Arab Media Group's senior cameraman Abbas Dalal takes the new Panasonic AJHPX3000 ENG camera for a road test.
In a bid to follow through with its commitment to adopting a tapeless workflow and corresponding infrastructure and kit at its new facility, Dubai-based media powerhouse Arab Media Group recently opted for Panasonic's new high-end AJHPX3000 ENG camera.
AMG's senior cameraman Abbas Dalal who has had the chance to shoot various programmes in different formats with the camera over the last month, hails the AJ-HPX3000 as a "revolutionary offering that will enable our production team to create quality in-house programmes while also ensuring that we can stick to our tapeless workflow efficiently".
The Panasonic AJ-HPX3000 is a 1080p 10-bit camcorder that shoots 4:2:2 full-raster 1920 x 1080.
"This camera can shoot in almost all the standard formats you can think of - DV, DVC Pro HD, AVC Intra 50 Mbps and more importantly, AVC Intra 100," says Dalal.
"Also, you can get all the looks you want, whether it is SD, HD or film. The camera has five P2 slots and if each of these is fitted with the 32GB P2 card, we can get about three hours of shooting time at AVC-Intra 100, which is the maximum resolution. You'd get a lot more capacity on the P2 cards if you went with a lower resolution. For instance, with AVC Intra 50 Mbps which is enough for news-gathering or smaller programmes, you can shoot for much longer," explains Dalal.
The AVC-Intra 10-bit image acquisition is one of the most impressive features of this camera. With the inclusion of the H.264-based AVC-Intra in this camcorder as a standard, the HPX3000 gives crisper images even with traditional formats. More importantly, AVC-Intra 10-bit offers good resistance to banding and colour shifts, explains the cameraman.
Another significant feature of this camera is its 2.2-megapixel, 2/3inch CCD that helps deliver crisp images. "It is very clear and you can see every detail in each picture. That is a very good thing but you need to be more careful while shooting because mistakes become more evident," explains Abbas.
Panasonic has also implemented a Chromatic Aberration Compensation (CAC) feature in this camera, which means lens correction is undertaken based on the profiles of some lenses. So far, only eight CAC lenses from Canon and Fujinon are supported but Panasonic is extending its support to a larger range soon.
The HPX3000 can output 1080i, 720p, and 480i through several external outputs. The rear video out is controlled externally via a slide switch for HD-SDI, SD-SDI, and VBS (composite) signals. There is also a dedicated HD-SDI/SD-SDI output on the side of the camera in addition to a monitor out, which is useful for affixing a standard-definition reference.
This camera supports only 1080i at full 1920 x 1080 resolution. It does not support 720p capture or recording SD at 25Mbps. Standard definition is implemented at 50Mbps 4:2:2.
Footage on the P2 cards can be downloaded to an external storage using the USB 2.0 connection. Downloading images is much faster than on previous cameras, endorses Abbas.
One disadvantage on the field is that it consumes a lot of power when the LCD screen is working so users are advised to take additional batteries with them on a shoot. Also the AJ-HPX3000 does not shoot at variable frame rates like the Varicam although it does provide a range of progressive and interlaced recording formats including 1080-line 24p, 25p, 30p, 50i, 24p etc, says Abbas.
"Having slo-mo on this like on the Varicam would have been ideal," explains Abbas. Nevertheless, this camera brings a lot of benefits to the tapeless environment. Previously, we used to shoot on tape. In that case, ingest has to be in real time and thus is very time consuming. Here, you merely have to drag the files into the server."
Secondly, Abbas says this camera does not slag when shooting. "Moving shots and shocks don't affect the camera. Plus shooting in the heat has not been a problem with this camera."
All in all, the Panasonic AJ-HPX3000 produces compelling images and sees the first commercial implementation of AVC-Intra in a broadcast camcorder. With 10-bit recording available at competitive pricing, the AJ-HPX3000 has much in its favour.