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Old April 17th, 2009, 05:13 AM   #1
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Which camera to buy? and a breakdown list of the good the bad and the ugly.

Ok so I'm in a position that is rather difficult. I am a DP who owns all his own gear and has great knowledge of all things technical (not to toot my own horn). I am also a business man who must deal directly with clients on a day to day basis, trying to sell myself as the "right DP for the job". As many of you on this site can im sure feel safe to say you are in the same position.

The problem... My camera gear is in excellent condition, shoots great HD footage, BUT the market is taking a turn for really one of 2 things "Red" or "tape less HD". yes I know there are really more fields than that, but it basically sums it up.

I demand the best image possible that I can personally afford. Problem is, im not rich. I have rent to pay, I have insurance to pay, I have food to buy, yada yada yada.... The cameras that meet my minimum requirements in this day and age seem to be all in the same price range, just under $10,000.

$10,000 isn't expensive in the world of Professional Cinematography, but its hard when you pay for everything out of pocket when the economy is in this shape. Long story short, I cannot put it on a credit card, my credit isn't up to par to get one with even $2000 limit, let alone 10,000. So any camera I pay 10k for will be my last camera for at least 3-4 years or more.

I am stuck with a choice now, and I need to pick wisely.,, I can only afford one camera, a Red Scarlet system (7,000 for body plus extras bring it to about 10) or a Panasonic HPX300 ($8,000 plus P2 cards and battery system brings it to almost 10) I have done much research on both cameras, I am aware of both the hpx's problems with skew and noise, and the fact that scarlet is a completely different route to go in the world, I'll explain...

When you go the RED root you are making a choice that can lock you into a specific way of shooting. First off you cannot shoot "ENG" type events, or at least not realistically with the amount of data that would make. So you are really stuck with only doing Film, TV, Commercials, and Music Videos. Now that would be fine if that's all I did shoot, but its unfortunately not. I also shoot a lot of reality shows, hidden camera shows, and other such work that would require an ENG type setup.

The question is, if I go RED will the money make up for the fact that I can no longer shoot these other jobs? I personally LOVE the HPX cameras and believe they are the type of camera I will use in any position. I can shoot Film, TV, Commercial, Music videos, as well as reality, hidden cameras, docudramas, and other stuff. It just seems that everyone who wants to shoot Film Music videos and others keep asking for RED and im afraid the decision of going HPX will backfire when I end up losing that end of the market to the cheap scarlet that will soon be in everyone's hands.... The Music videos and films make more, but are less available to me than the shows... The HPX has the TOP codec of AVC-Intra 100 which is D5 Mastering quality, you don't get any better than that, and it is 1080p but all this crazy over 4k is just something I don't know if it can compete with. I personally think the HPX can do better in the situations where the data rate for 4k is just way overkill and you start paying more for storage than a client would really want to for a short or feature...

What would you guys do, putting all the info in your hands, the money is about equal, its just which is the right investment for someone who shoots both? This is really hard for me, and it could sway either way... Your opinions might bring up things I haven't thought about that could make the decision a little easier.

Any input would help, thanks!

Last edited by Giuseppe Pugliese; April 17th, 2009 at 06:24 AM.
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Old April 17th, 2009, 06:21 AM   #2
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list of good and bad

RED:

Excellent quality
High bit rates
High cost of media for archiving
Well known name to clients
Short run times with footage, or if long run time, data almost unmanageable.
Needs extra expensive parts to be shoulder mounted
Uses great glass that could be cheep or expensive.
Able to compare or compete with film
Film Depth of Field
1-75fps in steps and burst
Able to shoot 5k, 4k, 3k, 2k, 1080p

Panasonic HPX300:

Full size ENG type camera
Highest codec standard AVC-Intra 100
Long run times without worry of too much data.
Shoulder mounted out of the box.
P2 well known standard.
CMOS wobble or skew
35mm DoP with adapter
bad low light capturing
1/3inch chips aren't taken seriously in pro world.
720p 1080p SD
1-60fps in steps
footage quality sub-par compared to 4k + cameras.
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Old April 17th, 2009, 06:28 AM   #3
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Giuseppe, one other aspect you should consider is that the HPX is available immediately. Scarlet is not shipping yet. How soon do you want to buy?
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Old April 17th, 2009, 07:05 AM   #4
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Couple of points I'm not sure I agree with on your list. Yes RED is a well-known name to clients but it's still one a lot of them are scared of. Panasonic is as well-known and trusted in the industry as it's possible to get.
Also, the 4k thing, as others have illustrated is not quite that straightforward, as after de-bayering it's probably in the same ballpark as 1920x1080 HD.
HPX300 "bad low light capturing", not sure if the Scarlet is that much better is it? Seem to remember that with the RED One if you go above 250 ASA it gets very iffy looking.
"CMOS wobble or skew", Scarlet is CMOS too isn't it.
Scarlet "Able to compare or compete with film", as is the 1920x1080 AVC-I HPX300, both subjectively.
With RED as you say you "lock into a way of shooting", but also post-production, it's quite different.
Oh, and if Scarlet is like the One it'll have a 90 second start-up time too.
I'm no expert but they're my thoughts.
Steve
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Old April 17th, 2009, 09:07 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by Chris Hurd View Post
Giuseppe, one other aspect you should consider is that the HPX is available immediately. Scarlet is not shipping yet. How soon do you want to buy?
I am trying to update within this year, no tell when I will really have the money yet.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve Phillipps View Post
Couple of points I'm not sure I agree with on your list. Yes RED is a well-known name to clients but it's still one a lot of them are scared of. Panasonic is as well-known and trusted in the industry as it's possible to get.
Also, the 4k thing, as others have illustrated is not quite that straightforward, as after de-bayering it's probably in the same ballpark as 1920x1080 HD.
HPX300 "bad low light capturing", not sure if the Scarlet is that much better is it? Seem to remember that with the RED One if you go above 250 ASA it gets very iffy looking.
"CMOS wobble or skew", Scarlet is CMOS too isn't it.
Scarlet "Able to compare or compete with film", as is the 1920x1080 AVC-I HPX300, both subjectively.
With RED as you say you "lock into a way of shooting", but also post-production, it's quite different.
Oh, and if Scarlet is like the One it'll have a 90 second start-up time too.
I'm no expert but they're my thoughts.
Steve
I do agree that the post is very different, and that the ASA is kinda low on red. I think the factors I'm most afraid of is how it will affect my client base, will I get stuck holding the wrong tool for the new jobs to come? I have to keep with the new times, and that means the tech will be different. I cannot tell you how many times I lost out on a gig because I didn't have an hvx200. It seems clients are caring less about the reel, and more about the equipment now. I get asked what camera I shoot with, more than how do I think I should light the set.
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Old April 17th, 2009, 10:51 AM   #6
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Giuseppe:

We have spoken on other boards and threads but you know my feelings on this. The Scarlet is vapor, it doesn't exist. The HPX300 can be bought today. The Scarlet? Maybe this year, maybe not, especially depending on which versions get shipped when and which version you think you need.

I agree, two totally different types of cameras with a totally different shooting and post methodology. I don't think you can make a fair comparison between these two cameras because nobody knows what the RED will be like, its advantages and its drawbacks. If you are a businessman, you should know that you cannot make a sound business decision on vaporware that doesn't exist. Until the Scarlet is shipping, it is vaporware.

It sounds as if you would be better off with the HPX300 as it is a more practical workflow for event type of work. P2 is a proven technology and the AVC Intra codec is outstanding. We are halfway through our post process on the project I shot with the HPX300 a few weeks ago and the images are great, we are very happy with how the camera performed. Since we shot in 720 24pN AVC Intra 100, the skew was less that I have seen on the EX1, the variable frame rate shots look amazing and working with the camera was intuitive and natural. From my single RED One experience, shooting with that camera was NOT intuitive, everything about it was strange and new, not necessarily bad, but we had an owner operator who was showing me menu navigation, etc. I have no reason to believe that the Scarlet will not make excellent images but the workflow, menus and ergonomics could be horrible, worse than the EX1. (the SxS workflow is fine but the menus and ergonomics on the EX1 are horrendously bad for me)

To me, the Scarlet is a total gamble. They are still changing the specs almost weekly and it will be a first generation product. RED has never made a small, handheld camcorder, only the RED One. Who knows? They may nail it and make it great, or they may make it an unholdable brick with a lens. From my experience with the RED One, that camera is a computer with a lens sticking out of it. The Scarlet may be the same way. That is not necessarily bad, but it is very different than a regular camcorder, which is what the HPX300 form factor is.

The HPX300 is not perfect, it has some issues, but so does every other under $10k camcorder. The camcorders that don't have issues are the ones that cost $50k, but there, the issue is obviously cost. HPX170, EX1, EX3, XLH1, JVCs, they all have major drawbacks as well as advantages. I will say that I feel as if the HPX300 gives you more value than any other camcorder under $10k. It is not as clean as the Sonys, but the codec is better and the lens is at least as good. Personally, I love the P2 workflow, I have been using it for three years and I own six P2 cards so the 300 fits into my world seamlessly. Your world is different though.

If you are serious about buying a camcorder and you are seriously only considering these two models, you will have a long wait and nobody can really give you solid advice about which to buy because one of your candidates is vaporware at this point.

Dan
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Old April 17th, 2009, 12:14 PM   #7
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Giuseppe,

And I wouldn't want to be the first on my block to own a Scarlet anyway, until enough people have actually owned and used them and figured out the bugs. I do likethe idea of Scarlet though, but as others have mentioned above it just not out, so its not an issue for you.

Another option I would consider is renting. I know its more fun to own, but with this method you can rent any gear and see how it will fit into your desired workflow. If its for a job, just include rental in your contract somewhere, and even if you own the equipment, somewhere you should be charging for the use of your equipment.

Also I'm not real familiar with electronic news gathering (ENG) but I'm assuming that with that type of shooting those are the guys that use the shoulder mount cameras.

If you wanted to spend less $$$, you could even look into an HVX 200 or HPX170 (I think those are the models) Panasonics. Then go over to Zacutos website and outfit your camera with all sorts of cool shoulder mount stuff, racks, rails, the whole kit and caboodle.

The Zacuto stuff is not cheap, and dollar for dollar you'd have to see if you actually save money with this method.

Considering the way the economy is right now, and no one knows for sure how long the S***storm is going to last, this might be an option.

Also, no one can tell you if the you'll make up the money or not. Clients come and go and if you've been around for longer than rust like me, you learn that nothing is forever. Just make sure you have enough cash on hand to live on for six to eight months in case times get bad(er).

Jonathan
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Old April 17th, 2009, 04:34 PM   #8
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Had a short peek at your website and saw a Music Video production. But it also says commercials and feature films I think the decision really depends on the type of work you do. From what I read, the RED has some heat issues if its in a hot environment and as others said: Scarlet isnt even here yet. HPX 300 looks more like ENG type to me but its going to be available this summer! And I believe the quality will be more than ok for broadcast...I would simply wait as long as possible, who knows what 2009 brings?

If not get one of those HPX 171, in the meantime, theyre great for the money! Why buy into big non existing stuff with the risk of becoming a paying beatester ???
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Old April 17th, 2009, 05:57 PM   #9
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I would simply wait as long as possible, who knows what 2009 brings?
That's my feeling too. I came close to buying an EX3 recently, but in the end hired for the two weeks I really needed such a camera, and for now am mostly able to make do with my 2/3" SD camera. But at some point I'm going to have to spend money.....

I find the HPX301 very interesting in many respects - form factor especially is so much better than the EX3 - but just can't help feeling that for that much money I should be getting bigger than 1/3" chips. For photographic rather than "quality" reasons. And having used the SDHC/adaptor with the EX3 I really don't want to go down the P2 route.

So.... NABs coming up soon, and my prayer is for a camera with broadly the shape, features and price of the HPX301, but 1/2" or 2/3" chips, and SxS/SDHC capable instead of P2. Combining the best of the HPX301 with the best of the EX3. And ideally with the 50Mbs XDCAM-HD422 codec, which should still be recordable to SDHC.

Will anything like it come about? Good question, but I know there's more than me wanting such a thing, and it's why I agree with Hanno - if you're able to wait, who knows what 2009 brings? My own feeling is it's less a question of if, but when. Let's see what NAB brings.
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Old April 17th, 2009, 06:22 PM   #10
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Sony already made their NAB new cam announcements. I only saw one camera and the list is U.S. $41,000.00. The PDMW-800XSIEXHRSDW or something!?!?

Don't hold your breathe for much else from Sony until next week since Sony introduces 12 new formats and 30 new cams a year. ;-)

Dan
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Old April 17th, 2009, 06:44 PM   #11
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I'd go with the Panasonic in your position, the RED is a substantial investment. It looks awesome and gives you a lot of creative possibilities (would disagree that it precludes ENG work though) but you need to be completely certain because it's $$$ to make a proper package.

-Noah
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Old April 18th, 2009, 12:21 AM   #12
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I have been leaning towards the HPX300 in my mind, just because it seems safer. But the image quality is something I am still iffy about. There is little footage online from the camera, and every time I do see the footage, there is this horrible noise in the mid ranges. It looks like very very over exaggerated film grain (like if you saw the movie "300" in theaters, the film grain was so bad it was almost distracting, because of all the post color work they did, they pushed it to its limits).

I dont think I'm happy with that just yet, I saw some HPX2000 footage that had the same thing as well, and the guy that owned it wasnt happy about it. I had Jan from Panasonic tell me that I shouldnt judge the footage of the camera from online clips... But these clips arent streaming, they are the 1080 HD files from Philip Bloom, and others who have shot with the camera. People can say all you want about how they compressed the image to be a small size (data), and they had it go thrugh prores422 but no matter what excuses you can come up with, that noise had to come from some where and the settings these files are at are huge compared to most compressed footage online, when we put our reel online that makes our money how are we gonna explain that?... I have my 720p footage from my JVCHD110 that looks amazing and clean and NOISE FREE in any situation as long as the gain is at 0db. This camera seems to just put speckles everywhere and I dont know why. It is really the only thing that is keeping me from just diving into the camera. Is there anyone out there who is shooting who isnt getting this Noise problem in the mids?

As for scarlet being "vaporware" I don't believe that, I think we have all been fooled once with RED being fake, now that I see over 10 MAJOR films in Hollywood with huge stars that have completely shot on RED, I think they proved their point, they know what they are doing, and it will be a solid tool, they will not disappoint. Scarlet 35mm system will be a brick, that's how they make them, but again thats why its a completely different way of shooting.

If anyone in the New York City area is shooting with the HPX300 and wouldn't mind a fly on the wall, I would love to get to see what this thing handles like on a production and maybe in post a bit.
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Old April 18th, 2009, 03:54 AM   #13
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Entirely agree about not trusting what you see on the web. Best plan by far is to get hold of one to play with, you're in New York so would a trip to AbelCine be worthwhile?
Best plan I always find is to shoot some stuff of the type of subject you'll be doing, with thekit and set-ups you'll be using, then take it away and post it the way you will be doing. This'll then give you the real answer.
Steve
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Old April 18th, 2009, 10:30 AM   #14
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Couple of points:

I agree and disagree about judging footage in many different mediums. Sure you want to see what the camera makes without any compression, but the fact is, none of your clients are going to see what you see in the edit bay. Everything has to be delivered and most delivery formats will be compressed.

I agree with David that the choice for me is more about photographic options than resolution etc...

Do you need the option of shallow DOF? If so, then I would wait because you will feel limited by a 1/3" chip camera.

Or buy something now and know that you will be selling it in the future when better options become affordable. Sort of like leasing...
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Old April 18th, 2009, 12:12 PM   #15
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Sony already made their NAB new cam announcements. I only saw one camera and the list is U.S. $41,000.00. The PDMW-800XSIEXHRSDW or something!?!?
The main Sony press conference isn't until 2pm tomorrow (Sun 19 April) so I think it's premature to say only one new product is being announced. I suspect you mean the PDWF800 - Sony Business Solutions & Systems - Featured - but that's more of an upgraded variation to the existing 700 than a brand new model. But we'll see tomorrow.
Quote:
Don't hold your breathe for much else from Sony until next week since Sony introduces 12 new formats and 30 new cams a year. ;-)
I'd say they DEVELOP a format over time, rather than constantly bringing out new ones, and that is seen by many as a big strong point in their favour. The original Betacam format was launched in 1982, and you can still buy a player that will replay the original recordings - as well as newer ones - DigiBeta, SX, IMX etc.

But you'd have to look far and wide to find a player to view an "M" cassette (Panasonics rival from that time period), or even an MII or D3 cassette from much later. You certainly won't be able to buy a new deck that will be able to play any of them.

With the continued development into HDCAM and now HDCAM SR, it says a lot about the basic Beta form for archive.
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