NAB 2013

New ENG Camera Offerings Come Into Focus

Canon is making another run at selling camcorders to TV stations for ENG, introducing two new units at NAB. Rivals in the market: Panasonic's AG-HPX and AJ-PX lines; JVC's GY-HN650 with dual-codec live streaming; and Sony's new PMW-450 and its PMW-200.

At the NAB Show, where everyone is talking about 4K and the cloud, there’s still a busy and crowded market for TV station ENG cameras.

Sony, Panasonic and JVC have been sharing the TV station portion of the market. This year, they have a new — and familiar — competitor: Canon. The camera manufacturer, which is also trying to break into the cinematography market, says it’s poised to make a go with its new ENG cameras, the XA25 and XA20, which are designed for the “run-and-gun” multimedia journalist.

“Our goal is to get as many [cameras] out as we can so we can get a foothold in a very competitive market,” says Larry Thorpe, Canon senior fellow and spokesman. “We’ve had slates of visits this week with broadcasters who are telling us they want that sort of camera — tiny and mobile — and capable of a great image.”

This story might sound familiar to broadcasters who follow the industry.

At the 2011 NAB Show, Canon pitched three low-cost camcorders with solid-state media — the XF305, XF105 and XA10 — which ranged from $2,000 to $8,000 as options for HD news. At the time, Thorpe said they jumped into the market because they saw a “very definitive move of broadcasters looking for lower-cost equipment for newsgathering and production.”

Today, he admits the cameras were poorly rolled out. “I think we probably didn’t market them as effectively. This year, we’re trying to pump all of those cameras back again. Now we have a whole lineup to sell and it’s quite a lineup.”


Canon has its work cut out for it, however. In the past month alone, JVC has announced sales of more than 200 units of its flagship ENG camera, the GY-HM650, to various station groups. Additionally, it sold more than 500 HM650 cameras to the BBC earlier this year for newsgathering throughout the United Kingdom and globally.

Panasonic landed two station groups this month — Alaska-based Denali Media and Oklahoma-based Griffin Communications — for sales of its AG-HPX600 P2 HD shoulder-mount cameras and AG-HPX250 P2 HD handhelds for ENG.

Thorpe says Canon’s newly announced ENG cameras are still too new to have any customer announcements. Sony also hasn’t announced any station group buys for its ENG cameras this year.

Canon’s new cameras feature 20x zooms, simultaneous MP4 and AVCHD recording capability, and some expected extras, like a 3.5-inch LED touch-panel display and wireless connectivity for content uploading or remote operation via tablet or smartphone.

The XA25 includes an HD/SD-SDI connector to feed video directly into a microwave or satellite truck, or other TV transmission system, like a bonded cellular pack.

Chuck Westfall, technical adviser for Canon USA’s Professional Engineering and Solutions Division, said the move into the ENG camera business makes sense because its lenses already have a strong presence in the market.

“We’ve taken the opportunity in the last three years to really put our feet in the water, so to speak, with these cameras,” Westfall says. “In order to do that, you need something compelling. The fact is that the feature levels are way up from what we had — it’s a 20x zoom lens in such a small package — and that gets us on stage. We’re very competitive on the lens side, it has outstanding low-light performance, and now we’re adding wireless capabilities to the camera.”

But Canon’s biggest selling point could be price: The XA-25 is expected to retail for $2,700; the XA-20 is expected to sell for $2,200.

Despite being more than twice as expensive as Canon’s new camera, JVC remains confident its GY-HM650 ($5,700) can be a favorite among broadcasters. JVC’s NAB news was a firmware upgrade for the HM650 that uses the camera’s dual-codec to live stream footage while recording HD content to cards.

Users can also FTP news clips back to the station while they continue to shoot a story. Starting in May, all new units will ship with the 2.0 firmware, and existing customers will be allowed to upgrade for free.

David Walton, JVC assistant VP of marketing and communications, said broadcasters want cameras that are smaller, lighter and have IP connectivity to send their footage back to the station without having to wear a backpack filled with bonded cellular gear.

While a demo of the GY-HM650’s FTP upload and streaming capability didn’t go according to plan, Walton says he’s confident that one cellular connection — compared to the four to six found in most bonded cellular solutions — will get the job done for breaking news stories.

“We have found that there has been a 100% improvement in 4G LTE technology from a year ago,” Walton says. “We saw that two years ago, and we think it’s possible to do what we’re doing. It’s only going to get better. Our [single cellular connection] system allows broadcasters to implement more live footage from the field for less money.”

Walton wouldn’t speak about his competitors at Sony, Panasonic and Canon when asked about market share, but did say, “It’s a finite market because there’s only a certain number of broadcasters out there who do news. If we can put out the most affordable camera that allows them to transport video to the station, we can be successful.”

The GY-HM650 features a 23x zoom, 1/3-inch 12-bit CMOS sensors and F11 sensitivity. In addition to streaming, the new firmware includes a clip trimmer so photographers can FTP key parts of longer shoots back to the station.

At the show, Sony was showing off its new ENG shoulder-mount camera, the PMW-450, an upgrade from its PMW-300, which Gannett standardized across its station group.

The 450 keeps the same 2/3-inch 3 CMOS sensor as the 350, but features an improved viewfinder, improved flash band correcting software and two SDI outputs.

It ships in August with an estimated retail price of about $20,000.

The company’s handheld ENG camera, the PMW-200 ($7,790), remains popular among broadcasters, says Cyndi Lee, a Sony spokesperson. “Our XD cams have had several wins — Scripps and Miami-based Sunbeam Television…. We can’t be shipping enough.”

Panasonic introduced the AJ-PX5000G for sports, documentaries and high-end ENG that carries a price tag of $28,000.

Steve Cooperman, Panasonic product manager, says the company’s HPX600 shoulder-mount and AG-AC160 handheld continue to be its most popular among station groups. HPX600 lists for $15,000.

Both cameras have wireless capability and this year included a firmware upgrade to integrate with LiveU, AVIWEST, Streambox and TVU Networks bonded cellular units.

“It’s clear to us that our customers want IT workflows that allow them to transport content back to the station,” says Cooperman.

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