Company: Panasonic Broadcast
Pros: Supports a wide range of HD formats. Captures rich, naturalistic colours. Good lens.
Cons: Better for filmmakers than studio pros. Poor performance in low-light conditions
This model was reviewed as part of our group test of HD camcorders.
When we last looked at Panasonic’s AG-HVX200, its shooting flexibility greatly impressed us, but the lack of editing support for DVCPRO HD recorded to P2 card rather limited its usage. A year on, the format is more widely supported – including the Premiere Pro CS3-based editing rig we tested on – and MXF files have become the industry standard.
The AG-HVX200 is based around three 1/3in CCDs, although the resolution is quite low at 510,000 pixels each. These 960-x-540 sensors can’t make up HD resolutions without pixel shifting. The fixed lens is from Leica Dicomar, offering two rings for zoom and focus and an aperture dial.
Like most HD camcorders, the Panasonic can also shoot SD. There’s a standard MiniDV transport for this, with DVCPRO50 the recording format. But the Panasonic’s party piece is its ability to support an array of HD formats, which can only be recorded to P2. You can choose between 1080/50i or 25p, but in 720p mode you can record at 50p, then create a Scene preset with a frame rate from 12 to 50. You can also add Synchro Scan from 1/25th to 1/250th of a second to prevent flicker when recording monitors. All of these DVCPRO HD formats are recorded at 100Mbits/sec with 4:2:2 colour.
In daylight conditions, it produced rich, naturalistic colours, but the image was very dark in our low-light test. Areas of high contrast were very sharp, but most colour information was lost. This model needs good light to excel.
Editing support has improved in the last year, but the Panasonic AG-HVX200 is still a bit of an enigma. Much of what made the camcorder unique is now also in Sony’s PWM-EX1. The Panasonic’s price has dropped, but it’s still more a filmmaker’s tool. Sony’s HVR-Z7E would be better for general creative studio use – or Canon’s XH-A1 if you’re on a budget.