NAB 2010: Low-Cost Newsgathering Heats Up

NAB 2010: Complete Coverage from B&C
With stations' budgets dramatically tighter than a decade ago, the battleground for news camcorders has moved from full-featured units costing around $25,000 to compact camcorders that run $10,000 or less. In that vein, both Panasonic and JVC will introduce at NAB shoulder-mounted, solid-state camcorders with 1/3-inch imaging chips that list for less than $12,000, lens included.

Both appear aimed at Sony's solid-state, ½-inch XDCAM PMW-EX3 unit, which has gained significant share in the low-cost camcorder market since its 2007 launch for use in the field as well as the studio. Much of that appeal is based on its $7,000 list price, considerably cheaper than Sony's bigger XDCAM HD camera with optical-disc storage.

Panasonic's new AG-HPX370 P2 HD camcorder, a successor to the HPX300 unit it launched last year, provides 10-bit, 4:2:2 full 1920 x 1080 resolution recording using Panasonic's AVC-Intra compression scheme and lists for $11,700. It has newly developed 2.2-megapixel ULT (Ultra Luminance Technology) 3-MOS imagers, and two P2 card slots that allow it record up to 128 minutes of 60-frame-per-second HD on 64-gigabyte cards. The HPX370 comes standard with a Fujinon 17x HD lens, but can be used with interchangeable lenses through an optional 1/3-inch-to-2/3-inch lens adapter. It can also be configured for studio use with a $10,000 studio system.

"When you look at this image, we think it's equal to or sometimes better than ½-inch [sensor] performance," says Panasonic VP of Marketing Bob Harris.

JVC, which launched its first solid-state camcorder last year with the compact ProHD GY-HM700, is replacing its flagship 250 Series camcorder with the GY-HM790. Compared to the tape-based 250, which could record to disk through an add-on device, the GY-HM790 offers integral solid-state recording on two standard SDHC memory cards in either the QuickTime (.mov) file format used by Apple Final Cut Pro editing software, or the MP4 format used in Sony's XDCAM EX cameras and some nonlinear editors.

The GY-HM790, which does not yet have a formal list price but should sell for less than $12,000, will record in 720p and 1080i HD as well as 480i SD (the GY-HM700 doesn't do standard-def). It also features a significant improvement over the 250 for live-shot applications: an optional Asynchronous Serial Interface (ASI) output module that provides a direct link to satellite uplinks or microwave transmitters using the camera's built-in MPEG-2 encoders. Users of the 250 have had to run that camera's FireWire output into a $3,000 Miranda adapter to convert it to ASI for live HD transmission.

Other electronic newsgathering features in the camera include an analog SD pool feed input, a 4.3-inch LCD screen and high-res 1.2-megapixel LCOS viewfinder. Like the 250, the GY-HM790 can be configured for studio use with an optional sled system.

JVC VP Larry Librach says the studio rig for the 250, which equates to a studio camera system that runs $25,000 or less, has been very popular with mid- to-small-market stations. He expects that to continue with the GY-HM790.

"We have customers putting in complete four-camera setups for $110,000 to $125,000," he says. "That's really changed the landscape on the broadcast side."