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Old October 1st, 2008, 08:16 AM   #1
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Panasonic HPX-502 first impressions

Well, after much debate and annoying my wife with "what if's" between a Sony product and the Panasonic for three weeks, I received the decided-upon Panasonic AG-HPX502 this evening.

This will be used primarily for a news camera.

Here are my first impressions:

(1) What?? No microphone??
(2) Beautifully made camera, very solid feeling
(3) Crappy viewfinder - was hoping for an improvement over the Sony
(4) Poor peaking level for viewfinder - need to be able to wind it up much higher than allowed
(5) Pictures nice, doesn't seem as sensitive as my old Sony DSR-570. Only having to shoot in SD for now
(6) Nice to know it sends vision out via the iLink port that can be captured in real time if needed
(7) Nice to know a Firestore FS-3 works on it via the iLink connection - another backup solution if needed. But the fact that this records to card really negates the need for this anyway.
(8) Audio inputs confusing (mind you, haven't read the manual yet)

So I can't wait to get it out on the road tomorrow and give it a test. I think, once I get my head around some of the features, it will be a great companion for me for the next few years.

Now I can get back to some kind of reality and stop annoying the family.
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Old October 1st, 2008, 11:42 AM   #2
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Hi David:

Quote:
Originally Posted by David Cleverly View Post
(1) What?? No microphone??
I have never bought a camera that came with a microphone, including my Betacams and my smaller cameras. Is that standard when you buy in Australia?

Quote:
Originally Posted by David Cleverly View Post
(2) Beautifully made camera, very solid feeling
(3) Crappy viewfinder - was hoping for an improvement over the Sony
Agreed, I wish that Panasonic had ponied up for at least a better LCD. I have the new HPX-170 and while it's the same LCD as your camera has, they have cranked up the detail a lot and it is much better than the HPX-500 or the HVX-200

Quote:
Originally Posted by David Cleverly View Post
(5) Pictures nice, doesn't seem as sensitive as my old Sony DSR-570. Only having to shoot in SD for now
All HD cameras are less sensitive than SD cameras with same size chips, they are squeezing a lot more pixels into the same space. Smaller pixels = less light sensitive.

Enjoy your new camera, it's a nice one. I wish that I had the need for one but smaller cameras work better for my present needs, hence the HPX-170.

Dan
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Old October 1st, 2008, 04:48 PM   #3
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I have owned three "broadcast style" ENG cameras. The first was a SOny 537 that didn't come with a mic. Nor even a mic bracket.

The next two, A Sony DSR-300P and then a Sony DSR-570P both came with Mics.

I am of the opinion that a camera should come with a Mic. And this is something you have to consider when comparing prices/features with Sony, as all Aussie Sony XDCAMS come with mics at this level of camera.

Re the viewfinder:

I can't believe a camera in this day and age should come with such a bad VF, with such low detail and poor peaking controls. I thought those days were over and was looking for a refreshing change when I got this camera.

I also can't believe I didn't notice this when playing with the demo unit.

Could one perhaps put a better VF on from another model, or can the peaking control be tweaked???
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Old October 2nd, 2008, 02:25 AM   #4
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I'm not sure that you can get a better VF on it, I know the Varicam one won't work with it as I tried it once when I had both cams on a shoot. You can't overstate just how bad it is though, you're right.
Steve
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Old October 2nd, 2008, 04:28 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by David Cleverly View Post
Re the viewfinder:

I can't believe a camera in this day and age should come with such a bad VF, with such low detail and poor peaking controls. I thought those days were over and was looking for a refreshing change when I got this camera.
In another thread on this subject I posted:
Quote:
"By and large, you get what you pay for. In the Panasonic range, the HPX500 costs far less than a HPX3000, so it really shouldn't come as a surprise to find it isn't as good as a HPX3000. That applies not just to picture quality, but ability to take radio mic receivers, ability to set double zebras (as with a DSR570), input/output capabilities etc etc."
I'm afraid you've just found another item to add to the list. It's not to denigrate the camera - you get a 2/3" shouldermount camera at a very low price, but there's a reason the price is so low.

There seem to be two reactions to the HPX500. Users who have moved up from 1/3" prosumer cameras seem to love it - it's better than they were used to. Users who are used to 2/3" cameras find it lacking in several areas - a step down.

You get what you pay for.
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Old October 2nd, 2008, 05:11 AM   #6
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So where is the middle ground if I up grade to a shoulder mount camera with native progressive recording.
The JVC range. Within price range but 1/3 chip. Tape capture and hard drive
EX3. Semi shoulder mount 1/2 chip. Card capture and hard drive I think
The Panasonic AG-HPX502 I have been looking at but man, what a cost with accessories, this is even before I pull the trigger.

Wow
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Old October 2nd, 2008, 07:44 AM   #7
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Nick your post outlines the minefield the manufacturers have setup in market tiers.

It's like they planned this out as no camera from $3,000 to $20,000 has very much of an overlap of features.

I think the HPX-500 is the best value for what I do, but you might think the EX-3 is the best value for what you do.

Gone are the days when there are three or four models in the same class & price range, at least for now.

To me the JVC is not a good value as it needs the upgrade lens imho.

This takes the camera closer to the other two with only a 1/3" chip.
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Old October 2nd, 2008, 09:58 AM   #8
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Nick your post outlines the minefield the manufacturers have setup in market tiers.
Yes, but there seems to be a complete tier missing from any manufacturer, and I can best describe it as the HD equivalent to what the DSR500/570/450 series fills at SD level.

The PDW700 is a cut above (with price to match), yet the three Nick mentions all have disappointments operationally after a DSR500. I agree with you about the lens for the JVC, and the HPX500 has a lot of extra costs as well - P2 cards, and a P2 reader now that laptops tend not to have a Cardbus slot, before we even start thinking about a decent 2/3" lens. Whilst the EX3 isn't shouldermount, and the lack of native SD may be a problem for some.
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Old October 2nd, 2008, 04:28 PM   #9
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yeah I know. I've been thinking about upgrading my dsr 300's and 500's, but nothing seems to fit the bill, except for selling the 300's getting more dsr 500's (which can be had for less than a new z7!!) It's frustrating. I like the hpx 500, but it's too expensive and lacks too many features.*like HD resolution chips for one.*
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Old October 3rd, 2008, 04:34 AM   #10
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Ok, please correct me if I am wrong, but I found another feature today the 502 lacks.

On my Sony 570, you could have three white balance readings set for every filter position on the ND wheel. Filter 1, 2, 3 and 4 could have three different settings, WB1, WB2 and Preset. If you were on WB1 and on filter 3, and then changed the filter to, say, filter 2, WB1 for that filter would kick in. It was like it had three WB memories for each filter position.

On the 502, you only have three white balance settings TOTAL, no matter what filter you are on. If you change the filter, the balance doesn't change with the filter.

Mind you, perhaps that is a good thing.....quickly change the filter to, say, get more light into the camera, but the white balance remains constant.
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Old October 3rd, 2008, 05:00 AM   #11
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Mind you, perhaps that is a good thing.....quickly change the filter to, say, get more light into the camera, but the white balance remains constant.
That's my philosophy, and the majority of people I know using DSR570s think the same. I only know two people who actively preferred the 2x4 option on the DSR570. It would seem better still to have 4 WB memories - 2 for filter one (3200K), and 2 for filters 2,3,4 (5600K). If you swing from filter 1 to another, you're expecting a big change.

It's the lack of two zebras that annoys me most about the HPX500. Going from a BetaSP camera to a DSR500, and getting zebra 2 I found made exposure control far more positive, and nowadays pretty well all pro cameras have the ability for dual zebras. I can't believe it makes that much difference to the cost?
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Old October 3rd, 2008, 05:35 AM   #12
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I never used dual zebras, so that didn't matter to me.

In fact a lot of the Cammos I know turn the zebras "off'/

If it looks right in the VF, it IS right.

I still like zebras, though....plus in some ways it appears to give more zip to the peaking function, so (I think) it helps with focusing - and the 502 needs as much as that as it can get.

Upgraded VF by the way is about $4600 here in Aus.
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Old October 3rd, 2008, 06:08 AM   #13
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Hi David,

I have been looking at this camera and wondering how many cards you will need to do a gig?
Couple more questions.
What lens did you get and is there an image stablizer in the body? I cant seem to find any info on this.

I think this would be a great upgrade for me.
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Old October 3rd, 2008, 02:08 PM   #14
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If it looks right in the VF, it IS right.
Hmmm, I'd have to disagree for two reasons.

Firstly, it depends how the viewfinder is set up as far as brightness/contrast goes. And even if that's right for one set of ambient lighting, it should be adjusted differently for different ambient light. Different for operating in bright sunlight to at night. How can you be sure that the camera isn't being underexposed to compensate for too much viewfinder contrast, say? Thats why an absolute reference is so useful - zebras.

Secondly, exposure control is more critical on a colour image than a b/w one, and what could look OK on a b/w viewfinder may not be quite right on a colour monitor. Hence zebras - they give added precision.

Sometimes they can get in the way - but that's why the nice big "zebras on/off" button on the side of the DSR570 is so nice!
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Old October 6th, 2008, 08:17 AM   #15
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Ok, after my first full "news day" with the 502 today, here are some other things to add to the dis-like list:

(1) Monitoring (either speaker in side of camera or earphones) distort when monitoring volume knob is turned over 1/3 of the way. Confused me today as I though the audio was distorting whilst being recorded, but it wasn't. The only way I could rid of the distortion was to turn the recording level down to a point where it was almost nil. Only tonight I realised it was the monitoring that was distorting, not the recording itself.

(2) Only three white balance memories including preset. I would like 4:

One for shade, one for sunny, one for fluros, one for tungsten. At least this would prevent me having to do a white balance MOST of the time! :-) With the Sony's you have 3 WB's for each filter!

Why can't you have one of the User buttons as a white balance as well?

(3) How the heck can you change the audio recording levels mid-shoot by using buttons you have to PUSH IN to make work? Today I made my camera move by trying to adjust audio levels mid shot. Great thinking, Panasonic!

(4) Why can't you program 18db gain into the normal switches?

(5) Inability to tweak the white balance settings of each memory position manually.

(6) Still finding the audio setup confusing, but that might just be time thing for me..

I know Sony do some strange things with their cameras sometimes, but I have to say - after using Sony cams since 1990 - that Panasonic have done some really silly things with this camera. Silly enough to make me regret this purchase already.

I cant even believe it has to do with cost. Sony's cheap XDCAMS don't have stupid design/usability features like this camera does. Hang on...perhaps they do, I just haven't found them as obvious as this.

I don't care if my camera is Sony, Panasonic, or JVC. All I want is a camera that is thoughtfully laid out with features that an actual camera operator would want. Sony gave it to me in the 570...why shouldn't this camera have it too?

In some respects, the Sony HVR-S270 was way better than this. Even the viewfinder on the $11,500 camera was superior.

Anyway, enough whinging for now. What do I like??

(1) The build quality

(2) How it works with ingesting in Final Cut Pro

(3) Colour in the pictures is vibrant, especially in Cine V mode

Maybe this cam will get better with time....maybe some firmware updates will fix some issues?

The problem is I went from a cam that, while it had some minor shortcomings, it did everything very well for me. I have taken a step backwards here, I feel.

D
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