Eventually you are going to come across a gig that requires you to equip the least amount of weight possible, and still deliver HD broadcast quality. Until recently, if you were married to the P2 workflow, you did not have a handheld option. Now, the Panasonic AG-HPX250 handheld camcorder is that option.
When Emmy Award-winning Director of Photography Bill Mills (Florida Film & Video) was asked to document a 10 day safari to three of the most important big cat conservation areas in southern Africa, he obviously accepted the challenge. His strict limitations were weight, and distance from subjects. He needed to travel as light as possible and shoot in full HD broadcast quality, while also being able to capture both on-the-fly interviews and distant animals.
The HPX250’s is the first P2 HD handheld camcorder that records in 10-bit, 4:2:2 independent frame, 1920 x 1080 resolution in the AVC-Intra 100 codec. To most professional camera operators and cinematographers the importance of capturing in 10-bits is a must. 10-bit capturing allows for four times more precise color sampling, while also eliminating the video artifacts often seen in 8-bit device recordings. The HPX250 come equipped with a 22x optical zoom equivalent to a 26-616mm lens in the 35mm format. Bill was able to leave his bag of lenses behind and says, “The combination of the longer lensing and on-board, master quality shooting is definitely distinctive.”
Bill outfitted his HPX250 with a, “SHAPE 15mm Rod Riser System to optimize the camcorder for handheld and longer lens work, and attached two VariZooms, (one for the focus/iris and the other for zoom) to the two handgrips”. The HPX250 offers variable framerate capability which Bill added, “lent a graceful effect to the animals.” He recorded his footage to a P2 card, which he then offloads onto a 2-pound AG-MSU10 media storage unit. Bill explained, “The MSU10 was indispensable…I was able to transfer content at 4x real time.” He went on to say, “The MSU10 enabled me to maintain the P2 hierarchy, complete with metadata, on one drive.” In addition to the camcorders ability to record in the AVC-Intra 100 codec, the HPX250 also records in AVC-Intra 50, DVCPRO HD, as well as SD DVCPRO50, DVCPRO and DV.
Like its closely related siblings, the HPX250’s 1/3″ full HD 2.2 megapixel 3-MOS sensors perform favorably in low-light situations, allowing for minimal video noise in poorly lit shadows. In addition, the camcorder provides a 20-bit Digital Single Processor for high resolution image capturing. If that is not enough hi-res, then the HPX250 also comes equipped with a 3.45” 1920 x 480 LCD monitor and an LCD color viewfinder.
Similar to Bill Mills, we have only just begun to scratch the surface with the capabilities and versatility of the HPX250. I’ll say this, if you are looking for similar quality capturing capability of the HPX2700 at a fraction of the price, the HPX250 is that camcorder. However, if you do own a VariCam, consider the HPX250 as an alternative for those gigs that do require you to pack light and remain versatile.