WFTV Bolsters News Ops With Panasonic HPX600s

Maria Aleli Ruiz, WFTV news photographer, uses Panasonic’s AG-HPX600 P2 HD camcorder to cover breaking news.

ORLANDO, FLA.—WFTV is owned by Cox Media Group and is the ABC affiliate for Orlando and central Florida. The station has recently equipped its news team with eight Panasonic AG-HPX600 P2 HD shoulder- mount camcorders and two more are on the way. These new models replaced AJSPX800 camcorders, which introduced us to solid-state P2 recording and served us well for nearly a decade.

The rest of our two dozen photographers currently shoot with AJ-HPX2000 P2 HD 2/3-inch camcorders, and we plan ultimately to switch out these models with the more contemporary HPX600.

We locally produce six hours of news programming each day—42 hours each week. In addition, we produce several weekly half hour shows. The station was among the first in the country to convert its ENG operations to P2, and has been shooting news in P2 for more than seven years.

Our news photographers really appreciate the features of the AG-HPX600, especially its ability to use interchangeable lenses, its superior mobility and its low weight of only 6.2 pounds. The camera’s very low power consumption—only 18 Watts—is also a big plus in terms of battery life between charges.

The real impetus for our Panasonic HPX600 purchase was the phasing-out of the SPX800s (these are standard-definition camcorders), coupled with our desire to improve picture quality. We also felt that it was the right time to get ready for full high-definition news. (We currently shoot daily news content in 16:9 SD, but occasionally shoot some specials in high definition.)

When we started looking for 2/3-inch P2 HD camcorders, it seemed that the HPX600 would position us well for HD news operations and future growth. The camera’s obsolescence- proof design also ensures that we’ll be able to upgrade our units as new functionality becomes available; the ability to record on the new microP2 media is a good example of that.

The camcorder’s unprecedented flexibility is, I believe, pivotal at a time when HD editing and HD transmission workflows haven’t fully emerged. Having worked with P2 for several years, we’re accustomed to producing a high volume of content under tight deadlines, and we believe we’ll continue to do that with the HPX600s.

We’ve been shooting with the HPX600s for several months, and these camcorders are performing very well—notably so during our continuous coverage of the George Zimmerman trial.

In addition to the camera’s light weight and extended battery life, our news photographers have also commented about the AG-CVF10 color viewfinder on the new cameras and how it’s helped them improve quality control while working out in the field. Another feature that’s drawn praise is the camcorder’s user interface which allows easy access to commonly used features.

All in all, we’re pleased with our new HPX600s and look forward to adding more in the not too distant future.

Dave Sirak is Cox Media Group’s director of news technology and has been with Cox for more than 14 years. He may be contacted

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