Panasonic HPX500

When digital workflows form the central part of still photography, Panasonic HPX500 is a suitable camera. It comes with the preferred 2/3 inch chips and features pertaining to a larger camera, inclusive of uncompressed HD-SDI out, interchangeable lenses and extensive support for variable frame rate. Though, its price is over four times the HVX’s price, costing about 5200 dollars (about 21,000 dollars for the HPX kit), it has worthy features.

Jobs done with Varicam in the past can now be done with Panasonic HPX500. File-handling and capture are identical. Menus are similar, but there are some aspects different from HVX200. These aspects are more of the sophisticated and complete features of the camera. It is not hard to use it, and can be learnt in just five minutes or so.

A major difference is that Panasonic HPX500 comes with four P2 slots, whereas HVX has two. The four 16GB cards included in most HPX packages, give over one hour of 1080i or p, which is actually about three hours of 720p/24 before the card needs to be changed. It is more than sufficient to overcome objections due to short recording times with P2 media.

If you are familiar with extremely high-end cameras for digital still photography, which are medium format backs mostly shot directly to a computer, then you’ll know that Panasonic HPX500 is similar to them. Otherwise, you could never have seen anything like the ‘focus assist’ on HPX500.

Instead of a magnified window as in HVX200, HPX500 gives a graphical histogram of the image parts in focus. This is faster, easier and more precise compared to guessing from the viewfinder. For a sharp image, it shows a graph of edge contrast, a convenient way to work with. The image from HPX has a clean appearance.

Panasonic HPX500 is faster compared to the smaller camera by 1.5 to 2 stops, and hence is more sensitive in low light. Compared to HVX, the highlight edges are held better by HPX, as they are less blooming, have a lesser overdriven appearance and show more details for brightest highlights.

Workflow is smooth as illustrated from our experience. Our shooting begins with cards which are formatted according to need. The production coordinator sets up a computer having a card reader, and downloads the full card twice, to two different drives. The cards are then returned to the camera. There is a project folder (having date and location folder), a separate folder for every camera and a separate folder for every card. One of the drives is sent to the studio and gets backed up to the server. The files stay intact, while the job goes on. At the studio we connect for logs and transfer in FCP. The second drive could be used to send the footage for editing elsewhere. Small drives of 80 GB or 160 GB are billed to clients as part of job, and handed over to them. Everyone winds up with required footage digitized in a fraction of time, and finally a copy for the sample reel or stock is obtained.

Panasonic HPX500, with easier features adds richness to the work. The P2 workflow is ideal and there is no going back to the tape.

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