Los Angeles Cameraman

The PCD35, Panasonic's Unsung Hero

Panasonic's AJ-PCD35 is one of the unsung heroes of the P2 universe. I don't know why Panasonic doesn't make a bigger deal about it, because it's single-handedly responsible for blowing tape-based workflows out of the water. 


Here's what I mean:


Let's say you shoot about 13 hours of 720p footage to DVCPRO HD tapes. How long will it take to capture that footage to an editing system? ANSWER: More than 13 hours, because you'll have to manually feed about 26 tapes, one by one, into your DVCPRO deck, and then wait for each tape to capture in real-time. 


But how long will things take using the PCD35? Fill it with 5 64GB P2 cards, and it takes about an hour to offload 13 hours of 720p footage. Plus, you can start the transfer, and then forget about it until it's finished, instead of having to manually feed a tape into a deck again and again and again...



This is a huge tim-and-money saver, especially for shops that deal with loads of footage every day. Again, I don't know why Panasonic isn't advertising this benefit more. Its earlier 5-card reader — the PCD20 — was pretty slow thanks to its Firewire/USB connectors, and hardly made an impression on anyone. But the PCD35, using a PCI Express card interface, is about 4-5 times as fast in my tests. 


What's weirder still is that Panasonic's own web page says the PCD35 is only 1.5 times faster than the PCD20 running via Firewire 800, but that's based purely on theoretical speeds of FireWire (which the PCD20 comes nowhere near matching), instead of real-world tests. I feel sorry for folks who trust that web site and buy the PCD20. Those people probably figure they'll go with the PCD20's more common USB/Firewire interface, and only give up a little performance. WRONG. Instead, they'll miss out on a huge speed increase. 


Anyway, if you want to know more about the PCD35, I have a more formal review at Studio Daily right here.