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Old November 1st, 2010, 08:23 AM   #1
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Panasonic AG-HMC40 vs. Sony HXR-MC50U

Reporter question here: for TV, would the Sony be a better option than the Panasonic?

I've read that big review of the Sony MC50 where it suggested the 50U for journalists, and I'm leaning that way.

My thoughts are: The Sony is cheaper; Sony has a higher bit rate on AVCHD (am I right there); and the shotgun appears to record very clean audio (there's a video online on this). Of course, the Sony has no audio metering and does not have manual control of audio (it has a high and medium setting from what I've read). The problem is that the camera is not available anywhere in Atlanta to handle and play with. It is not a Sony Style store camera.

Right now, I shoot everything on my Canon DSLR in 1080/24p, but in our little home studio, we sometimes use an old HDV Sony and shoot in 60i. I recently did a commercial job with movement in a kitchen and it was very tricky handling the DSLR. I'm thinking that a little camera like the Sony or the Panasonic would be easier to use in those situations.

Two other questions concern the width of the lenses and the low light options. I think that the Sony is wider and is this backlit chip on the Sony better than the Panasonic's three smaller chips in low light?

Thanks!
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Old November 1st, 2010, 08:49 AM   #2
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I cannot compare the two, Jonathan. I can confuse matters however - you should maybe consider the forthcoming Canon XF100 - a camcorder comparable in size to the HMC40 or JVC HM100. I believe it has a much wider lens (unlike the HMC40 and JVC HM100). A wide stock lens is probably quite important to you in your role.

The Canon also has (I think) a 50Mb/s record rate, which is probably more acceptable for TV use than AVCHD in the Panasonic.

I can comment that the HMC40 is poor in low light - indoors, natural room lighting is a struggle. You can add gain up to 12db without any problems, and I've used 24db at times when I just had to get a shot.

The HMC does have more manual options, XLR audio options etc. It does look like something from the 1980s though! The forthcoming Canon XF100 is very interesting, and is something I will be looking closely at upgrading to when the time comes.
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Old November 2nd, 2010, 08:50 PM   #3
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Good suggestions. I was looking for someone to be completely honest about the low light problems with the Panasonic. I'm going to hold off till next year I think. The wild card is possibly picking up a used HVX200. If those darned P2 cards would fall in price, the decision would be a no brainer.

It is so hard to go back to a video camera after spending 10 months on the DSLR, but I'm getting worn out rigging and manual tweaking. I want something simple to use in a pinch.

I'd like someone to do a side by side comparison between the Sony and the Panasonic as to low light. If you can get around the lack of progressive, the price point and form factor favors the Sony.
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Old November 3rd, 2010, 12:06 AM   #4
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The bit rate is exactly the same. It's just that you do get a heck of a lot more videos modes such as native 1080 24p and 720 60p. Theirs also far more manual controls on the HMC40 and having XLR inputs is a wonderful thing. For Sony's favor, it has a wider lens, slightly better stabilizer and I believe slightly better low light capabilities.

I'm actually hoping Panasonic releases a successor soon. Just put in the wider and faster lens, better stibilizer and the 1080 60p that you'll find in the TM700 and the newer TM750 and SDT750 and it'll be a remarkable camcorder.

That Canon looks like it'll have better low light capabilities than both the TM700 and the Sony MC50 although I don't think it'll look nearly as good as the TM700's 1080 60p mode but at $3,000, it's extremely expensive. I still wouldn't mind owning it but it really should be the same price as the HMC40 with XLR mic attachment. Even the HMC40 should in theory perform better than the Canon in good lighting although the 422 recording of the Canon might make up for it. Again, I wouldn't mind owning it but the price really needs to go down. Funny but I even say the same thing about the HM100. That's also too expensive in my opinion but nonetheless I wouldn't mind owning one either.

Anyway, I think you'd be better off with the HPX170 than HVX200/A since it's much lighter but if your worried about the P2 prices than why not try to find an HMC150?
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Old November 3rd, 2010, 07:08 PM   #5
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Thanks for the info on the TM700. It is amazing to me that the consumer cam might perform better than the HMC40. The HMC40 is more than twice as expensive.

Part of this decision will come down to cost. The other part is low light. If you're going to shoot run and gun interviews, you want one bag, a mic, and a tripod. Possibly a shoe extender with a light.

I rarely shoot that way, but I want to. My work with the DSLR is very time consuming and the rigging is a pain for interviews.

I'm going to wait a couple months and revisit this, but the Sony looks to be very good for reporting. I'm amazed that a single chip camera can be considered better in low light that a 3 chip one. Of course, the DSLR's are one big chip, but that is different.

One other thing is that the Sony has 64 gigs of internal storage. That is a potentially another attractive point. The consumer cams have even more internal storage. The baffling thing is why Sony is so committed to interlaced. I shoot in 1080/24 all the time. And it is very safe in FCP when transcoded into AIC or Pro Res.

And I shot a feature in 2006-8 (a doc) with a DVX100 and shot part in interlaced and part in progressive (I was learning). The difference was striking. The list could continue with a discussion of gamma curve settings as well.

But I've seen clips from both the Sony and the Panasonic on Vimeo and both cams produce pretty video. That may leave price as the deciding factor. I'll bet that the price falls on the Sony by the end of this year or beginning of next and you can pick one of the 50s up for $1299. But the Panasonic should fall another $2 to 300 hundred. The camera should retail without the XLR for under $1500 (cheapest appears to be $1750). You're right about the pricing.
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Old November 4th, 2010, 12:45 PM   #6
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From what I've gathered, a TM300 slightly outperforms a CX550 in low light shooting. Essentially, I believe an HMC40 uses basically the same imaging block as a TM300, while an MC50 uses basically the same imaging block as a CX550. So, I'm assuming the HMC40 probably edges out the MC50 in less than ideal lighting.

From using the HMC40, I can certainly say that the clean gain is a big plus in less than ideal lighting. I've never seen another camera that can produce nearly as clean an image with gain cranked up to 12dB. I also really like the way Panasonic designed the HMC40 controls - very well thought out, considering the small size of the camera. My biggest complaint is the relatively low res LCD and viewfinder.

Personally, I wouldn't really ever seriously consider an MC50 myself, simply because it's a 1080i60 only camcorder (and I have absolutely no interest whatsoever in shooting interlaced video).
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Old November 5th, 2010, 07:38 PM   #7
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I promised that I'd never buy a camera that would not shoot progressive ever again, but then I started thinking about workflow and run and gun. And price.

I have two T2i's and a bunch of lenses now. They have served me well, but on a recent commercial shoot, I was forced to shoot a lot of handheld in a kitchen. Focus was a nightmare and the image stabilization was a problem too.

Tonight, I watched some of the kitchen footage and will probably reshoot some stuff with my Sony HC9 (a camera I saved as a transfer for my old tapes when I went to DSLR).

The novelty of the DSLR is wearing off. And I'm wearing out on shoots with them.

If I could pick up a tapeless video camera for $1500, I'd probably forgive the interlacing.
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Old November 6th, 2010, 11:29 AM   #8
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You can certainly get an MC50 for $1500. A new HMC40 is about $1800 nowadays (and includes Edius Neo, which handles AVCHD footage quite nicely - even on a low-end quad core CPU). With a little effort, I'm sure you could find a good used HMC40 for around $1500 or so (maybe less). You might want to take a look at Canon's HF-S camcorders also. They don't have robust pro level manual controls, but you can at least lock down exposure, and recorded image quality is quite comparable to an HMC40. I really like Canon's instant auto-focus for run-and-gun - it can actually work surprisingly well. The HF-S200/20/21 camcorders can also record native 24p. By the way, the HMC40 and the Canon HF-S camcorders can record at the maximum AVCHD bitrate (21Mbps average - 24Mbps peak).
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Old November 6th, 2010, 12:58 PM   #9
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Don't forget that the MC50 is a gussied up CX550 - which you might be able to find more easily (and cheaper), although you'd probably need to add the big battery, mic, and maybe a hood... but you might be able to save a few if you "build your own" kit.

And from what I've seen, the TM700, which is quite inexpensive, would be worth it just to have around...

While you won't get the level of controls with a "consumer" camera, the level of image they can bring in is nothing to shake a stick at.
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Old March 25th, 2011, 02:05 PM   #10
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Re: Panasonic AG-HMC40 vs. Sony HXR-MC50U

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jonathan W. Hickman View Post
I promised that I'd never buy a camera that would not shoot progressive ever again, but then I started thinking about workflow and run and gun. And price.
I'm not sure that's an argument against non-DSLRs. Rather, just traditional camcorders that for some odd reason, haven't entered the 21rst century. There were many advantages dumping tape for computer media (which, today, means flash for any serious use), but one of the more useful one was variable write speeds -- we didn't have to make everything look like 1080/60i at 25Mb/s.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jonathan W. Hickman View Post
I have two T2i's and a bunch of lenses now. They have served me well, but on a recent commercial shoot, I was forced to shoot a lot of handheld in a kitchen. Focus was a nightmare and the image stabilization was a problem too.
I have a tendency to add tools to my toolbox, and I rarely ever get rid of one. Even when they get old and rusty, I have to be pretty convinced before dumping them entirely. DSLRs, and Canon in particular, are great for video, but not everything for video. They offer full and APS sensors, some of the world's best lenses if you have the cash, fantastic features, higher bitrates than other camcorders, etc. Other DSLR companies offer things you can't get on Canon yet: continuous autofocus (which is useful, but only if it's real camcorder autofocus... still camera algorithms are not worth making continuous), longer recording times, etc. On the other hand, some of these only support lower bitates, smaller sensors, etc.

So I added Canon, but I keep my Panasonic camcorders as well. Depending on the project, the Canon can be the A camera (music video) or a nice additional unit (weddings).

Particularly for stable video. The lens OIS is good, but so is the optical OIS on my Pannys. And I have yet to find a good balance for my 60D on my Glidecam 2000, while the HMC40 is just dandy on that (just heavy enough to work, light enough that I can use it for a reasonable time before my arms melt). And newer camcorders offer hybrid OIS, which deals with roll stabilization.. not yet in any DSLR.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jonathan W. Hickman View Post
If I could pick up a tapeless video camera for $1500, I'd probably forgive the interlacing.
Street price for the HMC40 these days is $1650 or so..
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