Panasonic's unique camera

I’m into doing unique things. Like running marathons, 13 miles up the Barr Trail on Pikes Peak and then 13 miles back down in one day. Or, running across all but one of the burrow bridges in New York City. Or, finding the very beginning of the Avenue of the Americas.

Okay, the last unique thing I did was practically an accident, but I did discover the beginning of the famous NYC street Avenue of the Americas. Have you ever been to the beginning of a street — the absolute starting point? Well, now I have. I stumbled upon 2 Avenue of the Americas, the location of the Tribeca Grand Hotel and the 2009 Panasonic pre-NAB press conference.

At the press conference, Panasonic unveiled what it claims to be the world’s first affordable 10-bit, 4:2:2 professional HD camcorder, featuring individual frame AVC-Intra recording, native 2.2-megapixel imagers and variable frame rates.

The HPX300 imager incorporates advanced 1/3in 2.2-megapixel 3-MOS technology providing full native resolution HD images. With a redesigned optical block and a high-precision prism bonding technology, these advanced 3-MOS imagers provide exceptional image quality while minimizing flare and chromatic aberration. A new 20-bit DSP further enhances the HPX300’s image performance. The camera even comes with a five-year warranty program (one year, plus four additional years with registration).

“The HPX300 establishes a new benchmark for performance within this price range,” said Robert Harris, vice president, Panasonic Broadcast. “It not only captures full native 1920 x 1080 HD resolution, but it allows professionals to record at a quality level that no other camcorder in this price range can equal. Without the compromise of 8-bit, long GOP, 4:2:0 recording, the HPX300 provides master-quality, 10-bit, 4:2:2 individual frame capture using our award-winning AVC-Intra codec. Video professionals will immediately realize that this camera is in a field of its own.”

Delivering the impressive quality of AVC-Intra 100 and AVC-Intra 50, the HPX300 also records individual frame images in 100Mb/s DVCPRO HD and in SD in DVCPRO50, DVCPRO and DV. The AVC-Intra 100 and 50 codecs provide shooters with a choice of HD video formats: 1080/59.94i, 1080/29.97P and 1080/23.98P (native 24p/30p), and 720P with variable frames in 23.98pN, 29.97pN and 59.94P. In DVCPRO HD, the camcorder records 1080/59.94i, 1080/29.97P, 1080/23.98P, 1080/23.98pA, 720/59.94P, 720/29.97P, 720/29.97pN and 720/23.98pN. In DVCPRO50/25 and DV, it records 480/59.94i, 480/29.97p, 480/23.98p and 480/23.98pA.

The 1080P and 480P signals are recorded with 2:3 pull down (23.98p) or 2:3:3:2 advanced mode (23.98pA). The camera also supports 1080/23.98PsF output (via HD-SDI) for use in high-end movie production. The output of the camera can be set for downconversion or crossconversion with letterbox, 4:3 crop or squeeze.

The HPX300’s interchangeable lens design gives video pros the flexibility to use a wide range of broadcast and production HD lenses. The camera is equipped with numerous features including Chromatic Aberration Compensation (CAC) to maximize lens performance, built-in scan reverse for use with film lenses, a Dynamic Range Stretch (DRS) function to help compensate for wide variations in lighting, a waveform and vector scope display, and two focus assist functions — a picture expanding function and a focus bar.

It's hard to effectively evaluate a camera’s performance in a press conference, but to my eyes, this camera looks really good. Plus, Panasonic engineers seem to have thought about everything. In the photo, you’ll see that all of the controls and adjustments are on the left side of the camera — no more flipping a camera back and forth to setup a feature or make an adjustment. And at $10K, what’s not to like?

Check out Panasonic at NAB booths C3712 and C3327.