Thursday, January 10, 2013

CES 2013 Flagship Camcorder Roundup

The three big camcorder players (Canon, Panasonic, Sony) all announced new top-of-the-line models at CES this year.  Some have chosen to simply tweak to their 2011/2012 offerings - while some are offering more significant upgrades.

The big news, in my view, is that JVC, which has tried for many years to crack the top tier, may finally have broken through with a game changer.


First the tweakers - starting with Canon.  Since 2011, Canon's HF G10 has been the low light consumer camcorder champ.  This camera has held its value at over $1000 MSRP against assaults from the Panasonic X900 in 2012 and the Panasonic TM900 before it.

I guess Canon figured - 'why mess with success?' - so they say they've improved the low light sensitivity of the HF G20 over its predecessor, but not much else.  No 1080/60p - and they've dropped the HF G10's LANC terminal.  Price stays about the same as the HF G10's current price point.  If you want a tweaked HF G10 with better low light sensitivity (according to Canon), you can pre-order the HF G20 from Adorama for $1099 here.


At a slightly higher price point (for now) is the new Panasonic HC-X920.  Again, the major emphasis is on improving the low light performance of the predecessor HC-X900.  Panasonic claims to have done this with backside illuminated sensors (BSI). I shoot with the 2011 model, the TM900, which does a good job in low light.  The X920 is supposed to be even better. The 900 series cameras have been solid performers, with a great feature set - 1080/60p and 24p; manual control of exposure, focus & sound level; a standard cold shoe for mounting accessories; and other features that differentiated them from the competition.  Their only second place finish has been in low light performance.  If backlit chips can fix that, this could make the X920 the class leader.  You can pre-order the HC-X920 directly from Panasonic here for $1199.99.


Sony's new flagship is the HDR-PJ780V.  This camera fixes two challenges Sony had with their predecessor flagship - lack of a standard cold shoe and no manual control of audio.  Now, with full manual control of audio levels (and improved audio quality), and Sony's new Multi Interface Shoe (which accepts standard cold-shoe mounted accessories). they have removed the biggest limitations of their previous flagship models.  You can pre-order this camera for $1599.99  at the Sony Store.


For me, JVC is the most interesting story here.  I have a great camcorder (the TM900), and was not interested of the new camcorders announced at CES until I saw this picture of the new JVC GC-PX100:

 I really like the "DSLR look" and the feature-set of this camera:

  • 1080/60p at 36mbps
  • 10x f1.2 max aperture servo zoom
  • 12MP stills at 9fps
  • Articulated LCD and an optional EVF
  • Multiple codecs (AVCHD, MP4, MOV)
  • Wi-fi with iOS/Android phone/tablet monitoring
  • Time lapse intervalometer

This camerahas everything on my wish list except weathersealing, XLR inputs and depth of field control (although the f1.2 max aperture offers some interesting shallow DOF possibilities).

And the $1000 price is reasonable, when measured against the competition. Without the viewfinder, the PX100 is $300 less than a body-only GH3 and only $450 more than the FZ200 bridge camera.

This could be both a "video DSLR killer" and a "high-end superzoom killer".

If the image quality is competitive with the $1200 X920, $1600 PJ780V and/or $1100 HF G20, it could be a "flagship camcorder killer" too.

Looks like there's a new camcorder on my shopping list.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Poor man's XLR jack for GH2/GH3

I was tired of noisy amateur "shotgun" mics with poor off-axis noise rejection, poor frequency response and flimsy little 3.5mm jacks and consumer cable.  I wanted to upgrade my mic quality - but I didn't want to spend a lot of money for a JuicedLink or Beachtek preamp/XLR to DSLR adapter.

 I heard that some people were running battery powered XLR mics directly into 3.5mm jack equipped camcorders and cameras with line matching transformers - so I set out on a quest to see if  could make it work - and I did.

I'm now running a $75 used Audio Technica AT835 mic (sourced from eBay) directly into my GH2 with a $15 Hosa Low Z to High Z transformer and a $5 Hosa GPM-467 3.5mm to 2.5mm adapter.  The windscreen is a $55 Olsen Mic Muff MM-21. It works really well for my application (standups right in front of the camera for my vlog).

The preamps on the GH2 are not great, but they are good enough for this - and the GH3's are even better.

No phantom power - but that's what battery powered mics are for.

When this setup is connected to the GH3, I won't need the GPM-467 any more.  A lot less expensive than Panasonic's $349 OEM solution :)