Pro video blog…Produced by Philip Johnston DoP/Editor

Amazingly it’s been 10 months since the first large sensor camcorder the Panasonic AF101 appeared on the market followed by Sony with their F3 and the FS100.

The AF101 and the FS100 are both £5K and under, with the Sony F3 popping it’s head just above £11K making it the “most” professional as far as pricing and level of features of the three camcorders.

Even more surprising is the lack of so called broadcast features on all three camcorders especially the F3 which is no better than an EX-3 with it’s 35Mbs SxS card slots. You do have the ability to output 4:4:4 from the F3 but Sony have misunderstood the animal who uses such cameras, in my opinion.

Cameramen do not like extra connections if they can avoid it, every extra connection coming out of a camera is one extra failure point in technical terms so bringing out a camcorder with a hi-end potential and not starting at the magical 50Mbs is ludicrous.

While all 3 camcorders produce fantastic pictures especially in low light they are limited to certain types of filming with one exception the F3, Sony decided the F3 was to take on several roles and is the only large sensor camera to date with a zoom rocker and a dedicated 14x servo zoom (Optional).

I said at the time this was a stroke of genius from Sony to include such a feature giving the F3 a far wider appeal but once again adding to the cost of the camera itself.

The BBC have gone down the road of Sony PMW-350 s and 500s with a few freelancers jumping onto the 500 bandwaggon giving them far more flexabilty and the  so called BBC HD starting point of 50Mbs for HD production.

The PMW-350 is an excellent camcorder but 35Mbs HD means Nano flashes and all the complications and extra cost that come with external recorders.

For years cameramen and women have been used to filming with a single camcorder like Betacam, especially for news, you don’t have time to faff about with Nano Flashes if you are sent out on a news job.

So 10 months down the line we have many new camcorders but very few making the grade of true HD broadcast spec out of the box…

Sony… PMW-500 (50Mbs),  PMW-F3 (35Mbs), NEX-FS100 (28Mbs), HXR-NX70 (28Mbs)

Panasonic…AG-AF101 (21Mbs), AG-AC130 (21Mbs), AG-AC160 (21Mbs), AG-HPX250 P2 (50Mbs)

JVC…GY-HM790 (35Mbs), GY HM150 (35Mbs)

Canon…XF305/300 (50Mbs), XF300, XF105/100 (50Mbs), XA10 (24Mbs)

So what have we got, not one large sensor camcorder hits the 50Mbs mark which is poor in my opinion though I do realise this will be a feature in version two of at least the F3 if it is to have any chance of selling second time round.

My productions do not suffer for not having 50Mbs but it leaves a large number of fellow professionals out in the cold as they would love to offer 50Mbs but not at the cost of a set of expensive “Christmas tree light wiring” to add to their complications.

As I said at the start of this blog cameramen/women do not care for extra bits of wiring, extra bits that add to something going wrong…Canon may change all this in 8 days time !

Different jobs require different looks therefore different camcorders, I have plumbed for 2 NX70s and 1 FS100 this year as all three camcorders record in 1080 50p, the NX70s are used for most jobs while the FS100 is used for interview work. I was sorely tempted by the Panasonic AC160 but the lack of 1080 50p with sound and differance in looks due to the colour matrix changed my mind, sad as it is a great camcorder brimming with lots of useful pro features like syncro scan.

For once I hope Canon come up with the goods on November the 3rd as for years Sony and Panasonic have been playing cat and mouse with us over features that magically appear on the next updated model but are always shy of being the “perfect spec camcorder”.


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 “10 Months later with very few camcorders reaching 50Mbs recording

  1. Curious to see if the Canon XF305’s price comes down now that the Panasonic AG-HPX250 is selling (in the US) for $2,000 less. On paper at least the HPX250 looks to have better specifications. Maybe the price difference is reflected in the relative cost of the recording media.
    Another thought – Panasonic are selling (US prices) the AG-AF101 (“large” sensor) camera for about the same price as their new AG-AC160 (small sensor).
    In just a few days hopefully we’ll find out if Canon plans to do the same thing.

  2. Depends on your work…most of my work ends up on DVD therefore looks 10x better produced on progressive. 720 50p is the sweet spot of HD edit to SD DVD and has been my chosen format for over 5 years now. 1080 50p has only been commercially afordable this year with the Sony FS100 and the NX70.

    Unlike yourself I do not care for the 24p “look” nor would I dare shoot a commercial job with a DSLR knowing that we now have a choice of 3 large sensor video camcorders fit for purpose.

    The DSLR is at best a “B” camera in my opinion.

    Moving on from 720 50p to 1080 50p is a natural progression as you are maximising your picture quality when it finally edits down to SD or Blu-Ray.

    1080i is a dreadful combination for todays progressive LED and plasma TVs, web and SD DVDs therefore 1080 50p is the Holy Grail as you are maximising your picture quality without compromising fast moving footage like a football match.

  3. Canon have had a monopoly with the XF305 till the AG-HPX250 but remember you still need expensive P2 cards if you go down the 250 route.

  4. Unfortunately we are stuck with expensive “military or broadcast” grade P2 cards if one needs a camera for some specific broadcast work.
    The HPX250 outputs a recognised SD broadcast standard like DVCPRO25/50 which is still used by many News broadcasters. The Panasonic handheld P2 camera line are the only cameras of their size that I know of with IEEE1394 IN and OUT where one can play edited clips from FCP through the camera and out via SDI at a satellite feed point. I like the idea of an AVCHD codec and SD cards, but AVCHD is far too slow transcoding in FCP7 and doesn’t provide IEEE1394 throughput.

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