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Old February 18th, 2010, 06:10 PM   #16
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I agree. My opinion is the EX-1 and the HPX-500 are the -best bang for the buck for what they are- cameras on the market right now.

If somebody would come out with a comparably priced 1/2" chip CCD shoulder mount with improved resolution I might be swayed.

Oh how the SD days with my DVC-200s where so much simpler.
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Old February 21st, 2010, 09:11 PM   #17
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Mike,

The HPX500 is to date still my favorite rig. Although many compare the 500 to the EX series cameras there is an important and often glossed-over distinction: The 500 is a 2/3" inch mount, the EX cams are all 1/2" inch. The reason that's important is because the 2/3" inch mount has the greatest - as in huge - selection of lenses both from Canon and Fuji.

Unlike the EX's you can mount anything from high-end HD-spec glass, the stuff that will set you back $60k or more, or even older APO-LD glass back from the SD days (which can be had on the used market for a song) that's as good or better than the current crop of HD-spec glass or, even cinema primes from Fuji, Canon or even the venerable Zeiss Digi-Primes. You just don't have those options on any 1/2" camera, period, unless you spend extra dough on an adapter but then you're losing light/sharpness etc.

Measurebators are quick to point out that like it's little brothers, the 200 and 170, the 500 uses a PAL SD chipset being up-ressed to HD but, when you combine high-quality glass with DVCPRO's 4:2:2 color there's absolutely no comparison in the quality of the output. Not even the newer HPX300 looks as good as the 500 when you mount good glass - more pixels doesn't make up for larger real-estate.

The 500 also doesn't have a rolling shutter; the 300 and all EX cam's do.

As others have pointed out the HPX2000 is a distinctive step above the 500 and having a true HD finder is a big help to many shooters but the 500 is still the "best-bang-for-the-buck" king. Now, having said all that...

I don't have any specifics but word on the street is that Panny is going to be introducing new things at NAB this year; exactly what I don't know but unless you have a project that just can't wait I'd highly suggest seeing what NAB will bring.

Otherwise get a 500 and be happy; I guarantee if you learn how to properly setup the camera and can afford good glass - especially the "good stuff" that's widely available used - you won't be disappointed.
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Old February 22nd, 2010, 08:14 AM   #18
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Again, thanks to all who have contributed here. Great comments. Another thing I'd like to throw out there.

In researching the camera, I was talking to a Chief Engineer at a TV station here in the Dallas / Ft. Worth market. His station is transitioning to EX-3's right now and he said, "the 500 is a great camera. Sure it shifts pixels to get to 1080, but no one (broadcaster) is delivering 1080 anyway. There's just not enough bandwidth available to anyone, anywhere to deliver in 1080".

I thought that was interesting. I asked him about the HD channels on DirectTV for example and he said, "not even close. The pipe is only so big." meaning shared bandwidth is being swallowed by the entire delivery chain.

I have another meeting with someone else this week to confirm that but it sounds right to me. So, having said that, is the only way to deliver true 1080 to deliver blu ray to clients and if so, how would they deliver true 1080 further down the distribution chain?

It's sounding more and more to me that acquiring with a more expensive camera is simply supurfluos until bandwidth increases.
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Old February 22nd, 2010, 10:43 AM   #19
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Mike,

Broadcasters are transmitting full raster 1080, it's just 60i, not 60p. 720/60P requires more bandwidth than 1080/60i and is the format of choice for all Fox networks, ABC and ESPN.

There are some cable and satellite entities that sub-sample horizontal resolution and of course all of them transmit over the air, via cable or satellite, a highly compressed data stream, typically around 11-17Mbps, but that doesn't preclude full raster 1080.

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Old February 22nd, 2010, 01:19 PM   #20
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Mike,

One last tidbit in favor of the 500:

Last year we shot a commercial, in fact in your backyard in Addison, on the 500. The client was originally going to use their previous shooter who only shoots EX-1/3's; they didn't like the look of the camera's color output and the thinner 4:2:0 color space made getting natural-looking skin tones a challenge even by a colorist in post.

When we gave them our demo footage for the spot the director's eyes lit up as he noticed a huge improvement in those critical skin tones and their colorist loved the raw footage much, much more than the EX's.

You can debate the technicalities of any camera to ad-nauseam but in the end it's all about how good the imagery looks; all things being equal there is *no* replacement for better color. 4:2:2 wins hands down every time.
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Old February 22nd, 2010, 02:15 PM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tim Polster View Post
I agree. My opinion is the EX-1 and the HPX-500 are the -best bang for the buck for what they are- cameras on the market right now.

If somebody would come out with a comparably priced 1/2" chip CCD shoulder mount with improved resolution I might be swayed.
In so far as pricing goes, I don't think it's possible to compare the HPX500 and the EX1. From a (very) well known UK retailer (all prices less tax) the HPX500 is 9,000 without lens, the EX1 is 4,000 (4,400 for the EX1R). You can get two complete EX1Rs for less than an HPX500 without lens!

A better comparison I'd reckon would be the HPX500 versus the new Sony PMW350. From the same retailer the like-for-like comparison cost of the latter is 12,000.

But it doesn't stop there. To get an hour of recording on the Sony you need much less memory because of the codec, so by the time you've equipped both cameras with enough memory to shoot two hours without downloading, the difference is not 3,000, but well under 2,000. Factor in things like the excellent v/f on the PMW350 (no need to upgrade) and that you'll need less batteries (the PMW350 is far less power hungry than the HPX500), and the difference for a working system is still less.

And the PMW350 offers things that the HPX500 doesn't, quite apart from far, far better image quality. Things like a slot to accept pro radio mics, ability to quickly dub between memory slots, card at a time, far more flexible media options.

The HPX500 might have been a good buy for the price a few years ago, but times have moved on and it's now looking very dated. Mike, have a look at a PMW350 before you part with money, ideally side by side with an HPX500 on a 1920x1080 monitor. I think you may get quite a shock.....

As far as transmission goes, then 1080 is most definitely being broadcast, in fact all transmission in the UK is such. Some channels are full 1920x1080, others sub-sampled to 1440x1080. Yes, 1080p/50 is not yet considered feasible - but 1080p/25 is. And that is carried over the 1080i channels as 1080psf/25, so the full 1920x1080 resolution is preserved.
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Old February 22nd, 2010, 04:15 PM   #22
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David,

It's about a $3K difference in favor of the HPX500 with a Fuji XA17X7.6BRM lens and 2)64Gb E series P2 cards. You'll get better lens, 100MBps, 4:2:2 I-Frame codec for $3K less. The Sony 350 with $1500 Fuji lens and 2)32Gb SxS cards, will give you a higher resolution, quieter, more light sensitive front end, but CMOS vs. CCD and low bit rate, 4:2:0, Long GOP codec.

The 350 is a viable alternative if the codec is acceptable as well as very low cost plasticy lens and $3000 USD more. The 500 is definitely older technology, but the codec is ubiquitous, the HD lens is the real deal, it has the Panasonic colorimetry that many prefer.

I would certainly look at a 350 before purchasing(and attend NAB), but I would also consider a used HPX2000 with a new XA17X7.6 for similar money to the 350, albeit with 720P native resolution.

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Old February 22nd, 2010, 05:03 PM   #23
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David, for the record I was not comparing the two cameras. I stated "the two cameras are the best bang for the buck for what they are", a 2/3" class chip camera and a 1/2" class chip camera.

Both very good values.

Regarding the PMW-350 I would want a heavy skew test before I made this my main camera. Jeff had said there was no noticeable skew when he examnied a 350 recently, but I would want to check closely.

I did some testing with the EX-1 at full wide to the end of the lens with slow, moderate and quick pans. I was shocked when I examined the footage in my editor. It was almost comical how much skew was present. This was using 720p60.

Some of it does not show in realtime so much, but that does not mean it is not there.
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Old February 22nd, 2010, 05:35 PM   #24
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Hi all:

Adam Wilt has the definitive 350 review so far and Adam really knows what he is talking about as a qualified engineer. ProVideo Coalition.com: Camera Log by Adam Wilt | Founder | Pro Cameras, HDV Camera, HD Camera, Sony, Panasonic, JVC, RED, Video Camera Reviews

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Old February 22nd, 2010, 06:27 PM   #25
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Dan, that's right, except Adam was testing a pre-production model which had some issues. I don't think we know if all the issues were addressed with the production models, such as hyper gamma and knee saturation problems, IR or far red interference common with CMOS, and lens distortion from wide to 30mm. The CA correction wasn't operating either--this is important, especially with a $1500 lens--I'm guessing Sony is on top of this for production models.

I didn't like the out of the box look color wise compared to Panasonic, particularly in red, but that should be addressable with matrix and multi-matrix in the 350.

I don't like having only one HD SDI output and having to wait longer to go in and out of thumbnail mode compared to Panasonic 2/3" cameras I'm used to.

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Old February 22nd, 2010, 07:03 PM   #26
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Originally Posted by Tim Polster View Post
David, for the record I was not comparing the two cameras. I stated "the two cameras are the best bang for the buck for what they are", a 2/3" class chip camera and a 1/2" class chip camera.
Quite true, it just seemed that the HPX500 was being overwhelmingly compared throughout the thread either with other Panasonic cameras or the EX models. The 350 was mentioned, but to me it is far and away the best direct comparison. It's also 2/3" and with 2 hours of memory is far and away the closest in price terms.

To Jeff - you may refer to the bundled Sony lens as "very low cost plasticy", but that's to belittle the results it gives. It relies on very advanced control methods to correct for much cheaper optics - dynamically controlling focus of a varifocal lens whilst zooming, if you want the details - the point is, it gives extremely good results comparable to a far more expensive lens. It also gives chromatic abberation control. Alternatively, the PMW350 is a 2/3" camera, just use any 2/3" lens you like.

All I'm saying is that it's the camera Mike should be considering as an alternative at the moment - though Panasonic may disagree! Either way, the HPX500 is possibly the last camera I'd be looking at, and surely must be about to be replaced? Low-res chips, DVCProHD (not AVC-Intra), surely something better must come along to replace it soon? NAB?
Quote:
Originally Posted by Robert Lane
Measurebators are quick to point out that like it's little brothers, the 200 and 170, the 500 uses a PAL SD chipset being up-ressed to HD but, when you combine high-quality glass with DVCPRO's 4:2:2 color there's absolutely no comparison in the quality of the output.
Well, call me a measurebator if you will, but I recently got to see the results of the trials done by the British Society of Cinematographers. (See http://www.bscine.com/evaluation09.asp and The International Association of Wildlife Film-Makers .) Mainly for top end digital cinema cameras, and a variety of 16mm and 35mm film stocks, but they threw in an EX3 and an HVX201 as wild cards.

I'd expected the EX3 and the HVX201 not to look as good as the far more expensive cameras (neither of them were) and the EX3 to be better than the HVX201 (it was) but it was the degrees of difference that surprised me. The EX3 stood up quite well against the top end cameras - and they all trounced the HVX201. It wasn't just being sharper, it was being EFFORTLESSLY sharper, more natural. OK, the HPX500 is 2/3" and better glass than the HVX201, but the conclusion must be that it was mainly the low-res pixel shifted chips that most let the HVX201 down. (The EX3 is only 1/2", and not vastly expensive glass either, remember.)

Given the choice between rolling shutter or low-res chips, I'll go for the former any day.
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Old February 22nd, 2010, 07:51 PM   #27
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David,

I agree that sophisticated optical error correction makes sub-standard optics look much better than they have a right to--the HPX500 with CAC has proven that for years with low end Canon glass. There are more to lenses than that, of course. Things like smooth zoom motors, smooth and robust mechanical bits, markings, overall build quality. If one were to put a Fujinon XA17X7.6 on a 350, that would raise the price by another $5K. That means $8K more than an HPX500/XA17X7.6.

Since high res. chips are your number one criteria, then the HPX300 and EX1 would seem to be all the camera you'd need. Yet we know there are many other parameters besides pixel count that make up image quality.

I think a side by side demo between the Panasonic and Sony models would be a great thing for the OP to do. And yes, the 500 is getting long in the tooth, but even if a new camera is shown in the price range by Panasonic at NAB, it is unlikely to deliver before the fall. Meanwhile, the 350's XDCAM EX codec has made it handicapped by codecs from much less expensive cameras possessing superior codecs--even Canon's $4K cameras have 50Mbps, 4:2:2 recording.

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Old February 22nd, 2010, 09:18 PM   #28
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Although my head is offically spinning right now, please keep the comments coming. This has been a great thread...more than I ever expected. All I wanted to do was gain a better understanding of the 500 and the alternatives. This fine group has delivered far beyond my expectations.

Despite dealers going hard to the hoop right now with great pricing, I will likely wait for NAB to make a final decision. I am comparing the 500 with the Sony 350.

Glass is less of a decision for me. The Fuji XA series seems like the right glass, even if I wanted to trade or upgrade the camera later in the year.

Many thanks for all the great posts, opinions, remarks and experiences.

Please keep them coming and I hope to meet some of you at NAB in April.
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Old February 23rd, 2010, 07:29 PM   #29
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I agree that sophisticated optical error correction makes sub-standard optics look much better than they have a right to.......
As I understand it, there is nothing sub-standard about the optics in the PMW350 kit lens. In essence it's better considered a varifocal lens than a zoom, as normally found on DSLRs. The intrinsic difference is that every time the focal length of a varifocal lens is changed, it has to be refocused - a zoom lens keeps focus as zoomed in and out. Until now, that feature has ruled out such designs for motion picture work, for obvious reasons.

What Sony seem to have achieved is overcoming the problem by dynamically changing focus as the zoom is varied, effectively simulating a zoom lens from a varifocal by electronic control - as opposed to more complicated optics.

Why bother? First reason is cost - the control system is cheaper (once developed) than the zoom optics. Second is quality - do it the traditional way and the varifocal is turned into a zoom by the use of many more elements, so many more glass-air surfaces - not good news. Keeping the optics simpler, and overcoming the focus tracking by control systems, actually means BETTER image quality. (All else equal.) Thirdly, a dynamic system should (!) be more accurate at focus tracking across the range than doing it optically.

The control systems are allowing the use of better fundamental optics, not correcting for poor optical quality.

A good analogy may be the ignition system in a petrol fuelled car. Once upon a time, it had to be kept in perfect alignment, and various mechanical methods were developed of increasing complexity to compensate timing for engine speed etc etc. They worked - more or less. Then along came electronic ignition systems. The mechanics could be kept fairly simple, the difficult bits being done by electronics. Would you trade your mechanically simple ("sub-standard"?) electronic system in for a set of points nowadays?

If there is a downside (isn't there always?) it means that the lens and camera have to be matched closely together - one has to be designed around the others needs. In the case of such a kit lens, that doesn't really matter, they're designed to be sold together. And you can always use any existing lens as an alternative if desired. It'll just cost a lot more.......
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Old February 23rd, 2010, 07:58 PM   #30
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Well, call me a measurebator if you will, but I recently got to see the results of the trials done by the British Society of Cinematographers....

I'd expected the EX3 and the HVX201 not to look as good as the far more expensive cameras (neither of them were) and the EX3 to be better than the HVX201 (it was) but it was the degrees of difference that surprised me. The EX3 stood up quite well against the top end cameras - and they all trounced the HVX201. It wasn't just being sharper, it was being EFFORTLESSLY sharper, more natural....

Given the choice between rolling shutter or low-res chips, I'll go for the former any day.
You said it, not I, but those are exactly "measurbator" statements. If your prime concerns about any camera are the pixel-count and absolute sharpness then you're only getting half the picture. (pun intended)

Putting even the new PDW350 against the "older" HPX500 is a no-contest win for the Panny. Why? Color. All XDCAM cameras (excepting the ultra-high-end) shoot the 4:2:0 color space exactly the same as HDV (albeit at a higher bitrate); DVCPRO50 and 100 (SD and HD) are 4:2:2. That may not sound like much when comparing "raw" numbers but the implications in post are huge, as I noted earlier. What do you think happens to that "0" in the XDCAM codec? Once color is deleted from the profile you can't somehow magically make it reappear in post, once it's gone, it's really gone, period.

In point of fact, the XDCAM cameras (and the JVC's recently released) are the sole reason AJA created the KiPro; a stand-alone recorder that takes the HD-SDI out of any camera and transcodes it into ProRes 4:2:2, specifically to get *get away* from the limitations of 4:2:0 - and it's also not a long-GOP format anymore (that's another animal for it's own thread to be sure). If color wasn't such a huge issue in post then AJA would not have invested millions in the development of the KiPro. That should be a huge red-flag that at it's core, there's something massively wrong with long-GOP 4:2:0 of any flavor.

In fact, Adam Wilt whose article you link to, was one of the very first people to vocally - and globally - be a detractor of the 4:2:0 profile and in his now outdated website where he made a visual comparison between all the then current codecs (DV25, DV50, DV100 DVCAM, HDV, HDCAM, etc) and showed quite distinctly how 4:2:0 falls apart. In fact he makes that very comment in his list of "CONS" about the 350 saying:

"On-board recording is only 8-bit, 4:2:0 sampling; can show compression artifacts when stressed."

Is the 500 technically outdated? Not for it's price-point; to date it still has no equal when you consider *all* it's features. Would the 350 potentially out-resolve the 500 when shooting a chart (assuming you could level the playing field with matching optics)? Quite possibly but by a margin so small it would take a technical overview to show it, not the casual observer and absolutely not in the final product to a client.

I can guarantee that real-world footage from the 500 will *look better* with the higher color gamut of DVCPRO than anything any 4:2:0 camera can provide, hands down.

But if pixel-count and absolute sharpness rule your roost, Sony will be happy to take your money! Trust me, they will - I've seen it! (laughs)
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