At the NAB Show, there will be no shortage of less expensive HD cameras, both for studio and field use and many that will work well doing both. And there are also good deals to be found in the mid-price market.
If there’s an upside to the downturn, it’s the availability of less expensive HD cameras for the studio and the field. At this year’s NAB Show, manufacturers will be showcasing cost-effective products that deliver on the promise of IT efficiency and fit downsized capEx budgets.
“You’ve got to respond to the needs of the marketplace. We still sell expensive cameras, but a station will buy a mix to meet their specific needs,” said Bob Harris, Panasonic Broadcast VP of marketing and product development.
Panasonic‘s price-barrier buster for NAB 2009 is the AG-HPX300. The shoulder mount P2 HD camcorder is billed as the “world’s first affordable 10-bit, 4:2:2 camera” and lists for $10,700, complete with a 17x Fujinon lens.
Panasonic has already signed a deal with NBC Universal to adopt the P2 format and the new camcorder will soon hit the streets for NBC O&Os, CNBC and Telemundo.
“The timing is right for the AG-HPX300. There’s pressure on broadcasters and producers to improve quality at a lower price. The question is: how do you do that?” said Harris.
His answer is with the HPX-300’s one-third-inch CMOS native HD imagers with 2.2 million pixels of resolution. The chips “overcomes the physics” of small chips to deliver low light sensitivity, Harris said.
But Panasonic doesn’t have the low-cost HD market all to itself. JVC‘s GY-HM700 will premier at NAB 2009, building on the success of the GY-HD200/250 to deliverer a next-generation professional product built around one-third-inch CCD imagers.
The new shoulder-mount camera integrates a range of technologies, including SDHC flash memory and QuickTime native recording. It’s compatible with Sony’s XDCAM EX platform.
“We’re really pleased to be aligned with Sony and offer its 35 mbps capability,” Craig Yanagi, JVC’s national marketing manager of creation products. I’ve never seen so much technology converge in one package.”
The GY-HM700 is expected to ship in June for under $8,000, including an HD lens. The combination has some lining up, including Michael Doback, vice president/engineering for Scripps’ broadcast television station group.
“[The GY-HM700] has a high-definition viewfinder and can encode HD video into an MPEG-II stream that we can microwave over our traditional equipment. The solid-state recording on inexpensive cards brings the cost of media to the same as videotape. That’s the nut,” Doback said.
Sony‘s entry in the high-stakes, low-cost arena is the PMW-EX3, an XDCAM EX solid-state camcorder touted as a “semi-shoulder mount. It records to SxS memory cards and features half-inch CMOS sensors. Listing at about $10,000 with lens, the EX3 can also be studio-ready with the optional NIPROS/1 optical fiber adapter for another $20,000.
Sony unveiled the EX3 at last year’s NAB and just announced that New Vision Television is going with camera for its stations’ HD upgrades. The total buy is for 130 cameras for the 17 stations, a combination of EX3s and the pricier XDCAM PDW-700 optical disc camcorders for ENG.
“It is amazing to get a true 1080p resolution camera at that price, and it is suitable for file-based workflow or studio operation,” said Lynn Rowe, chief technology consultant for New Vision Television. “You can’t beat the resolution and they have so many features that you can paint anyway you want. It’s a no-brainer for studio ops.”
Price sensitivity is also an issue in the mid-market. Hitachi will be showing its new Z-HD5000 studio camera, an economy version of its SK-HD1000 released at NAB 2008.
“Market conditions have turned us towards lower costs products,” said Sean Moran, Hitachi’s national sales manager. “There are customers out there, but they are in holding patterns wanting to hold onto their cash. We’ve seen some potential clients go for lower cost cameras because the SK-HD1000 is out of reach.”
The Z-HD5000 swaps the SK-HD1000s 2.2 million pixel sensors for single megapixel interlaced chips. That brings the MSRP for the head down to $24,000, 40 percent less than its predecessor.
But price is only one way to assess value. Grass Valley‘s focus for cameras at NAB 2009 is imaging excellence.
“While there is a lot of interest in low-cost cameras, one of the most important things we have to educate people about are the compromises made when you have imagers less than two-thirds inch,” said Ray Baldock, CTO and VP of marketing, Grass Valley.
“There are reasons to go there if you want extreme portability,” he said. “But to deliver a great HD experience takes two-thirds-inch imagers and HD lenses.”
Meanwhile, Grass Valley’s Infinity Digital Media camcorder will bring new capabilities to NAB, including Long GOP HD recording. Choices for Long GOP HD capture include 18, 25, 35 and 50 Mb/s for the 10-bit 4:2:2 HD camcorder.
A studio option is also now available for Infinity with the Telecast Fiber Systems CopperHead. The package price is under $50,000.
“We’ve hit the bar for bringing what was standard definition high end prices to HD. We’re under that now with a number of our products,” said Mark Chiolis, senior director, marketing.
Grass Valley will also be showcasing its Elite HD series of studio and field cameras with three new models: the LDK 4000 Elite, the LDK 8000 Elite and the LDK 8000 SportElite.According to Baldock, the new cameras are a radical upgrade from the predecessor LDK 8000 series with all-new DSP circuits, but they will sell for about the same. The LDK 4000 Elite is a fixed format version to provide additional affordability, but it can be upgraded. The SportsElite model adds 2x Super Slow-Motion.
Ikegami will bring the finished version of its GFSeries, a flash memory-based production suite designed to meet the need for a lower cost ENG system. Prototypes were shown at last year’s NAB Show, and now they are ready with new peripherals to speed workflow.
The GFCAM HDS-V10 tapeless camcorder has two-thirds-inch AIT imagers found on its $85,000 studio cameras. At $25,000 for the body only, the camera doesn’t break any price points. But, according to Bob Molczan, Ikegami engineering specialist for tapeless products, it is not as likely to break down as some other cameras either.
“Going cheap will get you something that acquires HD and works well with a reporter who puts it in his trunk and shoots a story occasionally,” said Molczan.
“But for real-life environments when equipment is getting knocked around and being subjected to extremes of heat, humidity and dirt, you want a camera that will last more than two years before you need replacement parts,” he said.