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Panasonic DV / MX / GS series Assistant
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Old March 7th, 2004, 09:34 PM   #1
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dv951 owners?

I was looking at a reasonably priced used 951 over the weekend. $600'ish in US funds... seemed like a good deal to me. The camera was in nice shape... I'm just polling the crowd to see if there's anything I should be looking for?

Any 951 owners out here who could chime in? Is it a good camera to own?

Thanks
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Old March 7th, 2004, 10:07 PM   #2
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It's still a good cam.

Make sure it works before you hand over your money.

PS: Is the 'Knudsen's Pipe Dream' in South Regina still around?
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Old March 7th, 2004, 10:19 PM   #3
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Knudsen's

interestingly enough, I have a friend who works at Knudsens... the city is cracking down on smoking in the store, so the saturday afternoon cribbage game is in jeapordy and the patrons are in an uproar....
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Old March 7th, 2004, 10:36 PM   #4
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I wonder if a US$775 brand new MX5000 (Japanese version of the 953) would interest you. The cam itself is only $715 now but shipping to Canada costs $60.
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Old March 10th, 2004, 10:14 AM   #5
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Wow, what a great price on the MX5000!

I think I would shell out the extra bucks for a new cam even with the Japanese menus. After about two weeks of use you'll be zipping thru the menus as if it were your native language.
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Old March 10th, 2004, 11:32 PM   #6
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Thanks

I think I may take Allan up on his offer... though I suppose I should wait a week to read the reviews of the gs200 ... if nothing else, it might squeeze the price of the older models.. .though $715... that's amazing.
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Old March 10th, 2004, 11:41 PM   #7
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The GS120 and GS200 are GS70 knock-offs. It's the GS400 that will be Pana's flagship in PALSville. Let's see what will be released in Japan, though. There might be something better coming or they'll resume GS100 production. I presume that Allan will be the first to know. :-))
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Old March 11th, 2004, 12:49 AM   #8
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John, here's my preliminary report on the GS200. I'm still trying hard to like it better.

Part 1

Pany boasts the GS200 as the smallest 3CCD cam in the world so that must be its strongest selling point (as far as Pany is concerned). It looks similar to the outline of the GS70 although slightly smaller in all dimensions and about 20 grams lighter. The black version has completely flat finish with no fancy surfaces similar to the back side of the GS100 LCD panel, while the silver version has some shiny (metallic look) spots on the lens barrel portion and near the built-in mic. Between the 2 colors, I felt the silver looked cooler due to the variation in surface finish. The cam has excellent weight distribution, feels perfectly balanced, and fits very well on my regular sized hands even though my fingers are reaching way beyond the grooves (air-soft grip) on top of the cam. Due to the light weight of the cam, it is very susceptible to hand shaking at high magnification. However, I feel that the EIS is effective enough (from 5x and higher, it's like an earthquake if the EIS is turned-off) with no visible image degradation, as long as the user understands its limitations compared to OIS (such as becoming ineffective while zooming, may turn-off automatically under low-light, and jerkiness while panning at high magnification). With all new models models from Sony, Canon and JVC being equally super compact and lightweight, I just couldn't make any distinction on which EIS is more crappy than which.

The GS200 uses 3 x1/6" CCDs with effective pixel count of 440K under video mode. This is less than that of GS100 (640K) but higher than the pixel count of the GS70 (290K). The GS200 does not have the professional features of the GS100 and the 953, and does not have procinema, frame mode, high quality widescreen, low dispersion lens, OIS and smooth color night mode. The only feature that is exclusive to the GS200 is its ability to record to tape and card simultaneously. Manual adjustments of shutter speed, iris, gain, focus and white balance are available. Because of the "new" cross-arranged buttons located inside the LCD panel, manual adjustments (with the left-hand fingers) are now more comfortable to perform even while shooting, compared to previous models which utilize the jogwheel located at the back right hand side of the cam. However, I find it somewhat annoying that you have to press the same button twice in order to change the setting of iris and gain from one value to the next (for shutter speed adjustment, you only have to press one at a time). I double-checked if the same is true for the GS100's jogwheel operation and I noticed that a little more turn of the jogwheel is required to change iris/gain values compared to adjusting the shutter speed, although it's not as slow as the new double press action of the GS200.

In front of the cam is the tiny (as expected) Leica Dicomar 10x zoom lens covered by a small hood with square opening. The glass diameter seems identical to that of GS100 and 953, but because the lens barrel is smaller, the glass lens doesn't appear as pathetic as it does on the GS100. Front thread has a 37mm diameter which should be a convenient size in terms of availability of filters and other lens attachments. Servo type manual focusing ring is available next to the hood. Zoom lever is responsive but easy to control, and zooming action itself is quiet.

As in recent Pany models, the surface covering the tape compartment is made of black rubber with grooves which (although kinda cheesy) gives a good grip. The cam is top loading and the mechanism is smooth, fast and not so loud similar to that of GS100. The slide switch for Auto/Man mode is located on the rubber grip area and presents some inconvenience when switching from Auto to Manual and vise versa in the middle of shooting. Previously, that switch was located at the front left side of the lens barrel but obviously the GS200 is too small to allow the same switch placement. The extra Record/Stop button has been relocated inside LCD panel.

The power switch is now dedicated to simply turning the cam on/off. To select the various camcorder modes, the big Mode Dial located at the back side of the cam is used. The dial is comfortably rotatable using the right pointing finger even while gripping the cam. Graphical symbols representing the various modes (Videocam, Tape Playback, Digital Still Camera, Card (Still) Playback, Card MPEG4 Playback, and PC Connection in that order) are printed big on the dial, and easy to understand even to total beginners.

Inside the LCD panel are more control buttons, the most conspicuous of which is the large set of 5 buttons arranged in a form of a cross. The center button functions as play button under playback mode, and setting/selection button under cam mode. The 4 buttons around it are used for other VTR functions (under playback mode) or to scroll up and down, left and right during menu operations, and to adjust the available manual settings. At the back of the LCD panel is an LED that serves as power LCD button. When this button is pressed, brightness of the LCD is increased 2x for easier viewing on the LCD especially when shooting outdoors under very bright lights. But if I were to use this cam, I would rather keep the power LCD activated at all times because it makes the LCD video quality truly stunning. I would rather enjoy looking at high quality LCD video than save on battery life, although the discrepancy between LCD image brightness and that as seen on TV would even be more pronounced (especially for those shooters who demand color and brightness consistency between the LCD and TV output). The LCD panel itself is only 2.5" diagonal in size but nonetheless of sufficient resolution (123K). Image as seen on the LCD is very bright, sharp and of excellent color saturation. Based on other recent model releases by Pany, I think they have some of the best quality LCDs in the consumer cam market right now. Similar to the GS100 and 953, manual adjustments of LCD contrast and color, as well as LCD AI are possible through menu operations. The newly designed LCD panel hinge allows it to open wider up to 120 degrees. According to Pany, the main purposes of such design are, first, to easily allow people other than the shooter to have a good view of what's being shot, and second, to lessen the chance of the left hand blocking the view of the LCD monitor while operating the cross-arranged buttons (big deal no).

The GS200 does not have the high quality widescreen mode of the GS100 and the 953 and offers only letterboxed 16:9 mode under menu operations. However, a new digital mode called Slim is available which gives video the squeezed look when viewed on a 4:3 monitor, but with some decrease in the vertical angle of view (there is no effect on the horizontal angle of view). I haven't tried viewing on a 16:9 TV but my guess is, the correct aspect ratio will be displayed on a widescreen TV. The opposite of Slim called Stretched mode is another new digital effect added (making a total of 14 compared to GS100's 12), but other than novelty, I don't see the relevance of that effect.

To be continued.
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Old March 11th, 2004, 12:55 AM   #9
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Part 2

Menu operation has become easier because both the main menu and the submenus are simultaneously visible on the LCD monitor. However, you still have to select a particular submenu in order to display the corresponding sub-submenus. As mentioned above, scrolling up and down, left and right, and making selections are done using the cross-arranged buttons, and this operation is very intuitive. Among the new menu items include USB setting that allows the user to set the USB for webcam use or for transfer of digital stills to PC.

Pany's other features that have recently become stardard, namely Skin Detail, Telemacro, Backlighting, Night Mode, Quick Start, and usual plugs for S1/S2 In/Out, AV In/Out , Mic, Headphone, Wired Remote with built-in mic, IEEE and USB are all available. Connector (function) sharing is exactly the same as that of GS100K and thus the same problem and inconvenience brought about by function sharing persists. Finally, the GS200 has the same hot shoe as the GS100 and uses the same accessories as that of the GS100 and GS70 combined.

Video impression: Mixed feelings. The available side-by-side comparison was only between the GS200 and Sony PC300 (a single 20-inch Sharp Aquos LCD TV connected to both cams simultaneously through a video switcher) because the GS100 has disappeared on the shelf of that particular store. Anyway, I felt it was sufficient to make initial impressions especially because the same video cable used to be connected to the GS100 and I remember well how it compared to the PC300. Color saturation of raw video under the store's bright lights appears rich but natural and no doubt superior to the flagship Sony 1-CCD with RGB filter, although overall, the image appears somewhat darker than the Sony. On the other hand, the Sony image, even at its default setting that seemingly have built-in Skin Tone mode (making skin complexion look flawless instead of porous), visibly exhibited higher definition, with more distinct details all over the frame especially at the widest zoom. Compared to the previous GS70, Pany has made some adjustments by toning down on edge enhancement of the GS200, resulting in a relatively cleaner looking video with less pronounced white halos. Although I feel there was improvement in terms of color impact and overall video quality over the previous GS70, I was hoping the GS200 could produce more clarity given that it uses the same engine as the GS100. In fairness, some people might like that kind of look, as some Jap reviewers do. On the other hand, shots of spot lights all around the store show that the GS200 exhibit very minimal smearing compared to the PC300, so that's one plus point to the new Pany. Unfortunately, the store wouldn't allow me to play with the black box this time, hence I couldn't simulate any low-light test. However, published reviews in Jap report that, the GS200 produced clean video under low-light with even less smearing compared to the GS70. The sample frames shown in the magazine quite noticeably prove that point.

The GS200 was selling in Jap discount shops for around JPY95,000 (approx. $860) on its launching day. Jap reviewers are emphasizing that this is the kind of cam that dads, moms, grandpas, grandpas and young shooters should enjoy using not only because of its compact size and cool looks, but also due to its highly intuitive controls. It will find strong competition from Sony's HC40 and Canon's FV100 price-wise, size-wise and feature-wise. but I bet the latter two (megapixel) models will have more clarity than this Pany. This cam is certainly not a flagship consumer cam and current owners and fans of the GS100 and 953 could find the GS200's simplicity to be rather uninteresting. In any case, based on its price and size alone, I expect it to sell quite well in Japan.
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Old March 11th, 2004, 01:47 AM   #10
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Wow! Thanks Allan!

No GS400 news yet?
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Old March 11th, 2004, 06:04 AM   #11
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No news yet on any replacement to the GS100. I remember the press release for the GS100 was done in early June 2003, that was about a month prior to its market debut.

However, I don't foresee the immediate chance for another new product to be released very soon given the fact that Pany is already producing 3 very new models on a regular basis (GS200, GS120 and GS55). During the past few years, Pany has conspicuously produced only 3 new models at any given time, then produce some older models on a limited basis. So if the same pattern holds, Pany has to drop one of the 3 above (most probably the GS120) within the next few months in order to start producing a new model, hopefully the GS300 or 400 or 500 or whatever.

Thus, there might be a basis for some unconfirmed info from big sellers that they're expecting new but limited stocks of the GS100 to appear in April or May.
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Old March 11th, 2004, 06:12 AM   #12
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Well, I got it from Pana that the GS400 will be replacing the MX500. I have a feeling though that Japan will get something better, if GS100 production doesn't resume.
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Old March 11th, 2004, 10:37 PM   #13
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Yeah, that's why I think the GS400 is the overseas version of the GS100.
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Old March 12th, 2004, 12:00 AM   #14
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Awesome. Thanks, Allan!
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Old March 12th, 2004, 07:26 PM   #15
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Yeah, that's why I think the GS400 is the overseas version of the GS100.
When I asked Pana Down-Under about the PAL GS400, I was sent a pic; and the pic was that of a Black Mamba (GS100).
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