This is a great time to be a low-budget filmmaker because of the advancement of higher-end features on lower-budget cameras. Although NAB is the big cornucopia of goodness for filmmakers, this year’s CES (Consumer Electronics Show) has many treats for filmmakers.
Take, for example, the Panasonic HC-WX970 4K UHD Camcorder with Twin Video Camera.
Ultra HD (3840×2160 pixels) is fast becoming the next step in home entertainment, and Panasonic has thrown their hat into the home 4k(ish) ring in a big way. I say “4kish” because there is a technical difference between true 4k resolution (4096×2160 pixels) and UHD (3840×2160 pixels) – UHD is more the standard for home entertainment listed as “4k Televisions”, for example.
Panasonic HC-WX970 4K UHD Camcorder
Panasonic has seemingly pulled out all the stops for this camcorder by adding some amazing features formerly only found on high end (and I’m talking $20,000+ RED) cameras. Besides the UHD resolution at 30 frames per second, it will shoot 1080P at 120 frames per second and can use interpolation to reach 240(!) frames per second.
That is CRAZY good on this camcorder, even if you only ever use the 120 because of the interpolation (interpolation is the camera “filling in” missing frames to achieve a higher apparent frame rate – we’ll have to wait and see how good it does).
It also has a “high dynamic range” mode.
If you’ve read some of my previous articles, I’ve pointed out that one of the main shortcomings of HDSLRs is the limited dynamic range – the difference that camera can see between light and dark areas. Former Panasonic handicams (which I’ve used before) top out at about 8 stops of dynamic range – useable if you know how to work within the limitations, but by no means outstanding.
Greater dynamic range was achieved in early RED cameras by shooting dual exposures – basically rapidly switching between a darker exposed image and a lighter exposed image and combining them into one image that “sees” further into shadows and retains more highlights.
Panasonic has added a similar capability to this little guy, and the results are impressive.
One of the reasons I chose to go with the A7s is the higher dynamic range (and I don’t regret it for a second) – but the sample video from Panasonic shows the dramatic impact of higher dynamic range on the final image quality:
While it is not perfect, but it is many times better (and more filmic looking, in my opinion) then any consumer camcorder that I have seen before.
There are a some other notable features, as well. It includes an 20x optical zoom with a 50x digital zoom (and digital zoom in UHD might be workable…maybe) as well as 5-axis image stabilization.
It is wifi enabled for remote control and liveview, and it includes a second camera capability. You can use either your smartphone (via wifi, I’m sure) or an attached second camera on the flip out screen that can be rotated to allow for what appears to be a picture-in-picture effect while shooting.
It’s an interesting feature, but the sample video makes it look very Skype-ish in my opinion:
I know I probably won’t be using it, but someone might find an artistic use at some point.
The Good On The Panasonic HC-WX970:
– UHD resolution up to 30fps, 1080P up to 240fps (with interpolation)
– impressive High Dynamic Range feature
– Wi-fi remote operation and live view
– $1,000 – available around March 2015
The Not-So Good On The Panasonic HC-WX970:
– Still a small sensor (difficult to get high depth of field)
– no 24p recording at UHD (I hope that changes with an update)
The What On The Panasonic HC-WX970:
– Second camera capability (looks Skype-ish to me)
The Panasonic HC-WX970 is a great looking camera for the price. While the small sensor and second camera function seems just ok at this point, the lack of 24p shooting makes me scratch my head.
Having that option would bring a lot of low-budget filmmakers to this camera, but maybe Panasonic is trying to not cannibalize it’s higher end camera market.
The high dynamic range and extremely high frame rates are remarkable for a consumer aimed camera, and those might bring many low-budget filmmakers back for a second look especially if Panasonic adds 24p shooting – Are you listening, Panasonic?