Panasonic introduced the HPX370 camera today, which is just like the HPX300 but with a new CMOS sensor. I had a chance to play with an HPX370 last week (and do side-by-side comparisons to HPX300), and could quickly see that the new sensor makes a big difference in image quality. It has 3 major advantages over the 1+ year old HPX300:
1) 1 stop faster. We used a DSC color chart to measure exposure between the HPX300 and 370. The HPX300 needed an f4 exposure to properly expose what the HPX370 exposed at an f5.6. There you go: 1 stop faster!
2) Much lower noise. A waveform monitor, not to mention your own eye, could clearly see shadow noise in the HPX300, but much of that is gone in the 370.
3) Significantly reduced CMOS skew! When you quickly panned the HPX300, you could clearly see straight, vertical lines bend into curves. Not only was it noticeable in lab tests (which tend to go out of their way to highlight imperfections), but it was noticeable in a lot of real-world shooting scenarios. It was the kind of thing that really made you hesitate about purchasing the 300 as a primary camera. But that’s not such an issue anymore. The HPX370 doesn’t fully lose the skew effect, but it has greatly reduced it — I’d say by a factor of 50% or more. That means you can still spot the effect in lab tests, but not nearly as much in real-world shooting.
The HPX370 is pretty impressive camera. The only real limitation in my mind is its 1/3" sensor, which makes it hard to get a background out-of-focus when shooting interviews, recreations, etc. For that, you need a bigger sensor, like the 2/3" sensor found the in the Varicams, or beyond. But sensor-size aside, the HPX370 offers quite a bit. For $11,700 (list price with lens and viewfinder, which means street prices should be lower), you get:
- A great HD image at 720 or 1080, at multiple frame rates
- Solid-state workflow
- A light-weight shoulder-mount form factor that no other camera in this price range can match (I love shoulder-mount cameras.)
- A sharp color viewfinder
- Ability to shoot Panasonic’s fantastic AVC-Intra codec, which uses square pixels to deliver a full-raster image in 720 and 1080, in 10 bit color and a 4:2:2 color space. AVC-I is a noticeably better-looking codec than the older DVCPRO HD, which uses rectangular pixels to produce a lower-res image in 8 bit color.
- Variable frame rates in 720p (for under/over cranking
- 18 watt power consumption, meaning a standard Anton/Bauer battery can last hours.
- A Unislot, which lets you install a lightweight Lectrosonics SR audio receiver (seen here in a Varicam). The SR draws power off the camera’s battery and can receive signals from two different transmitters (on separate channels), without having to hang multiple receivers off your camera in awkward ways.
We’ll see what NAB 2010 brings in terms of competition, but as of now, the HPX370 is a pretty compelling package, and it’s shipping this month.