Pro video blog…Produced by Philip Johnston DoP/Editor


The picture above was taken on the 4th of February 2012 just over three years ago with my good friend from Holdan, Nigel Cliff. Nigel had brought me one of the first Panasonic HPX-250 camcorders to have a look at.

I received a very telling email from one of my readers Andy Johnstone which I thought I would share with you…

Andy “I was out shooting my HPX250 yesterday on my new film for BBC on a story in Cornwall. As I was shooting I was thinking ‘how on earth would I be able to shoot this on the FS7′. I am sure the FS7 would knock spots off the HPX250 in terms of overall image quality, but the HPX250 does produce a very fine image and these small handheld camcorders are peerless for obs doc work.

The speed at which I work would be totally compromised on an FS7 with all the lens changing and you cannot underestimate the ability to capture actuality that a 28-600mm fixed lens gives you. I think in the rush to get that ‘film look’, many people forget that the most important thing is telling the story. Indeed, at a dinner last night I spoke to vastly experienced BBC colleague who told me that there is a move against shallow DOF shooting in BBC factual as so many key ‘moments’ are missed with all the fiddling about. This colleague also said that people are tiring of the shallow DOF looks for documentary as this is ‘not how our own eyes see the world’. Make of that what you will.

I am very keen to be able to offer clients the best possible images I can produce, but I think I’m going to keep my powder dry and rethink. I think the FS7 with a better stock lens would be much more attractive. I am now keen to see what the response from Panasonic & Canon will be.

Certainly if Panasonic brought out a new version of the HPX250/PX270 with a larger chip, a great stock lens (28-600 – yes please) and 4k (just to keep up with the Jones, I buy it tomorrow.”

I also received an email this week from Ikegami showing off a new 4K 2/3″ sensor system camera which in my opinion if a recorder were bolted on would fit the bill for factual programming, a colleague of mine always told me a 4K shoulder mounted 2/3″camcorder would be just the job for doc and factual work.


Unfortunately it was pointed out to me this yet un-named camera is a system camera and will be on show at NAB 2015. I still  think with some engineering and enough “will”… seasoned professionals would jump at the chance at a 4K camera in a form factor that many of them are happy with. This constant changing of lenses on the Super 35mm cameras is becoming tiresome and can lead to lots of production time and shots lost, thats why the Sony FS7 has almost scored a goal but Sony need to bring out a decent servo zoom lens to satisfy the growing ownership. Due to the 1.5x crop your 28mm Full Frame lens becomes 42mm which is not wide enough. (Ref Sonys 28-135mm f4 servo zoom).

Getting back to the Ikegami camera this would allow you to film 4K with a Canon 22x lens and use the 4K capability to punch in on the picture on an HD timeline doubling you lens capability to 44x.


Although I am a Sony PXW-FS7 owner I know exactly where Andy is coming from and he is correct…we do not visualise the world in anything other than a large field of view and if you are filming once in a life time shots the last thing you want is a slightly out of focus shot thanks to a shallow depth of field or a lost shot due to a lens change.


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.

9 thoughts on “From the Panasonic HPX-250 to the new Ikegami 4K 2/3″ system camera…an interesting coincidence !

  1. I entirely agree with Andy Johnstone and I also miss the shoulder mounted cameras.

  2. Thanks for sharing this Philip.

    I am keen to stress that I am sure the FS7 will produce a very fine image and that with the right lens combination, it may well become the camera of choice. Interestingly I had coffee with two DoP colleagues yesterday both of who were convinced that the Sony f5 and fs7 were viable options, especially with Nikon glass & a Metabones speedbooster, precisely because this effectively gives yo a fully manual front end. Perhaps I just need some pushing to take the leap…!

    That new Ikegami looks very interesting and will suit a lot of bigger budget mainstream broadcasting needs. However, I think I am still looking for a handheld camcorder solution rather than something that hefty for the work that I do. I travel regularly and we all know what a headache that is now.

    The other key point is that this fixation with 4k is not very helpful to many or most programme makers. The BBC regions have only just switched to HD and they are still cutting/compiling on FCP7 and ingesting using Adobe Prelude to conform content to ProRes before the edit. 4k doubles the data storage requirements and very few departments are going to run with it, save perhaps for tip-top drama and ‘appointment to view’ (W1A speak) travel/nature programming. For indie filmmakers like me storage is a killer – I have just ordered another 17TB of storage this week…! PLUS who can consume 4k anyway? Our broadband here struggles with HD on iPlayer etc!

    Please give your chums at Holdan this shopping list: a 1/2″ chip, 4k (with native 1080p too), 10bit 422 50mbs, in a lighter file wrapper than P2 (never used micro P2 so I don’t know how hefty this codec is – cheaper cards would be nice), very low power consumption (HPX250 is pretty power hungry) oh and a lovely 28-600mm lens at f1.8. If they can put that package together they can have my cash!

  3. I’m completely with Andy on this one. The shallow depth of field, whilst sometimes desirable, does involve more time in setting up shots, and yes, that unique or special moment can easily be lost in a fast moving situation. I sometimes freelance as picture editor for broadcast companies and, on more than one occasion, I’ve had to ‘work around’ scenes where some of the story narrative has been lost due to the footage being so in and out of focus that it is unusable. I’ve always appreciated the whole ‘form factor’ of the shoulder mounted cameras. I’ve operated many over the last 28 years- from a Panasonic F10 , Sony DXC325, JVC KY29, Ampex300, and Sony DSR450 to name just a few. All having 1/2″ or 2/3 inch chips and all giving me flexibility in achieving a ‘shallow depth of field look’ with suitable focal length. Above all, those cameras were designed with priority given to the relative ease of operation and getting ‘the shots’. I, too, feel that some of the latest cameras have taken a step backwards in this respect.


  4. Many of these cameras are great on the sticks or a dolly but when you go hand held they get found out. The balance is often wrong and the weight is usually forward of the shoulder putting pressure the arms and wrist after long shoots.There is also the issue with the time they take to build from the bag. Not ideal for documentary work.

  5. There is an utterly brilliant film on Storyville at the moment by Ed Perkins, Garnet’s Gold.!garnets-gold/c12a6

    The film has been recut for BBC (I think) and renamed “The lost gold of the highlands” – though I am not sure that this is an improvement on the director’s title…but I digress… watch it here.

    The film is utterly captivating, fabulous story telling and is a total ‘wish I’d done that’ filmmaking coup. Hats off etc. It is all shot on some shallow DOF set up (looks like a c300 to my eye, but I might be wrong) and the cinematography demonstrates all that is right about this visual approach for docs(stunning landscapes, wonderful colour, great compositions etc) and much that is wrong, mainly, as Mark points out above, when the filmmaker is working handheld. At times the focus is shifting all over the place, hunting for a focal point and it is very distracting, particularly at critical moments when characters are interacting.

    These shallow DOF rigs always seem to work well when filmmakers are taking the picture post card approach (ie. lost of nice shots strung together), but when required to shoot narrative sequences, the approach, unless it is highly constructed, is much harder to achieve than it is on a small handheld obs doc camera (ie. xf305, HPX250, PX270 etc. Heavily constructed sequences are now something frowned on by the ethics peeps who run the BBC “safeguarding trust” courses for journalists/filmmakers in factual TV. This is something esle we have to consider when picking an approach to a factual project.

    …and then there’s the need to rebuild the rig for each set up…as Mark points out…aggh!


  6. Small 1/3″ and even 1/2″ cameras do not give you nice organic look.
    With decent lenses, cameras like new c100 will give you better look.
    I find it impossible to use those 1/3″ cameras, i bought at least 12 of them last 10 years and they are crap.
    Last 30 years in Biz and my Fab Camera is Canon 5D mk3.
    And i had Pana910, Thomson,Sony XDCAM in past.
    I really hate Handheld, thats why i use 5D on Monopod or Gimbal. You get more pro results.
    C100 with MTF adapter and nice B4 Zoom lens is not bad too.

  7. There are several points to make here.

    Firstly the C100 is not EBU broadcast spec and as a consequence would not be acceptable for acquisition for any of my broadcast projects without some external recorder.

    Secondly, I have no doubt that cinematic cameras such as C300/FS7 etc produce great pictures, better than most or even all 1/3″ camcorder. That is not the point. The point is that the overall flexibility of the camera you choose for obs doc is critical to successful storytelling. Choosing form over content is putting the cart before the horse. In many instances a small broadcast spec camcorder is clearly the tool of choice.

    As for the 1/3″ cameras being “crap”, all I can say is that I have sat in many edits down at the BBC where my editor has been bowled over by the quality of the image from the HPX250.


  8. Just because you “dock” News Format like XDCAM Hd to Low End 1/3 Sensor, does not make it Broadcast.
    Yes with proper 2/3″ head, yes…it is

    Tegarding BBC Today.
    Technically speaking they are nowhere near as 10 Years ago.
    They buy anything for Free as long as it is ineresting.
    They should learn from Al Jazeera.
    They are Technically Superior to BBC.
    Then again, Al Jazeera has decent Budget.
    C100 is more Broadcast then Your 1/3 XDCAM “Handycams”.
    Then again, I have never being Producer, just a cameraman 😉

  9. Hi Jiri,

    The BBC broadcast spec is based on EBU regs which stipulate 422, currently 8bit and 50mb/s data-rates which the C100 does not produce (but the c300 does). I have no doubt the C100 takes a great picture – many ‘non-broadcast’ cameras do! As far as I can tell the thinking behind what gets approved is based more on how robust the images are in post. The Sony EX1 was not suitable for broadcast as it produced data at 35mb/s, but I am not sure many wold argue that it took a bad picture.

    You’re right that the BBC will actually broadcast any old content if it is news-worthy, but from my experience their standards are very high when commissioning content and that is what I need to bear in mind when buying kit.

    But this discussion about data rates and bureaucracy is actually digressing from my main point which was that the Sony FS7 seemed like a good camera, but its stock lens in not adequate and I have no idea what to replace it with to create a shooting package as flexible as my current set up. This view seems to be shared on this fine forum, see:

    The decisions about what to use were all so much simpler when the humble cameraman or filmmaker could not afford ‘broadcast’ kit and simply hired in a £50K Beta-sp rig on a job, by job basis. Now we have too much choice!



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