Panasonic and Sony expand camera lines

At the NAB show it was apparent that both Panasonic’s solid-state P2 recording system and Sony’s XDCAM family of optical disc and solid-state SXS format units are finding customers that are shooting both SD and HD with the same equipment.

At each company’s respective press conferences both introduced new customers and showed new cameras that target the high end and the low end of the production spectrum. At the Sony event, Miss Universe, who happens to be from Japan, helped introduce its new PMW-EX3 solid-state camcorder.

In the area of digital cinematography, Panasonic announced a new solid-state version of its VariCam HD camera, which heretofore captured images on tape using the DVCPRO HD codec. The company showed new models, the VariCam 3700 (model AJ-HPX3700) and VariCam 2700 (model AJ-HPX2700) P2 HD camcorders.

The new 2/3in P2 HD models feature 10-bit 4:2:2 AVC-Intra 100 recording; variable frame rates in one-frame increments; HD-SDI output of 23.98PsF/24PsF; and a multigamma function including Film-Rec for the prized VariCam look, which closely matches the latitude of film stocks.

The VariCam 2700 offers the ability to capture 1080 and 720 images with 10-bit/4:2:2 sampling. The camera also supports AVC-Intra 50 compression as well as the established DVCPRO HD codec. The VariCam 2700 offers intuitive operation with advanced gamma setting, variable frame rates (from 1 fps to 60 fps in 720p mode), as well as two separate HD-SDI outputs.

The VariCam 3700 provides full native 1920 x 1080-pixel acquisition, also with 10-bit/4:2:2 sampling. The camera’s 2/3in 2.2 megapixel CCDs can provide a 4:4:4 RGB dual-link output for visual effects, even while recording. The camera also offers switchable codecs at AVC-Intra 100, 50 and DVCPRO HD, and it’s equipped with three HD-SDI outputs (dual-link plus monitor).

Both the VariCam 3700 and VariCam 2700 are switchable between 59.94Hz and 50Hz recording. Five P2 card slots allow continuous recording, card selection, hot swapping, loop rec, pre-rec, interval rec and one-shot recording. With five 32GB P2 cards installed, operators can record up to 200 minutes in AVC-Intra 100 at 1080/24p, 400 minutes in AVC-Intra 100 at 720/24p, 320 minutes in other AVC-Intra 50 formats, and 160 minutes in other AVC-Intra 100 or DVCPRO HD formats.

At the other end of the shooting spectum, Panasonic also unveiled its new AG-HPX170 solid-state P2 HD handheld camcorder in a lightweight 4.2lb unit

Like its HPX200 predecessor, the two-slot HPX170 is a 1080p (also 1080i and 720p) camcorder with 1/3in 16:9 3-CCDs, 14-bit A/D conversion and 19-bit processing. It includes a standard 13X Leica Dicomar zoom lens with a 28mm wide-angle setting. The camera also provides auto or manual focus and iris.

The multiformat camera records in 20 HD and SD formats and 16:9/4:3 aspect ratios. The HPX170 offers a 20-step frame rate selection in 720p mode for variable-speed shooting in the 12fps to 60fps range to acquire fast- or slow-motion in-camera effects. For added creative flexibility, users can select from a variety of advanced gamma functions and settings, including a CineGamma mode.

With its two P2 card slots, users can record up to 64 minutes using 32GB cards. Record times for all of Panasonic’s cameras will double with the release of the company’s 64GB P2 card later this year.

Sony continues to expand its XDCAM EX family of solid-state cameras with the new PMW-EX3 camcorder, the PMW-EX30 deck, and the PHU-60K professional hard-disk unit. The company also showed its new F35 digital cinematography camera.

Offering 1920 x 1080 image quality without spatial offsetting, the PMW-EX3 camcorder features similar functionality to the PMW-EX1, but also allows users to change lenses. The camcorder features genlock and time code I/O for multicamera operation.

The PMW-EX30 recorder/player is 1080i/720P switchable and features an HDMI digital connection for use with an external monitor. It offers HD-SDI I/O, making it ideal for recording live HD content, as well as dubbing to other formats. The deck can also be used as an SxS PRO card reader/writer, and for feeding content to existing HD and/or SD nonlinear editing systems.

The PHU-60K hard-disk unit is a 1.8in, 60GB external storage unit with an USB 2.0 interface. Users get record times of 200 minutes in 35Mb/s HQ (high-quality) mode and 260 minutes in 25Mb/s SP (standard play) mode. The PHU-60K can be mounted to the camera and functions like an SxS PRO card, with thumbnail views available on the LCD panel of the PMW-EX1 or PMW-EX3 camcorders or PMW-EX30 deck.

A new “dumping” system is used to protect the HDD from dropping it (which has been known to cause data lose on other systems), and buffer memory is used to allow recording immediately after powering on. Also, a salvage function enables restoration of content damaged by battery/cable disconnection or accidental powering down during recording.

A 3-D G sensor and the buffer memory allow for stable recording. When the G sensor detects that the unit is being dropped, the head of the HDD is immediately parked to protect the HDD. The content is temporarily stored in the buffer memory and then restored in the HDD when it is operating again. Approximately 12 hours of continuous operation are possible on a small size BP-U30 battery.

Sony also unveiled a 32GB version of the SxS PRO solid-state memory card, which uses the ExpressCard configuration, which will be available later this year.

View Sony’s TriMaster BVM-L230 at NAB2008.