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Panasonic Aims for Price 'Sweet Spot'

Anticipating increased demand for lower-cost products that yield high quality, Panasonic will highlight its 2009 NAB Show exhibit with the introduction of a new low-cost, professional-grade P2 camcorder.

The AJ-HPX300, which includes 10-bit, 4:2:2 image processing and exchangeable lenses, became available last month for $10,700. The AJ-HPX300 imager incorporates advanced 1/3-inch 2.2-megapixel 3-MOS technology to acquire full native resolution HD images. The advanced 3-MOS imagers provide high image quality while minimizing any flare or chromatic aberration. Image performance has also been enhanced by a new 20-bit digital signal processor.


Panasonic officials said the price and high-end features of AJ-HPX300 set a new "benchmark" for professional cameras. "That price range really is the 'sweet spot' for a lot different applications," said Joe Facchini, Panasonic Broadcast's director of marketing.

Panasonic AJ-HPX300 Facchini said the camera's newly developed 3-MOS imager "combines the resolution of a 2.2 megapixel imager without any loss of sensitivity. It's as sensitive as other much lower density 1/3 imagers out there. That is a significant development in a camera this size."

The camera uses AVC-Intra 100 and AVC-Intra 50 compression and also records individual frame images in 100 Mbps DVCPRO HD and in SD DVCPRO50, DVCPRO and DV. It records the plethora of both 1080i and 720 frame rates and also supports 1080p.

The AJ-HPX300 also features variable frame rate for under- and overcranking, and is equipped with 2 P2 card slots as well as an SD memory card slot for saving or loading scene files and user settings or proxy data (an optional AJ-YAX800G Proxy board is required). It also has advanced gamma functions offering six shooting scenarios, including Cine-Like Gamma modes found on the Panasonic Varicam.

The AJ-HPX300's interchangeable lens design allows professionals to use a wide range of broadcast and production HD lenses. The camera can also be configured as a studio camera and is equipped with a remote control terminal for use with the optional AJ-RC10G Remote Control Unit and compatible studio remote control systems. Panasonic plans to release a customized studio configuration system for the AJ-HPX300 for less than $10,000, later this year.

The 8-pound camera consumes only 18 watts and features a widescreen 1,226,000-dot LCOS color viewfinder and a widescreen 921,000-dot 3.2-inch LCD color monitor.

According to Panasonic Broadcast President John Baisley, NBC-U O&Os, which are standardizing on P2 HD for ENG, have already placed "significant orders" for the AJ-HPX-300.

Panasonic announced earlier this year that all of NBC Universal's owned and operated stations as well as its cable properties, including CNBC, will standardize on the P2 HD solid-state format for electric newsgathering. The 25-member station group also includes Telemundo Spanish-language stations.


Other new products in the Panasonic lineup at NAB this year include several new monitors, including the BT-LH1710 17-inch LCD production monitor, a successor to the BT-LH1700W. Also new is the NT-LH2550 25-5-inch HD LCD production monitor, featuring a full 1920x1200-pixel In-Plan Switching Panel, and incorporating a new lightweight slim-frame, space saving design.

In the P2 range, the new AJ-HRW10 P2 Rapid Writer portable workflow tool, features two 3.5-inch removable hard drives and a built-in AJ-PCD35 five-slot P2 memory drive. Also appearing in the Panasonic booth is the AJ-PCD35, a new five-slot P2 solid-state memory drive with a PCI Express (PCIe) interface.

The new 10-bit 4:2:2 AG-HPG20 P2 Portable recorder/player features AVC-Intra capability, providing a bridge to higher recording quality or tapeless workflow for older HD-SDI equipped cameras, according to the company.

Panasonic is also expanding its Professional AVCCAM line of solid-state HD products with the introductions of the AG-HMR10 handheld battery-operated field recorder/player and the AG-HCK10 compact, multi-purpose camera head. A new update for the Panasonic free AVCHD transcoder will also be highlighted at the show. Version 2.1 allows AVCCAM users to edit AVCHD clips on nonlinear editors that support both DVCPRO HD P2 files and standard definition DV-AVI.

A new color viewfinder will also be introduced. The AJ-CVF100G color viewfinder is designed for high-end P2 HD camcorders and high-end P2 HD camcorders, including the P2 Varicam series.

Speaking of Varicam, Panasonic also announced that the Discovery Channel has approved the use of Panasonic's HPX3700, P2 HD Varicams, HPX 2700, and HPX3000 P2 HD cameras for use in all tiers of Discovery Channel productions. HPX500 shouldermount camcorders and HPX170 handheld cameras have also been approved for use in "a wide range" of Discovery productions.

According to Baisley, more than half of the approximately 100,000 P2 units shipped since its introduction in 2004 have been U.S. customers. More than 330 TV stations have adopted the P2 format.

Tom has covered the broadcast technology market for the past 25 years, including three years handling member communications for the National Association of Broadcasters followed by a year as editor of Video Technology News and DTV Business executive newsletters for Phillips Publishing. In 1999 he launched for internet B2B portal Verticalnet. He is also a charter member of the CTA's Academy of Digital TV Pioneers. Since 2001, he has been editor-in-chief of TV Tech (, the leading source of news and information on broadcast and related media technology and is a frequent contributor and moderator to the brand’s Tech Leadership events.