Update: You can already get REAL footage from the HVX200, even footage at 60p (frame rates supported by HVX200). The camera should be available in stores, so you might also want to get my recommendations for accessories for HVX200.
Here’s a summary of the important features introduced with the new Panasonic HVX200. I’ll prioritize them for you.
Variable frame rates
Panasonic HVX200 supports a variety of frame rates just like Panasonic’s Varicam (AJ-HDC27). In 720p, the HVX200 records not only in the most popular 24p, 30p, and 60p, but almost any rate between 4 and 60 as well. One limitation is that his flexibility is reserved for 720p.
When we jump up to 1080p, the camera still delivers TRUE 24p – which is amazing considering none of the HDV cams in the same price range support it. Click here for more on HVX200 frame rates.
Panasonic HVX200′s HD format is called DVCPRO-HD. The difference between DVCPRO-HD and HDV is about 4 to 1 in terms of data throughput. DVCPRO-HD supports data rates of up to 100Mbps. This allows the camera to record video without applying as much compression as the HDV cameras do. Another advantage in terms of format is the support of 4:2:2 color space – again linked to the 100Mbps allowance. The DVCPRO-HD has been around for several years and has been used in the Varicam.
In addition to the HD format, Panasonic HVX200 also supports standard DV, as well as DVCPRO50 (Panasonic’s more professional DV format with a much lower compression ratio).
Tapeless recording (P2)
The argument tape vs, memory is still raging on. On the negative side, memory is very expensive compared to tape. An 8GB P2 chip that can hold about 10 minutes of HD (depending on frame rate) is going to cost you $1,700. On the positive, it’s quick, durable, and best of all – bound to become cheaper. SONY has pioneered a disc system – XDCAM – which is similar but naturally, cheaper because it uses Blu-Ray discs (27GB).
Panasonic HVX200 takes advantage of its data recording medium in several ways. First, you start recording immediately after you hit the button. In fact, it’s better than that. P2 allows you to start recording BEFORE you hit the button. The memory will buffer 3-7 seconds of video, so even if you don’t have split-second reactions, you’ll be able to capture action flawlessly.
Another advantage is the ability to transfer files directly to your computer (or you could back them up to Firewire drives). During shooting you can also mark takes which you like so that you can start editing in seconds.
Lens and controls
HVX200′s lens is a 13x Leica which compares favourably to SONY FX1. The zoom ring is full manual which is another big plus. Both JVC GY-HD100U and the upcoming Canon XL H1 have interchangeable lenses although the availability and variety of quality lenses is still in question. Again, you should pay extra attention to avoid heavy makeup when using this lens.
Panasonic HVX200′s more robust format (DVCPRO-HD) allows four uncompressed channels of 16-bit 48Khz quality audio (or two stereo pairs). This is a BIG change from the HDV format.
Final verdict (based on specs)
Panasonic has created a worthy successor to the DVX100. HVX200 excels in all areas and it could be hard for a HDV camera to compete, especially, when you consider the price. At $5,995, it’s only marginally more expensive than SONY Z1 (50 bucks more) but offers a lot more. It’s much cheaper than the interchangeable lens cameras – Canon XL H1 and JVC GY-HD100U.
That’s until you consider the cost for the media. At $1,700 per a pop, 8GB P2′s are going to be a TOUGH sell. In a year’s time, it’ll probably be 2-4 times cheaper, so don’t start stocking on P2s just now. If $6,000 is too much for you, you could get Sony HC1 for less than $1,500 – it’s a more affordable, entry-level HDV camcorder. The bigger and better Sony FX1 is midway (at $3,000 it’s perfect for wedding videography) between the Hc1 and HVX200.
Update: Check out this USB 1.1 vs USB 2.0 speed comparison.