Jun 22, 2010

HPX170 Review


Chances are if you're considering a P2-based camera you know all about the HVX200 and it's newer brother, then HVX200-A.  (read my page about the HVX200 and why it's such a great camera and a worthy contender for your money).

In simple terms, the HPX170 is an HVX200-A without the tape-drive removed, making it a purely tapeless-media camera, P2 cards only.  But underneath the surface there's a lot more going on worth talking about.

First, although the tape drive is gone it still records every SD format the HVX200 series does, it simply records them only to the P2 cards.  This is a greater benefit than most realize, and if you've ever worked with any tape-based camera before whether SD or HD you know what a hassle the tape-capture process can be and how frustrating tape drop-outs are.  So with this camera there's just no chance of drop-outs, head misalignment, "tape eating" transports, ever:  a pure-solid state device from lens to cards.

Like other P2 cams the HPX170 is VFR capable with many frame-rates available, has the HOST mode direct HDD transfer and tons of configuration options for creating an in-camera "look" to suit the needs of the production.

The HPX170 and HVX200-A share the exact same chipset which is a big improvement over the HVX200 with a more natural color response, especially more neutral grays and better low-noise characteristics.  But there are also some nice upgrades/improvements over the HVX200-A such as:

-  A wider Leica lens that goes from an actual 3.9mm to 51mm which translates roughly into a  28mm to 368mm lens in 35mm terms.
-  It's weighs slightly less at 4.2 lbs.
-  A histogram display mode for more critical exposure control.
-  In-camera image flip, a HUGE plus for those using 35mm lens adapters such as the Letus Ultimate.
-  4 different types of focus assist modes.
-  Redesigned user-function buttons.
-  NTSC/PAL switchable.
-  A DVX-style joystick menu controller.
-  A 6 pin lockable firewire interface.
-  Gone is the S-Video out and replaced with an HD-SDI out, another major plus for those wanting the purest of HD signals.
-  8 Scene File settings.
-  3 built-in Neutral Density filters (1/8, 1/16, 1/64).
-  And another huge add-on carried over from Panasonic's larger 2/3" inch cameras is DRS or Dynamic Range Stretch, which really helps bring out shadow detail without sacrificing highs.  Similar to what digital still shooters do with HDR (high dynamic range) post-processing.

... and a list of other highly usable features that would fill an entire page.


Like all Panasonic cameras, one of the major benefits of the HPX170 is the actual color output of the camera.  Features, chipsets, resolution etc... that's all nice and fine but at the end of the day what really matters is what the images actually LOOK like, and the HPX170 delivers very natural color, wonderfully neutral grays and a rich color palette which lends itself towards the "film look" more than any other HD camera in it's class.  When you couple that with the standard 5-year warranty offered by Panasonic - just like their full-sized 2/3" inch P2 cameras - that makes the HPX170 a must-have for any serious HD production now and for the foreseeable future.

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