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Panasonic AVCCAM Camcorders
AVCHD for pro applications: AG-AC160, AC130 and other AVCCAM gear.


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Old October 16th, 2012, 10:01 AM   #1
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Should I upgrade to AVCHD?

Hello all, I'm new here and this is my first post.
I've taken about four years off of video to develop my photography skills (lighting, f stops etc.) Coming back to video was a real wake-up because I had just purchased 2 Sony PD 170's making three DVCams in my collection, not knowing how long my "break" would be.

Here's the question:
Do I keep and use the DVCam cameras (2 PD-170's and 1 PD-150) or trade them in for 3 Panasonic AG AC7's?
The non XLR connections are not an issue for me because I have extensive audio background and interfaces for just about anything.
My use for video would be "maybe" an occasional wedding, but more conferences and events, music venues, recitals. Not Hollywood or prime time TV.
Any advice would sure be welcome. I want to make a decision within several weeks. Thanks
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Old October 16th, 2012, 10:27 AM   #2
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Re: Should I upgrade to AVCHD?

What system do you use for editing? You may find that your present system will not handle AVCHD, which will have a bearing on whether to go that route.

Peter
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Old October 16th, 2012, 10:45 AM   #3
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Re: Should I upgrade to AVCHD?

Sony Vegas. I'll also be upgrading to a Quad Core laptop with additional external harddrive. Backups will be on Blue Ray.
Along with the possible trade in will be an analog switcher, monitors, and decks. Considering the Plural Eyes and the virtual switcher plugins.
It's all about how much I can get for it all. The cameras have to be an even swap.
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Old October 16th, 2012, 11:31 AM   #4
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Re: Should I upgrade to AVCHD?

I think once you see HD next to your SD, you won't want to go back. Not saying the 150's aren't great cameras, but your picture is going to be sharper in 16:9 mode with a HD cam no matter what, even if you deliver in SD at the moment. Also, the card-based workflow is refreshing, especially for event work when you need to import DV real time.

The AC7's look nice, but it's only a single 1/4" chip - if you're not worried about XLR inputs or the "professional" appearance as much, perhaps you could (and should) look into the higher end Sony and Canon Handycams. Most of them have the larger 1/2.9" CMOS sensors (Exmor-R) and fancy autofocus and stabilization so you can let them take care of themselves during shows. There are quite a few members here on the forum that use these small cams and the performance rivals many more expensive pro models, so try a search for some more info.

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Old October 16th, 2012, 12:55 PM   #5
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Re: Should I upgrade to AVCHD?

"...perhaps you could (and should) look into the higher end Sony and Canon Handycams. Most of them have the larger 1/2.9" CMOS sensors (Exmor-R) and fancy autofocus and stabilization..."

Any suggestions in the $1200 range for these?

I do like real focus rings and and accessible iris control, but I know price is a factor.
Outside of DVCam vs HD, I really like the control the 170's but they were three times the money at the time.

I don't know what clients at this level are looking for. When I used to walk into a room with a rack it was impressive. It seems that standards are everywhere nowadays.

Are Handycams acceptable in the business?
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Old October 16th, 2012, 03:02 PM   #6
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Re: Should I upgrade to AVCHD?

Sony CX710 and CX760 are popular models, as is the Canon G10. I'm sure there are last year's Sony models you could find used for cheaper even. Put a fancy lens hood or matte box on them and you'll look all professional and such. As far as acceptability goes, standards can vary depending on client and job It really comes down to usability, as the AC7 has a better form factor and longer zoom, but if you just need nice, clean, good-looking coverage the Handycams are definite option, especially at your budget level.

You could also do one larger camera, like a Sony AX2000 or NX5 (used $2-3K respectively), and supplement it with one or two smaller cams in the $600 range. Then you'd have your master cam for non-event jobs and the Handycams for event work and b-cam use. This is probably the route I'd go. Sony CX580V is the accompanying cam for this setup ($650 new), but I'm assuming you want to stay all in the family with Sony. Lots of options!
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Old October 16th, 2012, 05:01 PM   #7
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Re: Should I upgrade to AVCHD?

"...You could also do one larger camera, like a Sony AX2000 or NX5 (used $2-3K respectively), and supplement it with one or two smaller cams in the $600 range. Then you'd have your master cam for non-event jobs and the Handycams for event work and b-cam use..."

I really like your idea!
I do a lot of single camera work, mostly my own projects; nature and landscape footage.
You have me thinking, Thanks!
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Old October 16th, 2012, 07:15 PM   #8
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Re: Should I upgrade to AVCHD?

Hi Henry

You can also look at Panny's new AC-90 which will be out at the month end. It's an awful lot of camera for a small amount of money. Then again, if you like the shoulder mount form factor (I love them and have two HMC82's) then, provided your lighting is good, the AC-7 is good value for money. I do wedding too which involve dark and dingy receptions so the AC-7 would struggle there.

Your Quad core should handle the native files easily..I'm running an i7 2600 with just 8GB ram and have no issues with AVCHD from my cameras

Chris
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Old October 16th, 2012, 11:58 PM   #9
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Re: Should I upgrade to AVCHD?

I just want to chime in. In every video-related forum I frequent, The AG-AC7 is one of the most hate-bashed cameras I have seen in a very long time (along with the infamous sony hd1000) No one has anything nice to say about it. Thing is that people seems to only write about it based on the specs they read and no from hands-on experience.

A friend of mine bought one from B&H. When he told me I tought about the mistake he just made. Out of curiosity checked the camera myself and boy... let me tell you how impressed I am with this little fella.

Technical jargon aside, for the price ($1100 US) this camera delivers like a champ. The image is very nice, Outdoors is amazing, Indoors of course in low light there will be noise, so try not to use much gain. Battery last forever (and it came with two of them) you can record in avchd and sd dv avi. Camera body is made of cheap plastic, is hollow and feels like a toy. LCD is very nice. Viewfinder is not. It seems like you are watching a 13 tv screen at the end of a tunnel. Internal mic picks a lot of noise when thinkering with the camera. You will need a better, more isolated mic (like a lot of camcorders these days)

There are a couple of unusual but nice features (at least for me) like the one who stops recording when tilting the camera too much, to avoid recording walking feet.

In the end, for the type of work you describe, I think you are not going to be dissapointed. Just buy yourself a nice, cheap led light from Taky Cheung here in the forum, and you will be ready to go.

Just my very personal and subjective two cents. Of course Im not comparing it with its more expensive counterparts. But again. I really liked this cost effective-pro-looking camera, so much that Ive already ordered one.

Cheers!

Alex

PS: The going rate on ebay for a used HMC70 is less than $1000 For an HMC80 is $1700, for an HMC150 less than $2000. You just need to be careful who you are buying from.

On the editing side, Just load Edius on your laptop, and you will be cutting avchd footage like butter.
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Old October 17th, 2012, 12:20 AM   #10
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Re: Should I upgrade to AVCHD?

Hi Alex

I agree too..people look at specs and unless the camera has at least 1/3" chips it is written off so you can imagine what they say about the AC-7's single 1/4" chip!!!

I have two HMC80's with 1/4" chips and these are AWESOME cameras and not much more than the AC-7 but most will shoot it down in flames simple cos of the chip size.

I started with AVC-20's which are 4:3 SD cameras and they in fact have on 1/6" chips and I was showing a bride a sample on a 50" TV and the groom (a fussy technical dude) said to me "Wow that video is so clear and beautiful .. I bet it cost $40,000 or more"

Yeah, like the DVC-20, the AC-7 has a crummy EVF and a very plastic body but it still shoots really awesome footage AND you forgot to say you can shoot on SDHC or SDX cards too!!

I shoot in 50i all the time (we are PAL) so your only limitation is it only shoots in 60i ...so what??? I shoot pro weddings every weekend and I only shoot interlaced!!!

Chris
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Old October 17th, 2012, 12:33 AM   #11
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Re: Should I upgrade to AVCHD?

Sorry! Didn't mean to bash the AC7! I'm sure it works great for many purposes. It just seems like a bit older tech thats refreshed less frequently than say a late-2012 model consumer cam. This tech is moving faster than ever and performance is getting cheaper and cheaper. Getting a huge boost in performance year after year isn't unheard of these days. What it comes down to is that the AC7 is essentially a panny handycam in a big shell - which seems a little annoying to carry around 3 of them if they're just getting locked down on a tripod anyways...That, and I'm kind of a sucker for those Sony Exmor sensors. They're pretty amazing.
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Old October 17th, 2012, 01:26 AM   #12
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Re: Should I upgrade to AVCHD?

Hi Nate

It wasn't really a bashing, just your dislike for the AC-7 based on it's low specs so I'm sure you are forgiven!! Specs are not always the ultimate decision maker...I find I need to use to cam to discover it's usefulness. After buying two ac-130's based purely on specs it was, without a doubt, the worst decision I had ever made...I sold them at a loss and went back to HMC80's

If the OP wants a new alternative then at least hire/borrow or at the very least buy from a dealer who has a return policy. A return may cost you a small fee but it cheaper than losing around $2K on a pair of cameras that just never worked correctly.

Try out the Sony..if you like it, then buy one. The same goes for an AC-7 you might hate it or you might love it!! A hour or so shoot will soon tell you if it's the camera that you will be happy with.

Seriously would you buy a new car without driving it first???

Chris
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Old October 17th, 2012, 08:51 AM   #13
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Re: Should I upgrade to AVCHD?

For my first post, I am really impressed!!! Your feedback is terrific! Thank you.

So far I checked out each camera mentioned. All good choices too. The last one checked out was the new Panny AC 90 at $2000.

Three chips 1/4.7" ? Is this closer to 1/3" ? and could it be newer and better performance.

What really has my attention is that it has three rings; zoom, focus and iris. This to me is a real find.
I enjoy "operating" a camera not just programming a menu. Almost like playing a musical instrument, it takes skill for managing the controls, motion and balance.

The lens is more wide than far reaching, something closer to 500mm or 600mm would be nicer.
28 - 357mm would have to be acceptable. A fast f/1.5 lens is a plus.

XLR's..a great plus. It looks like it has real audio controls too

So far, this one goes into the shopping cart and I'm considering (2) Sony CX260's

Could this work?
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Old October 17th, 2012, 09:05 AM   #14
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Re: Should I upgrade to AVCHD?

Hi Henry

Nope the chips are a lot smaller than it's big brother the AC-160 but it it is actually a sharper image! The new AC-90 actually resolves a 4K image which is then resized to 1080. What I do also like is the 5 axis OIS which means hand helds with be pretty good. The LCD is HD quality (something like 1.1 million dots) but sadly the EVF is not very good resolution wise. I had the AC-130 with 1/3rd chips and it wasn't that much better in low light than 1/4" (the 90 has 1/4.7 which are a fraction smaller than 1/4 BUT they are backlit which makes a huge difference)

The 90 has the same autoiris system as the HMC40 and 80 which means the camera will change iris shutter and ND filters for you automatically and it works really great!! I just couldn't get used to the big brother 130/160 with manual ND filters and a limited iris range..it needed constant attention.

I'm sure the other guys will comment about mixing the AC-90 with the Sonys

Chris
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Old October 17th, 2012, 09:28 AM   #15
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Re: Should I upgrade to AVCHD?

I'm sorry Chris, I'm not clear on some things you said.
(The last Panny's I used were a few AG-456's, then went to Sony. Not familiar with any of the new Panasonics.)
Does it look like the AC 90 will be an improvement over the AC 7, and if so will it be significant enough to consider against others in it's class?
Does it seem that it will have better low light capability?

I've always liked Panasonic designs, and layouts. I'm trying to be convinced.
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