Panasonic's POVCAM and Memory Card Portable Recorder Review

View the sample video here

If your next project requires maximum camera placement versatility, while capturing beautiful full HD images, then Panasonic’s two-piece video recording system may be just the ticket.

Picture Perfect

What can be mounted virtually anywhere (including strapped or suction-cupped to any part of a vehicle’s surface, suspended from the rafters of your favorite sports venue or even bungeed to your bicycle or skateboard), records the crunch of wheels on pavement through its built-in 2-channel microphone and allows you to capture stunning HD images to boot? Why, the Panasonic POVCAM Full HD Camera Head, of course.

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Small in stature and weighing less than 2/3 of a pound, this camera can go almost anywhere and capture pretty much anything. The point-of-view applications are endless. Whether you’re gathering news, observing nature, involved in law enforcement surveillance (court order not included) or just trying to get that crazy, cool shot at your kid’s next sporting event, the POVCAM can help get the job done.

The unit uses three 1/4.1-inch 3-MOS imagers to capture 1920×1080 high-definition video in the AVCHD format. The camera head also features 12x optical zoom and optical image stabilization. When mounted upside down, using a standard 1/4-20 socket, the image flips automatically to the proper orientation.

Old School

In a bit of a retro move back to the days of yore, when cameras recorded to a separate deck, the POVCAM requires the Panasonic AVCCAM HD Recorder in order to achieve its full potential. For a blast to the past – 1972 and 1974 respectively – see oldradio.

The recorder is a battery-powered handheld unit. It supplies power to the camera head and combines a built-in 3.5″ LCD screen for viewing and playback functions, HD recording to low-cost SD memory cards and a plethora of menu-driven controls. HD-SDI in/out ports allow it to function as a standalone recorder for any HD-SDI capable camera.

It records full HD images at 1920x 1080 in three recording modes. The highest quality, PH mode, records an average of 21Mbps for up to 3 hours on a single 32GB SD card. A fourth recording mode, HE, records at 1440x 1080 at approximately 6Mbps for up to 12 hours on the aforementioned memory card.

Versatile

Eager to check out the camera and recorder, I packed them into their soft case, hopped in my car and cruised over to an area favored by a wide variety of waterfowl. Much of my work as a video producer is of the one-man production team variety, and I thought this would provide a good test of the equipment.

I mounted the POVCAM camera head to the roof of my car, using the Fat Gecko camera mount by Delkin, see the Delkin Fat Gecko & Cam Caddie Scorpion Review. Next, I attached the camera to the recorder via the three-meter (nine-foot eight-inch) cable. An optional 20-meter cable (65 feet) is available if you need the added length: $600 – useful, but ouch. I positioned myself with my feathered friends in the background and switched the unit on.

To say that the handheld unit is convenient would be a gross understatement. Watching the LCD screen, I could adjust my position for proper framing, set the white balance, observe the zebra settings and adjust the iris, zoom and focus – all without the need of an assistant or endless trips back to check the camera’s viewfinder. Once I completed my ramblings before the camera, I was able to select from several thumbnails of the clips I had just recorded and review them with ease.

It’s easy to see that the creative possibilities are endless. Working with these items was a joy to say the least.


Tech Specs

Camera Head AG-HCK10G

Image Sensor: 3MOS (Three 1/4.1″ MOS type solid-state image sensors; progressive modes supported)

Picture Elements: Effective – approx. 2.51 megapixels x 3 (16:9)

Lens: Optical image stabilizer; motorized 12x zoom; f/1.8 to f/2.8

Filter Diameter: 43 mm

ND Filter: Auto on/off by IRIS

Minimum Luminance: Approx. 1 lx

Weight: 275g (approx. 0.61 lb)

Portable Recorder AG-HMR10P

Recording Format: AVCHD

Compression Method: MPEG-4 AVC/H.264

Recording Media: SD memory card (512MB, 1GB, 2GB); SDHC memory card (4GB – 32GB)

Signal Formats Include: 1080/60i, 1080/30p (over 60i), 1080/24p (native), 720/60p, 720/30p (over 60p) and 720/24p (native)

Transmission Rate: PH mode: approx. 21Mbps (VBR, Max. 24Mbps); HA mode: Approx. 17Mbps (VBR); HG mode: approx. 13Mbps (VBR); HE mode: approx. 6Mbps (VBR)

Video In/Out: SDI input, SDI output, AG-HCK10G 20-pin dedicated input, HDMI output

Audio In/Out: AG-HCK10G 20-pin dedicated input, external microphone input (stereo mini jack), HDMI output (2 ch linear PCM, 5.1 ch Dolby Digital), headphone, built-in speaker

LCD Monitor: 3.5 inches, LCD color monitor (approx. 210,000 pixels)

Weight: Approx. 691g (approx. 1.52 lb.), including battery

Strengths

  • Excellent full HD recording
  • Versatile
  • Great for one-person production crews

Weaknesses

  • Port covers on the recorder are stiff and difficult to open
  • High cost for limited budgets

SUMMARY

If you’re a one-person camera crew, or just need the versatility these products afford, the Panasonic POVCAM and AVCCAM HD Recorder/Player may be the right choice for you.

Mark Holder is a video producer and trainer.

Panasonic Broadcast

One Panasonic Way

Secaucus, NJ 07094

www.panasonic.com

POVCAM Full HD Camera Head (AG-HCK10G): $1,800

Handheld AVCCAM HD Recorder/Player (AG-HMR10P): $2,600

As tested, including camera, recorder, 3m cable, 8GB SD memory card and soft carrying case: $4,915

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