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Trying to decide on a prosumer camcorder, but concerned with P2 workflow.

kylekap's picture
Last seen: 3 years 2 months ago
Joined: 02/17/2011 - 6:32pm

Hello everyone. I'm new here, but I love the site and I love the forums.

I've worked in independent film for about 4 years, but mostly as a co-producer and sometimes Unit Production Manager. I'm just now getting my hands dirty with the technical stuff. I've shot weddings before and want to buy a prosumer camcorder for future weddings and short movies. The whole wedding thing kind of rules out the DSLRs that are so popular now.

I've been leaning toward Panasonic. Particularly the HPX-170. But I'm concerned with using the P2 technology. I wanted to edit via FCE 4.0 on my Macbook Pro, but I'm discovering FCE doesn't support P2.

I'm wary to try upgrading to Final Cut Studio for fear it will slow my laptop down immensely. But I also wanted the CCD sensors vs. the CMOS that Sony and Canon are putting in all their cameras now, which leaves Panasonic as my only option.

I looked at the HVX200 because it records P2 AND Mini-DV but I want a camera that records 1080p and 24p, and I feel like there is no perfect option for what I want. Here's what I want to do:

Price - $2000-$4000
XLR inputs
1080p and 24p
1/3" CCD (ideally)

Any ideas? Please help! I'm drowning in specs.


CraftersOfLight's picture
Last seen: 1 year 2 days ago
Joined: 02/17/2009 - 5:42am
Plus Member

AG-HMC150

1/3 3CCD, AVCHD, SDHC Card memory 1080/30P-24P

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It is a journey. Take the time to enjoy your family, friends and surroundings.
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kylekap's picture
Last seen: 3 years 2 months ago
Joined: 02/17/2011 - 6:32pm

Thank you.

I just started looking into this one and I'm starting to lean towards it. Can I still use a Letus or another 35mm adapter on this camcorder?

Thank you again. I appreciate the feedback.


Rob Grauert's picture
Last seen: 2 months 3 weeks ago
Joined: 02/16/2008 - 10:47pm

Just for the sake of clearing things up, P2 is a recording medium - just like tape. Your problem isn't that FCE doesn't support P2. Your problem is that it doesn't support DVCPro HD, the acquisition codec of higher end Panasonic camera.

Sure, you could go with AVCHD as this is supported by FCE, but you're sacrificing quality since it's more compressed.

Also, you're worried about upgrading to FCS because you think it will slow your computer down. Not only is that wrong, but working with AVCHD will slow your computer down more than DVCPro HD because the CPU will have to deal with the Long GOP compression of AVCHD.

Also, why do you need to record 1080p24? If you chose to work with FCE, how are you going to deliver that? Apple doesn't really have anything to support Blu-ray yet. So that would be useless unless you've invested in another program and hardware that authors Blu-ray

If you go with the HMC150, yes you can use the Letus adapter on it.


kylekap's picture
Last seen: 3 years 2 months ago
Joined: 02/17/2011 - 6:32pm

Wow Rob! Thanks for the help.

This is all the nitty-gritty I'm just now starting to learn. A few insights on your comments followe up with, of course, a few more questions.

The 1080p24 is primarily for shooting short movies with the intention of posting them online. I probably wouldn't shoot HD for the weddings, although I've heard the latest FCS update allows you toauthor Blu-rays, although you probably need an external blu-ray burner.

I just purchased a 13" Macbook Pro, and I'm being told it can handle FCS fine, and I always have the option of upgrading the memory or using an external hard drive.

I love the quality I've seen with the Panasonics versus the prosumer Sony and Canon's, but I'm afraid of the P2 workflow. I COULD upgrade to FCS, but what about when I'm in the middle of a 45-minute wedding ceremony? Those cards are expensive. I couldn't imagine paying for 2-3 of them on top of the camcorder.

You're very knowledgeable. So what are your thoughts on CCD vs. CMOS? My research has led me to believe CMOS can't handle low-light or a lot of movement. Thanks again everyone.


Rob Grauert's picture
Last seen: 2 months 3 weeks ago
Joined: 02/16/2008 - 10:47pm

The new FCS does allow you to burn Blu-ray, but I don't believe you can make menus and all that nice stuff. So you don't really have Blu-ray authoring capabilities. It's just a Blu-ray that plays as soon as you pop it in the player. If that's all you need, then you're fine.

There is nothing to be afraid of with the P2 workflow. It's no different from any other workflow that utilizes solid state recording. You mount the P2 card, backup the contents of the P2 while maintaining the exact file structure the camera created on the card, load it in FCP Log & Transfer, then ingest. It's very easy. The thing to be afraid of, which you mentioned, is the cost of P2 cards. Depending on the resolution and frame rate you record, you're looking at about 1GB per minute of DVCPro HD. A 64GB P2 card is $1000. Much more expensive than SDHC cards, but does have a 5 year warranty.

There is always a cost vs quality issue with everything. You have to determine what will be acceptable for your clients and viewers, you have to plan for post, and you have to be honest about your skill level. Honestly, your clients probably wont look at your work and say, "Dude, why did you record AVCHD? DVCPro HD is way better!" Unless your client is another video geek, chances are they never sat down and compared AVCHD to DVCProHD, let alone know what those terms mean. What you do in post will help determine what you should shoot. If you intend to add a bunch of graphics/compositing/effects, or you want to do a lot of heavy color grading, DVCProHD will hold up better than AVCHD, hands down. But if you're doing strait cutting and only cutting, AVCHD will suffice. And finally, if you are just god awful at camera operation, DVCPro HD isn't going to save you. I'm not saying you are awful, I'm just saying client will most likely prefer nicely shot AVCHD over poorly shot DVCPro HD.

I've never thought about CCD vs CMOS in low light because I'm lucky enough to shoot in controlled, well-lit situations. So I dunno the answer to that, but I always thought CMOS was better in that aspect.

CMOS isn't bad with movement either. It really depends on how fast the movement is. You have to be panning (or the subject has to be moving) pretty fast to see the skewing that happens with CMOS. If your camera shakes a lot too, your image overall will warp like jello. It's way more annoying to look at than just plain ol' camera shake.

The one thing I don't like about CMOS is the banding you get from flashes of light. That would probably happen at a wedding since there is a photographer.

Basically, the way CMOS sensors create the image is a row of pixels at the top of the sensor record the light it sees, and then the sensor goes to the second row, and then the third row, and so on. So by the time the sensor gets to the bottom row, it's recording a different moment of time than the previous rows - the 1st row being off by the most. This is what creates the warping from fast movement and banding from flash photography. With a CCD, all pixels activate at the same time, so you don't get those effects because all pixels record the exact moment of time at the same time. Make sense?



kylekap's picture
Last seen: 3 years 2 months ago
Joined: 02/17/2011 - 6:32pm

Okay. So I'm still sold on CCD over going with the CMOS, which still has me in Panasonic's corner.

It's looking like my options are either the HMC150, the HPX170, or compromising getting a progressive scan and going for the HVX200, which still features Mini-DV recording (which would be killer easy for shooting weddings...this obviously being the format I've recorded them on in the past).

If I can swing it financially, I'd like to go with the HPX170, since it seems to offer me the most options and best picture quality, but every workflow article I've read on the P2 cards says you should be backing up the cards in the field. What's wrong with just logging and transfering in FCP through the camera when the wedding is over?

If it really is necessary to also purchase a device to back-up the cards in the field, then that's the nail in the coffin for P2 for me. I couldn't spend ANOTHER $1000-4000 for an external storage recorder.

And you're half right, I'm no master at camera operation yet. Like I said before I'm just digging in now, and understand the basics of aperture, frame rate, color temp, etc. I've got a lot to learn, and I am buying a camera to learn on as well as shoot personal projects. But I want something I can knock a wedding out with too.


XTR-91's picture
Last seen: 9 months 2 hours ago
Joined: 12/06/2008 - 8:57pm

What I meant is buy the MG505 on top of the Panasonic if you need a backup.

Great video quality, certainly for $300, and it's got 3 CCDs.


Rob Grauert's picture
Last seen: 2 months 3 weeks ago
Joined: 02/16/2008 - 10:47pm

"What's wrong with just logging and transfering in FCP through the camera when the wedding is over?"

You have to refer back to the days of tape. When a tape was full, what did you do? You stored that tape on the shelf. That was your master. You didn't capture the tape and then record over it, at least, I hope you didnt

With P2 cards, you don't store the P2 card on a shelf and buy a new one. They're too expensive. So you backup the contents of the P2 card - the EXACT contents, the EXACT file structure. The contents of the P2 card are your master, just like the tape was your master.

Once you back up the contents, you erase the P2 card and record over it. Make sense?

The reason you don't want to Log and Transfer with FCP and simply save the .mov files is because you'll be stuck with only .mov files. That's not good if you want to use that same footage at a later date with another editing system, such as Avid. All editing systems are able to support the contents/file structure of the P2 card, but they don't all support .MOV.

Luckily, you don't need to spend 1000-4000 dollars to back up a P2 card. You just need a P2 card reader and an external hard drive. Actually, you don't even need the P2 Card reader because you can use your camera, but that prevents you from continuing to shoot while you back up a card.

So here's how you back up a P2 card:

Lets say you only have 1 P2 card. Once it's full, mount it to your desktop. Then create a new folder and name it "Wedding_Reel1" Drag ALL of the EXACT contents of the P2 card into "Wedding_Reel1" Once that is complete, erase the card and fill it up again. Once it's full, mount it to the desktop and drag the contents into a folder called "Wedding_Reel2" Basically, each time you fill up a card, it's a new reel. You don't fill up a card 5 times but only throw the contents into one folder. Does this make sense? I would HIGHLY recommend figuring all this out before going on a shoot. If you unknowingly back up a card wrong, and then erase the card and continue recording, you are so SOL.


kylekap's picture
Last seen: 3 years 2 months ago
Joined: 02/17/2011 - 6:32pm

Yeah. That tape comparison was perfect in helping me understand this. Thanks for that. I guess I'm going to have to learn to think in different terms. A P2 reader and external hard drive is doable.

I think I have all the info I need. Now it's just a question of how much am I willing to spend. I've looked at the 150 vs. the 170 on Vimeo. I definitely think the 170 has the better quality, but the 150 and AVCHD isn't so far behind that it wouldn't make a great starter camera. For the price.

Thank you for all your help. This has been quite a process figuring out what I want and you were immensely helpful.


kylekap's picture
Last seen: 3 years 2 months ago
Joined: 02/17/2011 - 6:32pm

XTR-91...thanks for the tip. I'll take a look at it. That is a pretty low cost, but strangely I can't find the camera on B&H.