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Panasonic AG-HVX200 Review


High-def eats up an 8 GB P2 card in about 8 minutes of 1080i footage. That's just not practical. Even with two 8 GB cards installed you're looking at just over 15 minutes of time. I've worked in news and I've worked in production. You could probably get away with the 16 minutes shooting a quick field story but for a day of interviews and b-roll it's simply cost prohibitive.

It's also important to keep copies of field tapes as backups. Backing up solid state storage will increasingly become more important. Right now that probably means external hard drives and traditional tape backup. Redundancy will be the only way to stay sane in this new solid state world.

The good news is companies are already addressing this P2 issue and we expect to see a variety of more affordable storage solutions for the HVX200 this fall. Currently, the Firestore FS-100 sells for just under 2k and stores 1 1/2 hours worth of HD content. With respect to recording time, that's more like it. But in terms of cost it's roughly 1/3 the cost of the camera just to capture video. Obviously, that needs to come down. I know one TV station here in the valley that has several HVX200s still sitting in storage because the cost of solid state store is just too expensive. However, they love the cameras enough to take the plunge. In the meantime they're using the Sony HDV line of cameras!

The HVX 200 is really a great camera in the 5-6k ball park. It's beefier than the popular DVX100 but has the same ergonomic feel and familiar controls. DVX100 users will find it easy to get to know this camera. Immediately, you notice the larger LCD display, a nice big focus ring and simpler audio controls. Pick it up and start shooting and you notice the quality of the mechanisms and the feel of the buttons and all of a sudden that old DVX100 really starts to feel like a toy.

The P2 recording system eliminates the need to "digitize" tapes into the NLE. Instead, footage is copied over just like moving any other data file. Also, because it's solid state it can do things that just aren't practical with tape from an engineering standpoint. For example, a pre-record feature allows the camera to buffer video before the record button is actually pressed. This very useful in scenarios where nothing much happens but you have to be ready when it does. Just keep the camera in buffer mode and start "rolling" when the event actually happens. This way you don't miss it but you also don't eat up tape. Very cool.

We shot a wide variety of formats with the HVX200 and were very impressed with the quality of this camera. Even regular old DV footage had a depth you don't often find when shooting in that format. The success of the HVX200 will ultimately depend on more affordable storage solutions that make high-def a viable reality with this camera. We hope Santa has some toys in the works for Christmas time.

Visit Panasonic for more information.

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