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Old October 18th, 2010, 09:04 AM   #1
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HD camera suggestion needed urgently!

Our film company is currently looking for a replacement HD camera that is computer friendly (Mac wise) and a step up from our current Canon XL-H1a camera. Three cameras are under consideration, new and used; these being the Sony PDW F350 XDCAM; Panasonic AG HPX500 P2 and the Panasonic AG-HPX371.

There is currently a nice looking used Sony PDW F350 that we've seen as a complete kit with Canon lens with about 650 hours of operation; spindle 490 and laser 32 which is under £9,000. This would be my choice, but what do others think? Are these hours high for this camera? The other thing is, how long will the XDCAM format be around roughly (and supported by Sony)? Technology moves on so rapidly. If we could get 5 years reliable use out of it that would be good. It has no guarantee included in the price.

The Panasonic AG-HPX371 looks very nice and is a good price, but I'm unsure about the 1/3" sensor as opposed to the more preferable 1/2" sensor of the Sony, and the Panasonic below, with possible noise issues at low light.

And the Panasonic AG-HPX500 looks great but a wee bit out of our budget range (but possible at a squeeze) and is very contemporary technology wise.

Any advice about all the above from users of these cameras would be really appreciated!

Cheers
Simon
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Old October 18th, 2010, 01:11 PM   #2
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Of the three, I'd say the PMW350 is by the far the best.

The HPX500 is OK - but now looking a bit long in the tooth. It has the advantages of 2/3" chips, and all the lens options that brings with it, and may be worth thinking about if CCD v CMOS matters a lot to you. But the chips are only 0.5megapixel (versus 2 megapixel of the other two) - 960x540, and the codec is DVCProHD, not AVC-Intra.

You may be interested to read this thread about problems with the HPX371 - HPX371 Noise Issue? . Fundamentally, it seems that getting 2 megapixel sensors onto a 1/3" chip is a challenge, whilst maintaining good sensitivity. The 301 was criticised for high noise levels, the 371 was introduced as a "solution". Unfortunately, whilst it improved the noise figures, it appears to have done it by very aggressive electronic noise reduction - which has brought other problems, as that thread makes clear.

By the time you take into account that the choice of lenses is far more limited than for any 2/3" camera, and that for a given recording time the memory costs are far higher, the PMW350 looks better and better. If you are really stretched for money, you may also like to look at the PMW320. Not 2/3" chips, but 1/2" are still better than 1/3", and by the time you take memory costs into account there is very little price difference between it and an HPX371.

EDIT - I've just realised you earlier said "PDW F350", which I read as "PMW350" - well, who chooses these names...... ! :-) In that case, the PMW350 is likely to be out of your price range, but I would strongly recommend you add the PMW320 to the list. It's solid state (like the PMW350 and the EX1,3) so expect it to be smaller, lighter and less power hungry than the F350. To give you a guide on prices in the UK, the HPX371 is £7,250 with a kit lens (ex VAT), the PMW320 is £8,500 (also ex VAT). By the time you've bought P2 cards for the HPX371, the price difference will be quite small.
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Old October 18th, 2010, 01:32 PM   #3
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Hello David,

Many thanks for your extremely helpful and kind reply! The info you give has helped me enormously. Would you say that the XDCAM format will be supported by Sony for some time to come? If we can get the PDW F350 serviced for several years hence, it does indeed seem very attractive as a camera package.

All the best
Simon
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Old October 18th, 2010, 01:47 PM   #4
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XDCAM takes two forms - recorded to disc and recorded to solid state. I don't think there is much doubt that the future will lie increasingly with solid state, and that's why I'd look far more towards the PMW320 than the PDW F350. In terms of edit support, I fully expect XDCAM to be mainstream for quite a while, it's Sonys current main format in this price range at the moment, just as AVC-Intra is Panasonics.

Disc (like tape) does form it's own archive, whilst being clip-based like solid state, and this may be a key advantage for some users. But nowadays solid state prices are low enough to be able to afford enough memory to go a day at least without downloading, so on-location downloading is hopefully a thing of the past.

Did you notice the edit I added to the earlier post, and the clarification between the PMW350 and the PDW F350 - two very different cameras with very similar names?
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Old October 18th, 2010, 01:59 PM   #5
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Simon –

I understand you are quite taken with the PDW F350 but as a former owner I would think very carefully about putting down £9000 for one.

Here is a link to a review on that camera, and make no mistake it was a great bit of kit for its time and we certainly used ours for all types of jobs including work in France.

In regard to how long XDCAM will be around… well that’s anyone’s guess, however Sony has certainly put a lot into the format so it should be about for a while yet.

I think if you were to ask original F350 owners as to why they purchased that model, for many it would be all about the workflow, and for most they were actually after the PDW-700. Certainly that was the way it was with us.

http://www.studioscotland.com/SonyF350_review.htm

Hope the review is of interest to you… there is all so a PDW-700 review on the site which you may find helpful in regard to XDCAM HD

All the best with your choice

Regards: Stu
Welcome to Studio Scotland

Last edited by Stewart Menelaws; October 18th, 2010 at 02:01 PM. Reason: Forgot to add link
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Old October 18th, 2010, 02:01 PM   #6
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Hello David,

Yes I did notice the subtle abbreviation difference when you first posted! Thanks for the edit and the further info about the longevity (if such a thing is possible to ascertain) of the XDCAM format. Very helpful again.

All the best
Simon
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Old October 18th, 2010, 02:22 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Stewart Menelaws View Post
Simon –

I understand you are quite taken with the PDW F350 but as a former owner I would think very carefully about putting down £9000 for one.

Here is a link to a review on that camera, and make no mistake it was a great bit of kit for its time and we certainly used ours for all types of jobs including work in France.

In regard to how long XDCAM will be around… well that’s anyone’s guess, however Sony has certainly put a lot into the format so it should be about for a while yet.

I think if you were to ask original F350 owners as to why they purchased that model, for many it would be all about the workflow, and for most they were actually after the PDW-700. Certainly that was the way it was with us.

Studio Scotland Equipment Reviews: Sony F350 XDCAM HD Camera Review

Hope the review is of interest to you… there is all so a PDW-700 review on the site which you may find helpful in regard to XDCAM HD

All the best with your choice

Regards: Stu
Welcome to Studio Scotland
Hello Stu,

Like David before, I can't thank you enough for your very helpful post! I'm glad I've been able to see the link that you provided above before making a decision. In fact having learnt of the newer Sony PMW series of XDCAM (and viewed some info about them) I'm more inclined to head in that direction and perhaps go for the PMW 320K with stock Fujinon lens (for starters). The price is good and the camera looks excellent. I hope that this might be a good choice for short drama films on a tight budget?

All the best
Simon
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