Pro video blog…Produced by Philip Johnston DoP/Editor

pana-hpx301a-blue1QUOTE JAUME “If you compare ANY OTHER 1/3″ sensor camcorder you will realize that HPX301 is less noisy and far sharper (thanks to the full HD sensor).”

When I review a camcorder I also compare the camera against a Sony EX-3. Why ? The Ex-3 performs great at 9dB the maximum noise I will personally accept and is in the £7K sweet spot the watershed between professional affordability and camcorders that need a mortgage just to buy the lenses… Yes the Sony is 1/2″ but does that not tell you something.

In my opinion Panasonic have produced a camcorder to knock the Sony EX-3 off the number one slot in the £7K price bracket and by all accounts the HPX-301 has everything the EX-3 has and a lot more… you nearly had it in fact you reduced the P2 cards by two thirds kicking Sony’s SxS cards ‘off the pitch’ but for one major miscalculation…you crammed far too many pixels onto the 1/3″ chips causing excessive noise which is exacerbated if you switch on the gain. In my 27 years as a cameraman I have never seen this phenomenon “Dancing black dots” in the shadows which you can only see on a 42″ LCD/plasma 1920 x 1080 screen. NOTE. Web presentations even in HD do not show this as there is not enough resolution.

I am a stickler for camera noise, as we all know if a camera performs well at 6-9dB you have a camera worth it’s weight in gold.

Sony decided that although the EX range was cheaper and could potentially affect the upper level pro camcorder market they were not going to compromise on chip noise and picture quality a very good philosophy and has paid off.

Panasonic on the other hand did not want to compromise the dearer 2/3″ camcorders so they took a fatal decision by using 1/3″ chips into the body of an amazing camcorder, this should be the entry level gold star camcorder of all time but unacceptable noise at 6-9dB in all HD modes cripples this otherwise fantastic camcorder. 

I dispair Jaume you talk about 1/3″ sensor camcorders but I bet you have not compared the 301 against your very own 151 well surprise, surprise I have, and it kicks the pants off the 301 at 9dB !

Panasonic were thinking of using the 151 chipset for the 301 but decided it would not have enough resolution, fair play, but this means you also know how good the 151 performs if you even considered this. I can’t quite get my head round a company who produces a camcorder for £3K (151 AVCAM) then designs a world beating full featured P2 camcorder (HPX-301) for £7K that has a SN ratio of 47dB.

Don’t bring out an all singing all dancing camcorder if the most important feature… it’s video performance needs to be compromised in the fear of costing sales to your far superior P2 2/3″ range, I have seen this strategy time and time again, the spanner in the works just in case it costs sales. The spanner could have been anything else…but the picture…the most important part of the camera…what else can I say…once again Panasonic have been let down by a poor design decision that could cost this fantastic camcorder sales and credibility amongst the people who judge you the severest…the cameramen and women who spend their hard earned cash to use your fantastic HD video products.

Remember not everything ends up in HD in fact 99% of my work ends up in SD DVD. You do not see any noise in SD mode. In HD mode the noise is very slight if you stick to -3, 0dB and will be helped when Panasonic come back with their new camera settings.

I would like to thank Jaume for replying to my blog… if it proves one thing good old Panasonic are listening and that’s a big thumbs up for them.


Having been working in the video business since 1988 I have amassed a great amount of knowledge of both the kit and production values over the last 30 years.

8 thoughts on “Reply to Panasonic

  1. Hi

    I have place an order for this camera as it replace my old
    DVC-200 but then i have seen your site and i have cancel my order , and now i what for your update as if this is a problem that will be fix as the answer you have get from Panasonic are not as i have expect they say that as this camera cost so little you can’t expect that this will be without flaws still if i will spend abut 80 thousand Shekel(Israeli currency) on a camera i don’t what it to be with a bug like this that you can’t work it.

    so update me ASAP after you will get an answer from Panasonic as if this will be fix and how
    so that i will know if to order this camera or to get the hvx500


  2. Tamir if you have the option for going for an HPX-500 go for it, the 2/3″ chipset will always blow a 1/3″ out of the water. The 500 is a great camcorder you will not be disappointed. Please remember you will need to buy a lens for this camera but the P2 “E” cards are now far cheaper.

  3. HI

    thanks for your quick answer.
    i didn’t want to buy the Hvx-500 not because of the price as i have get it as low as i will get the hvx-301 maybe a bit more as the local supplier has a good deal on it but it has a few problems that I think was solved in the HVX-301 as for a color viewfinder
    a better LCD screen and it support the new AVC-Intra Codec
    today i still work on SD and all my end product is still a normal DVD 4.7Gb i want to move to HD but still it will take time , in any case i what to invest in a good camera that will serve me for at least 5 years so i don’t what to buy today an old model that will be unsupported by the panasonic in a few years.
    this is the only reason that i didn’t what to buy the HVX-500 and in any case i didn’t have the time to work with it yet the last camera that i have work with was HVX-200
    and as always all my goal was to get a good picture with panasonic camera that will be
    near to the quality of Beta_sp or bets_digital as this is what i am use to see here on TV and on commercial DVD on the market, but as you know those cameras from Sony cost a lot more an also we have a very bad support here from the local Sony distributor so
    with what camera do you suggest that i go with ?

    and do you think that panasonic will be able to fix the problem with the HVX-301 ?

    as you have also write that part of the people that have purchase it didn’t seen this problem in any case i will go to day to a distributor that has the hvx-304 in his store and i will try to do this test and take the material with me and if i will not see it i can maybe move the files to you so that you can test it with the monitor that you have seen this problem and tell me if you see it or not

    any particular things that i need to do to see this problem besides open change the db to 6-9

    update me


  4. You fall into the trap that many of us do and that’s chasing the never-ending perfect camcorder. If you need a camcorder for your work buy the best you can afford. To see this problem you need to switch on 9dB point the camera at a darker corner, knock it out of focus, view the picture on a 1920 x 1080 40″ LCD/Plasma. You will only be able to do this if the retailer has an HD-SDI 40″ monitor in the shop. The HPX-301 only has HD-SDI outputs for HD monitoring. Remember if you are producing mainly SD work you will not see any noise in SD as this is an HD problem and only at 6-9dBs of gain. Panasonic are working to reduce this problem and please remember I may have an exceptionally noisy camcorder as we say in the UK “A Friday afternoon job”.

  5. Hello Again:
    The nice thing here is that HPX301 is the best camcorder at this specifications-value and the “noise” people talks about it can be minimized by modifying the settings of the camcorder.
    Honestly, who else can offer one single technology (P2) with such variety of camcorder solutions for every single need? Choose the one fits better for your needs among 8 different products / specifications / budget. If for the application you have, HPX301 doesn’t fit, you can still find solutions among other Panasonic Products.
    For the 99.9% of camcorder uses, it is amaizing the performace of this camcorder. But it is every user who decides what fits better their needs and we ultimatelly respect this.

    Find, compare (full process, including Codec Performance) and if you find something better value-for-money, don’t doubt, buy it, as under current economy situation, no one can get wrong with his/her money.
    That’s why we are so confident.

  6. Hello, I want to cut right to the point. These “dancing dots” are present in the USA models at 0dB and even -3dB. I have started up some controversy on a popular on-line forum stating that they need to implement a fix via firmware, or take back the cameras to fix this in their repair centers. I can post footage and settings to backup my claim. On the USA side of things I keep getting a almost angry side of Panasonic stating that there is nothing wrong, and the users don’t know how to use the camera… Yet there is someone who DOES know how to use the camera, his name is Philip Bloom, we all know him. Although personally I do not like his style of shooting, I know he does know what hes doing.

    That said I have his footage from the camera, setup properly and shot some great images. He was at 0dB and WOW there are DANCING DOTS EVERYWHERE. This clip can be downloaded from the popular video site

    . On the bottom right hand corner of that page there is a link to download the ORIGINAL 1080p uploaded file. Once downloaded I viewed on a native 1920×1080 LDC HD Monitor. Black Dancing Dots everywhere. Why are people acting is if this isn’t a problem? See for yourself, I have no need to make this stuff up.

    Anyway I was hoping to find some help on the European side of this, I have been told my writings and complaining here in the USA has been sent to Panasonic on the European side. I just hope they stop treating it as something that’s ok, and start treating it as, wow we should fix this and make our loyal customers happy. This isn’t a camera for people in the “pro-sumer” world. This IS a professional camera at a cheap price. Don’t treat professionals as if there is nothing wrong. I have shot music videos for LARGE name artists, as well as major corporations and companies. I am hired because I know what I am doing and I do it well. I have shot with the Panasonic Varicam for MANY of my projects and that was my workhorse for many years. I know what a good camera is, and I know what makes a good image or a bad one. Yes this camera has potential, but my lord, this needs to be addressed.

    Is there any advice as to who to talk to? I keep getting answers that are “work-arounds” to fix this, but they don’t do a thing. They say lower the master pedestal, put at -3dB, and a bunch more things that only make the image darker and “hiding” the dots. They are STILL there. You are just making the overall picture darker. Heck I would disappear in the shot if you keep making it darker, doesn’t mean its not in the shot when you do color correction…

    What can be done? Am I just kidding myself and wanting to see a “cheap” camera be something its not? Or do I actually have something right here? These people are making me feel like I am the crazy one and seeing things that aren’t there…. as you have shown, its there, and its even there at 0dB. Help, we are looking at using this camera, it has GREAT potential, but we also want to see this be handled properly.

  7. Hi There!
    As promised, we took the requests about the “Dancing Dots” back to our engineers in EU and Japan.

    I just saw the tests of the new 3 files to reduce them. I strongly believe it will satisfy 90% of people. For those who compare HPX301 with Varicam, RED or HPX3700 or any other 2/3″ sensor camcorder my recommendation is they buy any of those high performance camcorders.
    But for less than 10K Euros, there is not better Full Size Shoulder camcorder (now even better with the new files).

    Keep watching Soon the files will be available.


  8. Hello,
    Many thanks to Philip and to Giuseppe for your very informative and useful contributions. I am pleased that Jaume has responded, but didn’t think much of his replies – basically spin. To my mind Panasonic need to be more progressive and modern in their thinking/marketing.

    The ‘only’ real solution is for Panasonic to do as Philip mentioned and that is to bring out an updated 301, with half-inch chips. I would be happy to purchase that product!

    I teach students video production, and will be informing them (potential purchasers) to stay clear of Panasonic until they start to bring out products that users want at a price they can afford. Times have moved on Panasonic. Meanwhile we have purchased 10 Sony EX3s. I would have preferred Panasonic, but you refuse to listen to your user base. Your loss Panasonic.

    Philip, great job. I love your honest, impartial attitude and reviews. I’ll now be watching you on a regular basis.


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