Best HDV camera?

Posted by Rick Sparks 
Best HDV camera?
July 19, 2009 11:33AM
I need to move up to HD, but can't afford a full HD camera/fast array setup. I've been shooting SD happily for years with my Sony VX2100. I figure an HDV camcorder is my only real option and I'm looking at the Sony HVRZ7U HDV and would like to know if anyone thinks there is a better option. Thanks.
Re: Best HDV camera?
July 19, 2009 01:02PM
Just go for the Panasonic HVX200a. It's in the same price range, but it's DVCPRO HD, which means it's about a million times easier to work with than HDV. Yes, you need to be able to deal with 100 Mbps data instead of 25 Mbps, but HDV processing is so damn computationally intense, it's a worthy trade-off to make. The HVX is also P2-based, which is the most mature tapeless workflow option. Plus, there are about a million HVX200 users out there, so you'll be in good company.

Re: Best HDV camera?
July 19, 2009 02:02PM
be aware the P2 tapes are so expensive
Re: Best HDV camera?
July 19, 2009 02:26PM
P2 doesn't shoot on tape; maybe you're thinking of DVCPRO HD tapes. The HVX200 is primarily intended to be a tapeless camera, though it will shoot standard-def DV on Mini DV tape if you want to for some reason.

P2 cards are intended to be reused, unlike tape which is recorded to only once. The camera comes with a 16-minute card; a second one will set you back about $400 or so, plus you'll need a reader. If you have three cards and a laptop, you can basically shoot forever; stick in two cards, the camera starts recording to one, then switches to the second when the first fills up, you replace the first card with a blank and unload the first card onto your laptop, giving you a blank card to pop in when the second one is full.

Just back up everything, in multiple places. Once erased from a P2 card, the footage is gone, gone, gone, except for whatever copies you made.

P2 workflow is its own thing, and must be learned, just like tape workflow has to be learned. But once you get it down, it works very well indeed.

Re: Best HDV camera?
July 19, 2009 02:35PM
Hey, Rick, I've been using the Sony Z1U camera for more than 2 years now. I must say I'm pretty happy with it. The Z7U must be even better. Now, you have to understand that my experience with digital cameras is pretty much based on the Z1, so I'm not comparing this camera to all the other HDV cameras available now.

The reason I post here on this subject is that you said that you "can't afford a full HD camera/fast array setup." I'm like you. I decided, for example, not to upgrade my G5 dual processor 2.7 gH FCP 5.04 set up to the Intel Macs. With the Sony HDV, you'll be able to capture and edit your HDV footage and export HiDef movies without having to resort to thousands of dollars for additional hardware and software, as HDV doesn't require more space than SD.

Until a few days ago, I didn't know how to export high quality MPEG2s and that was a major hurdle I was able to cross when Jeff advised me on the best way for me to do it, which is exporting an 8-bit Uncompressed self-contained .mov and then using that to import into DVD SP. That produced the best SD DVD possible -- bar none.

To the best of my knowledge, the HVX200a does not shoot 1440x1080 HiDef, which is displayed as 1920x1080 and will result in essentially a 2k image when up-rezzed.

If you need more detailed info, email me
Re: Best HDV camera?
July 19, 2009 04:09PM
I'd encourage you to look at the Panasonic HMC-150. Uses the same chip as the HVX-200, but without the expense of the P2 workflow. It shoots on inexpensive SD media. It does require transcoding to Apple Pro-res in FCP 6 where P2/DVCPRO does not require such transcoding. On a mac pro, transcoding the HMC footage is usually faster than realtime. The HMC footage will require FCP 6, where the HVX/P2 is fine on FCP 5.
Re: Best HDV camera?
July 19, 2009 04:33PM
Have you had a look at the JVC GY-HM100. I've seen some of the footage off this camera and I am impressed. Easiest FCP workflow ever.

Check out Rick Young's review.


Re: Best HDV camera?
July 19, 2009 05:14PM
This is all great input. A couple of guys on another forum suggested the Panasonic HPX170. What do you guys think of that camcorder? Please consider that, for the time being at least, I need to be able to edit on my MacPro 2 x 2.66 GHz Dual Core Intel Xeon with 4 GB RAM and two 500 GB hard drives.
Re: Best HDV camera?
July 19, 2009 05:23PM
Hi Rick,

I suggested the HM 100 because of price $3,500.00. If you have a bit more to spend, definitely check out the 170, it is my favorite camera.

I like the look of the footage off these two cameras, I think that one reason is that both cameras shoot with CCD chips and NOT CMOS chips.

Most of the 170 footage I work with is DVCPRO HD 720p 24pn, runs like a dream in FCP.

My 2 cents.

Re: Best HDV camera?
July 19, 2009 05:44PM
On the subject of how the footage looks, DVCPRO HD is more spatially compressed than HDV, while HDV is (considerably) more temporally compressed. So the same shot on DVCPRO HD will most likely be softer but less visibly compressed, while on HDV it'll be sharper but have more visible compression artifacts. Because of this, a lot of people ? a whole lot of people ? say they prefer the look of DVCPRO HD to HDV. It's a preference and not an objective thing, but it's something to consider when making your choice.

The other issue is compute power. As I'm sure you know, you don't have the fastest Mac in the world, Rick, so any workflow that involves transcoding is going to be more of a pain for you than it might otherwise be. DVCPRO HD is an extremely lightweight codec, compute-wise, so your computer will have no problem dealing with it in real time. The more compressed formats ? HDV, and especially AVCHD ? require a lot more computing power to deal with them, so transcoding will be necessary, and it'll take longer. For that reason, and also because Final Cut 6 doesn't support the format yet, I'd recommend you stay away from AVCHD for now.

Re: Best HDV camera?
July 19, 2009 10:47PM
Jeff, What is AVCHD? Are there articles I should be reading to bring myself up to speed on things like this before making my purchase decision? Thanks again.
Re: Best HDV camera?
July 19, 2009 11:03PM
I will disagree with the AVCHD comment. I just purchased the Canon HF S10 AVCHD camcorder and I find that through FCP's (v.6.0.6.) Log & Transfer I can get the files transcoded to ProRes easily...which I find VERY Final Cut Pro-friendly. I love the new format and the camera is amazing for just over $1,000.

When life gives you dilemmas...make dilemmanade.

Re: Best HDV camera?
July 19, 2009 11:03PM
Check this out.


Re: Best HDV camera?
July 19, 2009 11:14PM
AVCHD is an acquisition format of relatively recent origin. Whereas HDV is based on MPEG-2, AVCHD is based on MPEG-4 Part 10/AVC/H.264.

For right now, all you need to know is that AVCHD isn't there yet. It might evolve into a professional and widely used format, like DVCPRO HD is today, but it also might disappear into the dustbin of consumer-grade formats that never take off. It's just too early to tell yet.

Panasonic uses "AVCCAM" as a (confusing and irritating) marketing term to describe some of its AVCHD cameras.

Note, also, that AVCHD is completely different from AVC Intra. Both AVCHD and AVC Intra have MPEG-4 Part 10/AVC/H.264 as their foundation, but they're different formats in the same way that HDV and XDCAM are different formats that are both based on MPEG-2.

My totally unauthoritative take is that AVC Intra has is far more likely to emerge as a DVCPRO HD replacement than AVCHD. AVCHD, right now, is a mess of incompatible implementations all of which are only technically good compared to low-end formats like HDV. AVC Intra comes in two flavors, a 50 megabit version that competes very favorably with DVCPRO HD at half the bit rate and a 100 megabit version that dramatically improves on DVCPRO HD at the same bit rate.

But honestly, now is not the time to put your saddle on any of the new compressed-format horses out there. DVCPRO HD isn't going anywhere right away; it's used in all sorts of broadcast-HD production and is very much a known quantity in the industry. In a couple-three years, maybe we'll all be shooting raw sensor data for HD video production, in much the same way that the stills photography world has completely moved over to raw recording. Who knows. I'm gonna let the engineers sort that one out.

Re: Best HDV camera?
July 20, 2009 06:53AM
I recently picked up an hpx170 and the P2 workflow is super easy. The camera is more expensive than the HDV you were mentioning but it gives you the ability to do really nice chroma key work and much much more. There are so many choices out there. All I can tell you is that this camera is very nice to work with and the pictures are stunning.
Re: Best HDV camera?
July 20, 2009 07:49AM
While I agree that P2/DVCPROHD is a very easy workflow and super-clean footage to work with for a variety of purposes, I still maintain that there are a lot of hidden costs if you're just getting into the workflow.

Getting setup with a minimum amount of P2 media can be expensive, with the E-series 16gb card going for about $400 (or the original lineup going for $775/16gb). I'd suggest that you need at least 2 cards for the workflow to be manageable, 3 would make it easier. Someone mentioned something about the HVX coming with a free 16gb card currently with purchase. That would help the situation.

Also, you'll need something to offload the footage. The cheapest way would be to use a PC laptop with a PCMCIA slot or find an old G4 laptop somewhere in the $300-$500 range. The prices only go up from there, with a P2 Drive going for about $900, up to the $3500 p2 recorder/player.

Just be prepared to add a minimum of $1000 to the purchase price of your hvx200 when comparing to other setups. And that doesn't include extra batteries, bag, other accessories. We all know that there are "extras" to be purchased when getting any new camera, though, and that should always be considered in addition to the purchase price.

All this to say that we don't really know what your needs are or what your budget is. If the HVX + extras pricetag doesn't scare you, by all means go that route (or the HPX170). As others have mentioned, it's a great workflow, the footage is beautiful, and the camera has a lot of capabilities that you may find useful in your workflow. If you're looking for a setup that will still give you really nice footage but without the significant added expense of P2 (cards + offload solution), you may wish to look at the HMC-150 or other AVCHD options in the slightly lower price range.

I work with both the hvx-200 and hmc-150 on a regular basis, and they both have their place. Figure out what your budget/needs are, and go from there. Good luck!
Re: Best HDV camera?
July 20, 2009 11:33AM
For offload from the HPX 170 there is an inexpensive way to go and is used by many. Only hardware required, a firewire cable.


Re: Best HDV camera?
July 20, 2009 01:38PM
Wow Ken, what a great tip! One other question; I'm told that you can capture on Flash Cards, which are far less expensive than the P2 cards. I'm also told that there is no difference in the quality of capture using Flash cards. But I sure don't see anything about this in the 170's Operating Manual. Is this true? Does anyone on this forum capture to Flash cards? Thanks.
Re: Best HDV camera?
July 20, 2009 01:50PM
Hi Rick,

Panasonic now has two type of crads for the HPX 170. P2 cards which are more expensive and new E cards which are less expensive. These cards are the only ones that work with the HPX 170.

Re: Best HDV camera?
July 20, 2009 02:01PM
My AVCHD Camcorder mentioned above captures on (Class 4 or above) SDHC cards @ FULL 1920 x 1080. It's a dual flash unit with 32 GB built-in internal with a card slot that holds up to a 32 GB SDHC Flash card (64 GB total). I paid $43.00 each for a handful of 16 GB Class 6 SDHC cards and the prices seem to be dropping smiling smiley 32 GB Cards are around $100 each currently.

When life gives you dilemmas...make dilemmanade.

Re: Best HDV camera?
July 20, 2009 02:03PM
P2 cameras can only record video onto P2 media (which are technically flash memory). Cameras like the HMC-150 are able to record onto standard SD flash memory.

Ken's tip is a good one, but you'll still either need to take a laptop out into the field to offload your footage and you'll be tying up the camera while the data is being transferred. This is not a big deal for some folks in certain situations. But if you're shooting an important interview or live event, you probably can't afford 15 minutes to stop shooting, hook up your laptop and download the card, format the card and start again. This doesn't even take into account making sure you have multiple safe copies of the footage or whether you've at least done a cursory check of the offloaded footage before formatting the card and continuing to shoot. If you have an assistant that can do all these things for you, it's probably not a huge deal if your talent can wait, or if you're not using talent for that particular shoot.

There are situations where the HVX/HPX are more appropriate, and situations where cameras like the HMC-150 are more appropriate. It's all about determining what your needs are, what your budget is, and what your goals are with the new camera/workflow. Hopefully these responses to your questions will help inform what option will work best for you.
Re: Best HDV camera?
July 20, 2009 02:06PM
P2 cards can also be rented for reasonable rates. So if you deck yourself out for half an hour of shooting, then find yourself in a situation where you need to shoot all day without unloading any cards for some reason, you can always just rent a stack of blank cards. Whether it's cheaper to rent extra cards or just buy them outright becomes an economic decision that depends heavily on circumstance.

Re: Best HDV camera?
July 20, 2009 03:44PM
HPX 170 --great camera -- virtually identical to the HVX 200a except

HPX 170 has:

1 NO Tape Drive (P2 only)
2 - slightly wider lens (better for 90 percent of work your up close)
3 - waveform monitor and vectorscope (outstanding for making sure light is right)
4 - SDI out (not sure if HVX has that)
5 - more frame rates for under and overcranking
6 - more steps for neutral density filter
7 - better focus assist

Beautiful Pictures - great camera -- p2 workflow not as easy or fast as tape (log and transfer) takes some time to rewrap the P2 Native files into QT mov files Final Cut can read BUT there are programs (like Raylight) that let you use the P2 native files right in final cut without the time consuming rewrap

Other benefit of HPX 170 -- under and overcranking - silky smooth slow and fast motion recording - interval recording etc.

FINALLY - you CAN record to the cheaper flash media on an HPX 170 (or 200 - or virtually any camera for that matter) But it will cost you - you have to buy a flash drive recorder and strap it to your camera (see this link)

Flash Drive Recorder

all in all P2 cameras create great pictures - easy to edit with final cut -- consider the HPX 150 if you don't need to do under and overcranking -- it will record direct to cheaper flash media without the variable frame rates.

Re: Best HDV camera?
July 20, 2009 03:48PM
For even more, check this out. Scroll down to the HPX 170 section.


Re: Best HDV camera?
July 21, 2009 08:59AM
Rick, my reasoning behind the decision to go with HPX170 was twofold;
firstly, I'm spending at least 4 (if not 8) times more time editing than shooting, so I wanted
a format that will go as smoothly as possible.

Yes, it costs more, but it'll pay itself in a long run (cutting editing time), and the price for cards
will come down, and there will be even more affordable after market products similar to XDR.
Probably the most elegant way is just to buy (or rent) more P2 cards then mucking around
with a laptop (plus extra person) or with XDR.

Secondly, I do think that with DVCProHD, compared to HDV, you are setting yourself in a different league. We all know the perception in the industry of HDV, it's a debatable issue still, but one has to admit that DVCProHD is more mature or established format.

Finally, you haven't told us what type of work you do, so, maybe HDV will work for you, but just when you mentioned Sony Z7 (which I had a chance briefly to try) - then you should take a look at HPX170, as they are in the same price range.
One more thing, hard drive requirements for DVCProHD are probably smaller then for HDV, because sooner or later you'd need to go from HDV to ProRes.

Re: Best HDV camera?
July 21, 2009 09:06AM
Love your site, Ken...your site is better than the WIKI! GREAT article about the cameras, Dan!!

When life gives you dilemmas...make dilemmanade.

Re: Best HDV camera?
July 21, 2009 11:29AM
We mainly produce 30 second TV commercials for a small town market. Archiving isn't a real important issue as usually, once a spot is finished and released to stations we're done with it. Though occasionally we do have to make a revision.

Most of our productions involve a Lowell 3-light kit (two omnis and a tota light), some reflectors and a sun scrim. We sometimes use our Photoflex chromakey field kit and I'd love to be able to up the quality of our green chromakey work. I only recently had occasion to wish I had an overcrank capability as well as a macro focus ability as I had to shoot some spinning 25¢ pieces. But most of our work involves live talent shots with a fair amount of close-ups. We capture live audio with lavalier mics, but loop it in studio (we work in a lot of locations where we can't control sound very much if at all). Once a year or so we do a video production of usually no more than ten minutes' length.

I edit on a MacPro 2 X 2.66 GHz Intel Xeon with 4 GB of RAM and use FCP 6.0.5 and use Soundtrack Pro for audio work. I haven't ventured into Motion or Typestyler yet. My bad. I've been releasing dubs to TV stations on miniDV tape and I'd like to continue doing that if possible. I think that's a pretty good summation of our work stream.

I'm looking at the HMC 150. It does capture to SD cards. It doesn't have all the frame rates and some other features of the 170, but it's a lot less money for the camcorder and a heck of a lot less for the capture medium. But if it puts out the same quality capture as the 170 it just might be the best choice for us right now.

I'm certainly open to any and all input. I'm in no hurry to make this important choice. And I really appreciate the time everyone on this thread is taking to help me out.
Re: Best HDV camera?
July 21, 2009 12:28PM

I've been releasing dubs to TV stations on miniDV tape and I'd like to continue doing that if possible. I think that's a pretty good summation of our work stream.

I suggest that you start thinking about the future Rick. You're laying off to MiniDV for now because it's still being accepted, but that tape format is really not for Broadcast and eventually will not be accepted - it's inevitable. The big Broadcast facility here in my small market will not take anything on MiniDV...they want the full sized tapes...and they want HDCAM and not DVCProHD (which is what we do - ProRes / DVCProHD mainly). We literally have to send a tape out to be dubbed to HDCAM before shipping it out (we have no HDCAM decks).

If I were in the market for a camera, I would steer clear of HDV. I agree with Miodrag that DVCProHD is a more mature and accepted format. AVCHD is in its infancy and nobody knows how it's gonna do yet. I personally think it's a bit higher end than HDV (at least the images I am seeing from my Canon HF S10 as compared to the images from my Sony HDR-HC1). There are much smarter people than I on this forum that will break down the statistical comparison into finite numbers...all I know is what looks good, is easy to work with and archive in my own workflow. You may want to find a camera that captures nice images and add it to AJA's Ki Pro which records straight to ProRes on a removable hard drive (eliminates transcoding):


When life gives you dilemmas...make dilemmanade.

Re: Best HDV camera?
July 23, 2009 01:02PM
I'm going for the HPX170. I want to get one spare battery and I need to look into the new "E" memory cards, but after going over all the input I got here as well as on an Apple FCP community forum, I think this 170 is the way to go. Especially, as Joe said, with an eye to the future. My deepfelt thank to everybody who helped me reach this decision. Don't know what I would have done without you. I hope I can someday be of such help to someone else.
Re: Best HDV camera?
July 26, 2009 10:24PM
It sounds like you've already made up your mind, I was going to add the XDCAM EX1 to the mix. A little pricier but a great camera and entry into XDCAM.

These cameras are amazing.
Sorry, only registered users may post in this forum.

Click here to login



Web Hosting by HermosawaveHermosawave Internet

Recycle computers and electronics