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Old July 27th, 2014, 04:46 PM   #1
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The AJ-SPX800E and AJ-SPX900E PAL.

Hello fellow Panasonic users. I hope i am able to pose this question here without breaking any rules (and apologies if i have) but i am desperately trying to purchase either of these model SD DVCPro50 P2 cameras as a working second hand unit. I have searched the web in depth. Plenty of the NTSC AJ-SPX800P and AJ-SPX900P units are currently listed on ebay but there appears to be an absolute drought of PAL (subscript 'E') versions...

Does anyone know why there are virtually zero on the second hand market (are they all still being used)? or maybe someone has one they want shot of that's sitting all forgotten gathering dust, even if it needs some 'maintenance time' i am willing to consider it. I am in New Zealand.

Thanking you... pete.
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Old July 28th, 2014, 06:35 PM   #2
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Re: The AJ-SPX800E and AJ-SPX900E PAL.

I think it's because DVCPro50 and DVCPro were never remotely as popular in the PAL market as in NTSC territories, and there's a very valid technical reason why that was so.

When the "DV25" codec variants first got introduced, the equipment was seen as digital islands in an analogue world. They'd record digitally, but interconnect with other equipment via A/D,D/A conversion. That still gave better results than such as BetaSP - the analogue equivalent of the time.

What that meant was that as the basic 25Mbs codec demanded only 1 chroma for every 4 luminance, the choices were either 4:1:1 or 4:2:0. With repeated analogue-digital transcoding, because of interlace, there is a lot to be said to be going 4:1:1 - all I'll say is it's good to keep each line unique.

And because at that time NTSC versions of equipment tended to come out before the PAL variant, *ALL* the DV25 codecs were 4:1:1 for NTSC - all of DVCPro, DVCam and DV. The right decision at the time.

Trouble was, it wasn't long before all digital workflows rapidly took off - and the end result then tended to be 4:2:0, be that digital broadcasting or DVD delivery. And then acquiring 4:1:1, outputting 4:2:0 is not a good way to go - the acquisition reduces by a quarter the chroma resolution horizontally, the output then again halves it vertically - effectively, the output only has 1 chroma sample for every 8 luminance!

Which is why 4:2:2 took on such a significance in NTSC territories. Less because it actually was 4:2:2 - more because it WASN'T 4:1:1, if that makes sense! AFAIK there never was an NTSC 4:2:0 acquisition format.

In PAL territories, the delay in the products arriving actually had one very, very good benefit. Whilst PAL DVCPro is 4:1:1 (as NTSC), in PAL DVCam and DV are both 4:2:0 - so they both render to such as DVD or broadcast output without any loss of chroma resolution. In other words, shooting DVCam and outputting to DVD is far more satisfactory than shooting DVCPro in the PAL world - and is half the data rate of DVCPro50 and can use much simpler decks. That's why DVCam became the main format for such as news, corporate and documentaries in the PAL world.

And for high end work - drama etc - then that tended to go to Digibeta with it's other advantages. DVCPro50 in the PAL world was seen to fit rather messily between DVCam and Digibeta.

I trialled an early P2 camera (can't remember if an 800 or 900) and whilst there was much to like about it, then the memory costs at the time gave a real problem in not being able to simply hand over media in the way of tape. And in 50Mbs mode that would be even more of a problem. Personally, I think it was a big strategic mistake on the part of Panasonic to not make them hybrid P2/DV. I think they realised that themselves (too late) and hence the hybrid tape deck on the HVX200 - but by then everybody was talking HD and that could only be recorded to the card........

And also, because the PAL versions of the AJ-SPX800E and AJ-SPX900E came later, by the time they arrived HD was starting to be seriously talked about and a lot of people then decided to put off any big equipment upgrade until HD versions came along. Put it all together and I think it gives an idea of why far less PAL variants were sold than NTSC.
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Old July 28th, 2014, 08:00 PM   #3
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Re: The AJ-SPX800E and AJ-SPX900E PAL.

Thanks for the excellent headsup on these PAL environment cameras David. It sounds as though however i am going to be having a problem finding one for sale. I am stuck with the situation in which i need the same camera as a couple of other users have and allowing the ease of being able to swap setup files between one another on a shoot for the same look and a pool of supplied P2 cards to use.... Of course HD is just around the corner when it comes to shooting for local requirements here in NZ and the SPX800E & SPX900E are standard def so it might be a case of throwing money away however there's a pile of work for the next year at least and another camera would be fantastic.

I guess i'll have to keep my eyes pealed on ebay!
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Old July 29th, 2014, 07:32 PM   #4
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Re: The AJ-SPX800E and AJ-SPX900E PAL.

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Originally Posted by Pete Bronlund View Post
Thanks for the excellent headsup on these PAL environment cameras David. It sounds as though however i am going to be having a problem finding one for sale.
A quick google came up with this in the UK - Welcome to DS Video - PANASONIC AJ-SPX900E (AJSPX900 AJ-SPX900 SPX900) DVCPR50 P2 But 12,000 incl tax for a used camera that's SD only!!! Hmmm....
Quote:
Originally Posted by Pete Bronlund View Post
I am stuck with the situation in which i need the same camera as a couple of other users have and allowing the ease of being able to swap setup files between one another on a shoot for the same look and a pool of supplied P2 cards to use....
I see exactly where you're coming from. And there's the old saying that the best camera is one that you know will make you money! :-)
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Originally Posted by Pete Bronlund View Post
Of course HD is just around the corner when it comes to shooting for local requirements here in NZ and the SPX800E & SPX900E are standard def so it might be a case of throwing money away however there's a pile of work for the next year at least and another camera would be fantastic.
And again, yes, that's the problem. It's worth bearing in mind a Sony F5 body is almost exactly the same price (new) as the SPX900E in the link above (though you'll need to spend extra on a viewfinder) - I know which is likely to have greater life into the future...... Is there any chance of acceptance of transcoding footage from that (or any HD camera) for the next year of work?
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Old July 30th, 2014, 05:20 PM   #5
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Re: The AJ-SPX800E and AJ-SPX900E PAL.

Quote:
Originally Posted by David Heath View Post
A quick google came up with this in the UK - Welcome to DS Video - PANASONIC AJ-SPX900E (AJSPX900 AJ-SPX900 SPX900) DVCPR50 P2 But 12,000 incl tax for a used camera that's SD only!!! Hmmm....
Very interesting how it is my Google(downunder) is not revealing that camera as being on offer! I have been making many searches over the last two months. I won't say anything about Google at this point.

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Originally Posted by David Heath View Post
I see exactly where you're coming from. And there's the old saying that the best camera is one that you know will make you money! :-)
Yes, and it just makes life so much easier when you are on the 'same page' so to speak with identical kit and a reliable workflow.

Quote:
Originally Posted by David Heath View Post
And again, yes, that's the problem. It's worth bearing in mind a Sony F5 body is almost exactly the same price (new) as the SPX900E in the link above (though you'll need to spend extra on a viewfinder) - I know which is likely to have greater life into the future...... Is there any chance of acceptance of transcoding footage from that (or any HD camera) for the next year of work?
Options are open but it just seems so much simpler to have the same kit, either an 800 or 900 however 12,000 quid (over NZD$20,000) for what is now a virtual end of life and almost at end of support (Panasonic certainly cannot find one for me) unit is a real fright. That is way too far outside my assumption such a camera head would cost. Meanwhile I'll keep looking, (with something other than Google?). Maybe there's a half broken unit i can buy for near to nothing and do the repairs myself (i am a technician to boot).
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Old July 30th, 2014, 07:01 PM   #6
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Re: The AJ-SPX800E and AJ-SPX900E PAL.

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Originally Posted by Pete Bronlund View Post
Maybe there's a half broken unit i can buy for near to nothing and do the repairs myself (i am a technician to boot).
The problem is still likely to be that so few were sold that that's also likely to be very rare at best.

I did wonder if a plausible route may have been to find an NTSC version and mod it, but I seem to remember that in that era the chips were fundamental to standard (unlike tube cameras, when the NTSC-PAL change was a matter of changing a couple of boards and realignment).

Out of interest, how much have you seen the NTSC variants on sale for?
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Old July 31st, 2014, 01:34 PM   #7
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Re: The AJ-SPX800E and AJ-SPX900E PAL.

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Originally Posted by David Heath View Post
The problem is still likely to be that so few were sold that that's also likely to be very rare at best.

I did wonder if a plausible route may have been to find an NTSC version and mod it, but I seem to remember that in that era the chips were fundamental to standard (unlike tube cameras, when the NTSC-PAL change was a matter of changing a couple of boards and realignment).
By my own personal experience, the optical block in the 800 and 900 (and i would assume other variants) is specific to NTSC/PAL. I have recently done a reblock service myself on a (PAL) AJ-SPX800E camera that was having disasters from a de-laminating filter wheel dropping foreign bodies of plastic dust into the optical path. During alignment checks i noted i could not make proper white shading after the initial 'looksee' and the Gamma off an eleven step grey scale was completely wrong. That's when i changed to shooting an old tube registration chart and oh dear! The central 25% circle was squashed top & bottom of scan into and oval.... I could not fathom the reason so reinstalled the old block and problem solved. A check on parts codes, it was an NTSC block i'd used and revealed a wee bit of a mix up in part code numbers.... (another story).

The entire exercise reminded me that i had not been vigilant the camera user could well have collected his unit and jumped the next flight out of New Zealand to do work overseas and who'd be 'in the gun' for the resulting interestingly weird linearity images.... ?

So, modifying an NTSC AJ-800/900P into a PAL is off the options in this case. Those 3 CCD sensors are specific.

Quote:
Originally Posted by David Heath View Post
Out of interest, how much have you seen the NTSC variants on sale for?
The past two weeks various sets on ebay.

Panasonic-DVCPRO-AJ-SPX800P AJ-SPX900P | eBay

I am trying to find something in Australia. There were quite a few E series units sold there apparently. I called one of the more wellknown hire places but all his kits are out for the next few months and warned me that much of what is being shot on such kit is for the presentation via Internet and specifically the Producers prefer standard def cameras as it is good enough!
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