It’s Fall of 2011. The furor over large sensors and on-board recorders has taken over the market. The latest buzz cams being the Scarlet-X and C300. Both great cameras. But amidst all the flurry of F3s, AF100s, and FS100s during NAB. Panasonic, without fanfare released the camera right now that in my opinion is THE documentary camera: the HPX250. There are other factors of course, but if you’re doing docs or just starting out, this should definitely be on your list.
Why? Well, because it records 10bit, 4:2:2 AVC-Intra at 100mb/s. Did I mention it records that on board?
This is important for 2 reasons, namely the first that even the venerable F3, our crop of large sensor camcorders still only do 8bit 4:2:0 on board at much lower data rates. Some of these will give 4:2:2 out of an HDMI or SDI port but still only be 8bit. If you’re like me and you happen to have an EX series cam, you can get 4:2:2 at 10bit out of the SDI to your choice of portable recorder.
But why is 10bit so great? Well, suffice it to say (and I’m quote from from Grame’s post here under Test 4: The 10Bit Difference: http://www.nattress.com/Chroma_Investigation/chromasampling.htm ), “In digital video, 10bit or 8bit refers to the precision of the quantisation of the luma and chroma components. A 10bit format has four times the precision compared to an 8bit format, so there should be a significant and measurable difference.” (emphasis mine).
FOUR times the precision with 4:2:2 sampling. WITHOUT the need for an on-board recorder. That’s damned close to DCI spec and in a cam the size of your HVX. If your a doc filmmaker, or hell, just a guy that’s okay with a 1/3″ sensor for most applications this is a MUST HIT at a paltry $5300 (last check on B&H). Incidentally, you also get both HDMI and SDI ports you can use.
10bit without hulking around an onboard recorder. Less gear, less footprint, better quality. Win. And for good measure, he’s another great article by Karl Soule of Adobe: http://blogs.adobe.com/VideoRoad/2010/06/understanding_color_processing.html