setting up exposure on a static shot in advance, but next to useless when the scene and/or lighting are rapidly changing - too confusing. They may seem good against a single value zebra system, but less so against true dual zebras.

If you have your EX set to single zebra, give the dual setting a go. It may take a bit of getting used to, but is worth it. Used correctly, it's just as good as a superimposed waveform monitor and much easier for run'n gun.

As far as content is king - well, yes, there's no disputing that within reason. But I find it an irrelevant argument here - it seems to presuppose there has to be a choice between good content OR higher technical quality. Which isn't true. Get the best content you can, but that shouldn't mean technical quality has to suffer.
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