Jun 22, 2010
Panasonic HPX2700 P2 2/3"rds inch camera Review
You almost never see reviews of full-sized ENG video cameras anywhere, mostly because the people who use them are in fact seasoned pros who already know and fully understand the ins-and-out's of any pro HD camcorder. Plus it's not like the manufacturers sells tens of thousands of these cameras either, so the market is quite small and specialized. However because the HPX2700 represents quite a leap forward in tapeless video camera technology, and based on my usage of it I felt it warranted space here on the site.
In point of fact, the AG-HPX2700 is the P2 version of the venerable tape-based Varicam that has been a staple of both ENG and independent filmmaking crews worldwide for years. But with newer technology also comes newer features.
One of the latest additions to the Panasonic pro-HD codec lineup in AVC-Intra which comes in two flavors, AVC-I-50 and 100 which replicates D5 master quality at half the bitrate. (AVC-Intra should not be confused with AVCCAM or AVCHD, both of which are versions of the newer consumer HD codec aimed at replacing HDV). Just like with DVCPRO-HD AVC-Intra is not long-GOP but frame independent and is a definitive step-up from DVCPRO-HD both in visual quality and full-raster color/noise characteristics. However there are 2 noticeable departures in this camera compared to it's little brother, the HPX500.
First, the HPX2700 only shoots HD formats, no SD at all, period. That means if you ever have need of a production requiring an SD output you'd either need to use the HPX500 instead or, have your 2700 footage down-converted which is not a simple nor easy workflow. Second, there are only (3) XLR mic inputs rather than the traditional (4) found on most ENG bodies. Why this was done is not clear and it only presents an oddity, not a feature benefit.
Like other ENG cameras the 2700 does offer CAC circuitry to help clean up chromatic aberrations which are commonplace in low-cost ENG lenses, but when you mount high-end ED-type glass, holy cow... this camera really comes alive with tons of detail, superb color and very, very low noise characteristics.
In practical use and especially in AVC-I-100 mode this camera's output is amazingly gorgeous and visibly better than DVCPRO-HD and most especially several steps better than any XDCAM model. No it's not a Thompson Viper nor is it an F35 but despite it's appeal to the indie market it's not intended to be a digital-cinema camera. However, when you consider that the body-only price is under $40k it represents quite a compelling option for use in digital-cinema productions especially when coupled with either the Canon Anamorphic adapter (which costs more than the 2700!) or even a B4-mount 35mm lens adapter such as the Letus Ultimate.
Just as with it's little brothers the HPX170 and HPX500 the HPX2700 represents a huge value for the money not to mention all the benefits of the P2 tapeless system and far outperforms anything by it's competitors.