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“Cheapskates”: Squeezing Every Last Dollar

I don’t think I’ve used the term since I was seven or eight years old, but it was the word that Fergal Ringrose, my editorial counterpart in Europe, decided to use in place of a more derogatory term in an analysis piece I did for The IBC Daily, which he edits in addition to TVB Europe.
The word generated a fair amount of joking when the piece hit the show floor a few days into the IBC. The subject matter of the piece did not: High-def cameras with SD lenses.

When it comes to HD acquisition, many broadcasters have delayed the purchase of full-sized HD camcorders because of the price. Now, with the introduction of full-sized HD camcorders in the $25,000 price range from both Grass Valley (Infinity) and Sony (XDCAM HD), HD is now within the reach of many of our more price conscious brethren.

“But being the cheap bastards that many broadcasters are, the idea of squeezing every last euro, pound or dollar from current equipment is paramount.”

That’s what I originally wrote for The Daily. Regardless of my choice of words, the question remains... Why not use your current SD lenses with the new HD camcorders?

It’s more than acceptable to mount an SD lens on an HD camcorder. Moving from SD to HD will give you that initial bump in quality that you’re expecting... even with an SD lens and even with SD downconversion because of HD oversampling. The “its paid for and it works” philosophy that many broadcasters embrace is perfectly valid. But if you’re thinking about doing this, there are some caveats to be aware of.

Using a standard definition lens on Grass Valley’s 2/3-inch 3-CCD Infinity camcorder is fairly simple. Infinity’s B4 lens mount will work with broadcast SD B4 mount lenses.
Sony’s XDCAM HD is slightly more complex. Surprisingly, the $25,000 price includes an OEM lens from Canon (the KH19x6.7KAS which is similar to the remote controlled KH19x6.7KTS used on Sony’s 1/2-inch HDC-X300 box camera).

Without the lens, XDCAM HD will probably be around $3,000 less, according to my sources.

But to use XDCAM HD’s 1/2-inch 3-CCD optics with a 2/3-inch SD lens will require the use of a 2/3-inch lens adapter (which Sony sells). Once the adapter is in place, any B4 lens can be used as long as the lens electronics are packaged in a 12-pin pigtail (meaning that lenses with pins on the camera mount side will not work).

So what happens if you use an SD lens instead of an HD lens?
You’ll probably experience less corner resolution and increased aberration by using an SD lens instead of an HD lens. It would be a good idea to test your existing SD lens with your new HD camcorder to verify acceptability. Renting an Infinity or XDCAM HD and doing some tests for a day or two with your SD lenses might be money well spent for those unaccustomed to HD.

For those moving from SD 2/3-inch cameras to XDCAM HD or any camera with smaller sensors, be aware that you’ve got some other issues to deal with (see Mark Schubin’s Final Thought on page 58).

Additionally, using the 2/3-inch lens adapter with XDCAM HD will also change the lens’ dynamics. Your SD lens will not go as wide, but will gain in tightness, as the lens will be further away from the optical block (making a 18x7.6 act like a 18x9). There will also be a loss in sensitivity.

If you’re thinking about using your SD lenses with your new Infinity or XDCAM HD camcorders—once they become available—there’s one thing you can do to ensure that your getting the best possible image: Send your lens in for servicing. A good cleaning and lubrication will ensure the best pictures while using an SD lens... until you budget for real HD glass and improve your image quality even further... which is, after all, the goal.

Michael Silbergleid is the editor and associate publisher of Television Broadcast.

He can be reached at