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Old February 17th, 2011, 07:41 AM   #1
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HMC150 or NX5U

I am in the market to upgrade my FX1 cameras and have narrowed it down to the Panasonic HMC150 or the Sony NX5U. I want video cameras not DSLRs. I have a DSLR, but for run and gun work and convenience I prefer an actual video camera. The film look is not a major deal breaker for me. I just want great images with the least amount of setups for a shoot. I don't want to keep changing lenses for a shoot, as well as worry about recording limits or overheating which comes with DSLRs. I will still use my DSLRs when needed, as it's still a great tool in my toolbox.

The reason that I am considering the NX5U and not the AX2000, which is virtually the same camera, is that the NX5U is almost the same satrting price as the AX2000, but you have the option for 720/60P as well as the ability to add the SS hard drive to it.

The HMC150 also offers 720/60P as well, but only one SD card slot and no ability to add SS recorder to it, conveniently.

I can get 2 HMC150's with batteries and 8 32GB Transcend SD cards for about $6,500.
1 NX5U with the SS drive and 6 32 GB Transcend cards will be about $4,900. The reason for only 6 cards is the additional SS recorder. I already have Sony batteries.

I know that both cameras can produce great images, even clean images in low light.

My question is, if the NX5U is worth the additional cost for one camera when I can get 2 for slightly more than one NX5U kit. The only major advantages of the NX5U that I can see are the 3 manual rings on the lens barrel, SS recorder, and dual SD card slots. I like the redundancy of the additional SD card slots and SS recorder on the NX5U. but is it worth the additional expense?
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Old February 17th, 2011, 10:38 PM   #2
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There have been a number of discussions in DVinfo forums comparing the HMC150 and NX5. Do a search on "NX5 HMC150" and several will turn up. Here is a recent one:
panasonic hmc150 or sony ax2000 or sony nx5u?

If you are looking for the capability to run two-camera shoots, a couple of questions to help you zero in a bit better: (a) What will you be shooting when using two cams?; (b) will you be shooting alone with a locked down second cam or will you have somebody else running the second cam?

If you are shooting alone and looking to use the second camera as a locked down b cam for, say weddings or stage/musical performances, I suggest you consider getting an NX5u (about $4000 US) and a CX550v which is now down to $870 at B&H. That gives you a camera budget of $4800 versus the $5600 for the two HMC150 cams. The extra is enough to cover an FMU128 if you want one for the NX5.

There are a lot of postings on using the CX with larger Sony cams including the NX5 and EX. I've got two CX550s that I use with an NX5 and an FX1000 for multi-camming weddings, dance recitals, musical performances, and etc. The CX footage matches very well with the NX/FX cams even in dim lighting. The CX cams also produce very good video.

The new CX700 will replace the CX550 shortly. It is basically the same cam but with the addition of zebra stripes, peaking, expanded focus, 1080/60p and 24p recording, and a larger on-board memory (96gb versus 64 gb for the CX550). The trade-off is is a reduced viewscreen (3" versus 3.5" for the CX550). I think the CX700 is supposed to sell for $1299.

The price of the HMC150 can be variable and it might be back up around $2900 or $3000 now.

If you've got help to run a second cam, then a pair of HMC150s can be a good choice.

There are more differences between the NX and HMC than you've listed. The ones that occur to me right away are:

1. The HMNC viewscreen is pretty low res. Kind of like the one on my long-used VX2000. Okay for SD not so great for running manual focus with an HD cam. By comparison, the viewscreens on the both the CX and NX cams will seem stunning. This can be a big advantage for manual focus and exposure control.

2. The NX has an "expanded focus" function. Push the button and the viewscreen doubles the center area as though you had zoomed all the way in or put a large magnifying glass in front of the viewscreen. Another great aid when you need manual focusing.

3. The CX/NX cams use CMOS sensors which can result in flashbanding while the HMC is much less likely to have that issue because it uses CCD sensors. Personally, I'm indifferent to flashbanding and rarely do any slo-mo, but flashbanding can be a critical issue for some folks.

4. The HMC will shoot 1080/60p (using 35 Mbps mpg recording). This might be useful if you shoot a lot of very high motion, very high contrast stuff, the same way that 720p/60 can be useful. When I was looking at cams last year, and considered the HMC (before buying the NX5), I personally had trouble distinguishing the 1080p from the 1080i footage. Opinions differ on this and I'd recommend going to a store and checking this out for yourself.

5. The price of using 1080/60p is that it consumes about twice the storage that 1080i AVCHD does. Since the HMC only has one memory slot and only 32 gb of on-board storage, that means segments in 1080/60p are limited to a bit less than 1 hours. On the other hand, the NX has two card slots with relay capabilities. You can keep shooting for as long as you have cards and power to feed the camera. If you shoot long events or long sessions, this can matter. Combine a CX550 with an NPFV100 battery and you're second cam can run unattended up to six hours.

6. The NX and CX cams give you the option of using "active steady shot" which is enhanced optical image stabilization. It is a great tool for handheld shooting.

7. The NX is bigger and has more manual controls and presets available. Whether these will matter to you depends on what and how you shoot or want to shoot.

8. The NX can record "uncompressed" PCM audio. I find this useful and more robust when shooting music performances. It seems to have headroom and seems less subject to unexpected artifacts in editing.

9. The NX does indeed have dual-media/back-up recording capability. That was something I thought I really wanted when I bought my NX5. (I had been running my FX1000 with both tape and an MRC unit). Turns out that I've never needed the back-up and hardly ever bother with it in my work. But, if you got the FMU and needed to record both HD and SD simultaneously, you could do it. You could also do the duplicate recording and hand a customer the SD cards if you are working the kind of gig where a customer wants footage right away.

10. If memory serves, the HMC150 has a 12x or 13x optical zoom while the NX5 goes to 20x. That can be important if you area, say, shooting weddings from the back of a very large room or cathedral. For other folks, it won't be a big deal.

I could go on, but I think you get the idea that there will not be a simple answer to your question of whether the extra capabilities of the NX are worth the extra money. The answer will always be: it depends.
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Old February 18th, 2011, 02:58 AM   #3
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Michael - as you're coming from a Sony background then you will find that you settle into the NX5's menus and operating system very quickly. You might also have carry-over NP-F batteries, car charger, Lanc remote and so on that will work on the NX5, and these might all be deciding factors for your new camera buying.

The NX5 is a mighty fine camera and its high price alongside the Panasonic HMC15o would be explained in about 2 minutes if you had both cameras on a table in front of youm, and Jay details a lot of the differences. This is not to to be taken as a dismissal of the 150 in any way as it produces startlingly good results, but (as its price points out) it's not in the same class as the Sony, and nor is it meant to be.

When the 150 arrived on the scene it was eye-poppingly cheap and was a no-brainer in the AVCHD market - hundreds of them were sold. OK, the 150 doesn't have rolling shutter downsides that I've been at pains to point out in my articles, but it avoids these effects simply by clinging to lower resolution CCDs rather than by going the full-rez CMOS Sony route.

The 150 uses interpolation from the chips and this means means 1080i footage is not good enough, and 150 users are recommended to film in the lower resolution 720p format where the camera actually performs at its best. With the NX5 you can film in any format you choose as it uses full res chips.

But let me say this. If you bought a 150 you'd be very happy with it I'm sure. It may be getting a bit old now (short zoom, only one card slot, CCDs etc) but good films are made by imaginative people, not by expensive cameras. You've got to ask yourself if you need the 20x zoom, the slo-mo, the high res top screen, the GPS, the dual recording facility, the better low light performance of the NX. Do you?

The price gap widens, and the 150 starts to look very attractive once again. And I'm pretty sure it has a 'last scene delete' button that the NX5 users are crying out for. With 7 assign buttons, why isn't the option there?

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Old February 18th, 2011, 01:33 PM   #4
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A few small additions...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jay West View Post
1. The HMNC viewscreen is pretty low res. Kind of like the one on my long-used VX2000. Okay for SD not so great for running manual focus with an HD cam. By comparison, the viewscreens on the both the CX and NX cams will seem stunning. This can be a big advantage for manual focus and exposure control.
The HMC-150 has an "expanded focus" button which makes accurate manual focusing a snap. I shot an Indy film last summer over the course of a few weeks, and every shot was tac-sharp using the "expanded focus" button. ( Tap button ---> Focus ---> Tap button ---> Shoot )

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jay West View Post
3. The CX/NX cams use CMOS sensors which can result in flashbanding while the HMC is much less likely to have that issue because it uses CCD sensors.
HMC-150 has zero flashbanding. I have shot at press conferences where flashes are going off every few seconds and every flash was a complete frame. No banding at all.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jay West View Post
4. The HMC will shoot 1080/60p (using 35 Mbps mpg recording).
The HMC-150 does not shoot 1080/60P. 1080/60i, 1080/30P, 1080/24P recorded using a 21-24 Mbit VBR version of the AVCHD CODEC. Panasonic has an amazing implementation of the AVCHD CODEC, that easily matches Sony XDCAM at 35 Mbit.

NOTE: AVCHD editing requires the right software and a powerful CPU.

...If possible I would recommend renting the cameras before you buy.

FYI, I've been using a Panasonic HMC-150 for almost 2 years now and absolutely love the camera. The Sony NX5 looks like a great alternative as long as you can afford the price difference ( about $1,000 so it's not that much ) and can live with a CMOS sensor. ( most cameras are using CMOS these days )
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Old February 19th, 2011, 03:36 PM   #5
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On 1080p, I must have confused HMC150 with another Panasonic camera that I looked at. I stand corrected.

I also missed that the HMC150 has "expanded focus." That does indeed help make up for the lower res viewfinder.

On flashbanding, I saw it once in a while with my older CCD cams, which is why I qualified my point. It is good to know that Guy has seen no flashbanding with the HMC150, and that is further confirmation of the quality of that camera.

I want to emphasize that I saw this discussion as being about different considerations that affect the choice of cameras. Nobody should read my comments as denigrating the choice of an HMC150.

Michael specified a budget and noted that he wants to run two cameras together.

If he were just buying only one camera, there's a question of whether the extra functions and capabilities of the NX5 would matter to him. That's the subject discussed in the thread I linked to above.

Since Michael said he is looking to buy two cameras, I think that comes down to how he will be running them together. Will both cameras have operators making manual adjustments during shooting? For the budget, two HMC150s are the better deal.

But, if one camera is going to be a locked-down b cam, then I think Michael can do better by buying an NX and a CX550v. (By the way, Jim Stamos told me last night that B&H has now reduced the CX550 price down to $829). This pairing has the added economic advantage of being able to reuse NP batteries and chargers with his NX5. (I'm still using NPF750s from my old VX2000s). The CX cams use NPFV batteries, but single additional NPFV70 or 100 might be all you need. Also, the CX and and NX/FMU have such large on-board memory capacity that there could be less need for SD cards than Michael was calculating. That affects the budgetary calculations.

I'm not so sure about Tom's comment "coming from a Sony background then you will find that you settle into the NX5's menus and operating system very quickly." The NX5 is bigger and it has a lot more physical "stuff" on it than the FX1 did. The transition is easier for some folks than others.
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