Pro Video Camera Roundup from NAB 2008 | B&H Photo Video Pro Audio
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Pro Video Camera Roundup from NAB 2008

By Ron Seifried

As analog videotape is added to the endangered species list, solid state recoding was pushed to the forefront at NAB 2008. Old-school users will be relieved to learn that more companies are moving toward the few tapeless acquisition formats available and abandoning videotape altogether on some camera lines. This makes ingesting to post-production suites much easier, while maintaining optimal quality of the footage captured. Here is a very brief run-through of some of the announcements from this year’s convention.

Sony PMW-EX3
The Sony PMW-EX3 is an EX1 with improved features and different ergonomics

Even though it has only been shipping for just a few months, the Sony PMW-EX1 has become an extremely popular camera in the sub-$10k range. The new PMW-EX3 ($13,000) incorporates all of the features of the EX1, but now includes an interchangeable lens system and a new electronic viewfinder; Genlock and SMPTE timecode support (input and output); and is now shoulder-mountable. Available with the removable version of the EX1’s Fujinon 14 x lenses, the EX3 can mount either ˝" or 2/3" adapters utilizing a newly designed wide-mouth lens mount. The electronic viewfinder (EVF) is a major improvement that has sophisticated magnification, a larger image display, and can easily adjust to whatever angle at which you are shooting. Additional connectors include HD-SDI, BNC composite, and S-video ports (shipping by this Fall). Sony also announced a mountable HDD unit with SxS “connector” on a thin cable, and 32GB SxS card that will boost recording times for both the EX1 and EX3, to ship later this year.

Announced last January and publicly shown at NAB, Sony showed off the F35, a 1920 x 1080p HD CineAlta camera with a single 35mm CCD image sensor, recording 10bit 4:4:4 at variable frame rates of 1-50fps. It can record to dockable HDCAM SR tape recorders. Similar to the F23, the F35 will include over- and under-cranking, very similar ergonomics, and it will utilize 35mm PL-mount lenses. Sony also demonstrated the Sony PDW-700, the new XDCAM that uses three 2.3" progressive CCD’s with 4:2:2 sampling, and can record to both 1080 and 720 HD resolutions. Both models are slated to ship later this year.

Canon XL-H1S
Based on the earlier XL-H1, the XL-H1S incorporates a host of new features.

Just before the NAB show started, Canon announced two new updates to the previous XL-H1 HDV models. Both new cameras incorporate the genuine Canon XL interchangeable lens system; an updated Canon 20x HD Video Lens with three independent manual adjustment rings (focus, zoom and iris); three 1/3-inch, 1.67-Megapixel CCD Image Sensors; Canon’s proprietary DIGIC DVII HD Image Processor; and a six-pin IEEE 1394 terminal. The iris is also now adjustable in 1/16-stop increments rather than the previous 1/4-stop, and finer adjustment capabilities now appear in the gain, white balance, selective-color noise reduction, and global color controls.

The major difference between the shoulder-mount XL-H1S ($8,999) and the XL-H1A ($5,999) is that the XL-H1S comes with HD-SDI and SD-SDI output with embedded audio and timecode, providing uncompressed 1.485 Gbps signal; SMPTE Time Code input and output terminals; and a Genlock output terminal for multi-camera shooting situations. The XL-H1S and XL-H1A will be shipping this summer.

Panasonic AG-HPX170
Panasonic AG-HPX170

Panasonic unveiled the AG-HPX170, a P2 HD handheld camera that records to 1080i or 720p HD and SD modes. The HPX170 includes 3 1/3" 16:9 CCD’s, 14-bit A/D conversion with 19 bit processing, a wide 28mm 13x zoom Leica Lens with 2 P2 slots that can use cards up to 32GB (for 64 continuous minutes of DVCPRO HD), or the upcoming 64GB cards that can be hot-swapped without interrupting recording time. At 4.2 lbs with attached HD-SDI connector, the AG-HPX170 will ship this fall. No pricing information is available at press time.

Panasonic AG-HMC150
Panasonic AG-HMC150

Announced last February, Panasonic also showcased the AG-HMC150, an AVCHD handheld camera that can record up to 12 hours of 1440x1080 HD content on one 32GB SD card. The AG-HMC150 includes native 16:9 progressive 1/3" 3-CCD imagers, and records to MPEG-4 AVC/H.264 encoding at four different modes: PH (average 21 Mbps/Max 24Mbps), HA mode (approx.17 Mbps), HG mode (approx.13 Mbps) and HE mode (approx. 6 Mbps). The HMC150 will be available this fall at a suggested list price under $4,500.


JVC updated their GY-HD200 with the new GY-HD200UB ($5,995), which includes real-time out for 1080i and 720p HD via Firewire. Current users who purchased the GY-HD200 after 2/1/08 can send their models back to JVC’s factory for this upgrade. JVC also announced the MR-HD200U, a solid state recorder that mounts to any of the ProHD 200 series. Recording on SDHC solid state memory, a single 16GB card can hold up to 1.6 hours in 720p or 1.2 hours in 1080i modes. The MR-HD200U also includes a built-in hard drive for up to 10 hours of QuickTime or MPEG2 formats.

We cannot leave the world of cameras without seeing what was coming out of the Red camp this year. No longer considered a vaporware company with the long-awaited release of the Red One last summer, Red has become a serious player in the digital acquisition world. Everywhere you strolled at NAB, people were talking about what number Red One they had, what extra accessories can be had for this industry-changing cam, and how to set up 2K work flows. Can you believe that 2K has become so passé? Now it’s time to talk about 3K and 5K work flows.

The long-awaited Scarlett was finally unveiled, although one had to wait in line for up to 40 minutes to view the prototype. This compact 3K-resolution camera includes a new Mysterium X sensor; 1-120fps recording; up to 100MBs Redcode Raw and RGB recording to compact flash; 4.8" LCD; 8x T2.8 Red Zoom lens with full auto or manual shooting modes, and HDMI and HD-SDI connectors—all for $3000. Yes, that’s right, $3k!

Red also surprised the world with the new Epic, a 5K-resolution camera for $40,000. The Epic has a full-frame S35mm new Mysterium X sensor that can record up to 100fps to Redflash; HD-SDI, 2 XLR audio inputs and HDMI; Wi-Fi control; Firewire 800 and USB 2.0 in a 6-lb aluminum body with hybrid stainless PL mount and fully-upgradeable sensor, body, boards, and mount. Both models are expected to ship in early 2009.

Keep an eye out for future Pro Video Newsletters, when we will review some of these models and recap the long line of accessories that were announced at NAB including supports, solid state memory, lighting, and audio tools.

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