NAB ’14 Camera Recap: What Did We Really Get

The annual NAB show has come and gone. It was a good year for cameras and it also saw the spreading of some interesting trends:

Dockable Cameras: What’s old is new again. The two piece camera concept, something big up through the late 90’s, is back. We saw two piece, head-dock combo cameras from Blackmagic Design with the URSA and from Panasonic with the new VariCam system. We’ll see if these dock systems catch on with more manufacturers and more models and if these docks actually pay off with the flexibility the makers claim 

High Speed: We’re starting to get to a point where 60p is just expected in a professional camera. But we’re also introducing the concept that to make a “high speed” camera you don’t have to be Phantom creating thousands of frames per second. Most users are very excited about 120 or 240. For a lot of camera makers frame rates in this range are now becoming very tangible specifications. AJA, Panasonic, Sony, and even JVC all showed cameras that could reach the 120 threshold.

ProRes & Other Beefy 10-Bit Codecs: ProRes is starting to become the closest thing the video industry has ever had to a high end “universal standard” codec. Blackmagic, AJA, and even Sony and Panasonic all showed ProRes recording cameras. And we have more options for ProRes external records then ever, thanks to AJA and Atomos. Beyond ProRes the theme was 10-bit. XAVC and AVC-Ultra where shown off on many new models, all recording in 10-bit. In some cases the compression schemes have become so good we can get a 10-bit signal out of a 25mbps package. RAW recording is starting to become more readily available, though i wouldn’t quite call it a “common” feature yet.

Super35mm: Large sensor “cinema” cameras have been the growing trend for the last 3-4 NAB shows. This year the ratio of cameras that specifically use the Super35mm standard compared to smaller sensors was the biggest it’s ever been. Panasonic, AJA, Blackmagic Design, JVC, and Sony all showed new cameras that make use of this format. There were very few cameras shown with smaller traditional broadcast 1/3” or 2/3” sensors.

Shoulder Mount/ Improved Ergonomics: Generally speaking there weren’t too many cameras that required kitting out shown this year. There was a very pleasant uptake in ready to go cameras. The Blackmagic URSA, The AJA CION, the new VariCams, and the new JVC all use shoulder mount designs. Sony’s even gone to the lengths of improving the F5 & F55 shoulder mount. Those cameras are already shoulder-mountable, and always have been. But now they’ve gone totally ENG with a new control layout and new features via a docking sled. JVC even showed an economically designed hand-held camera with a large Super35mm sensor. For some reason that’s a concept that hasn’t really been that prevalent before.

Post by Eric C. Petrie


What is Panasonic’s AVC-Ultra

Panasonic has always been a leader in video formats and codecs. They were on the fore front of the DV native to edit revolution. They were the first to offer 4:2:2 50 and 100mbps versions of DV, called DVCPro. They introduced their next-generation format AVC-Ultra back in 2007, years ahead of Sony’s next-gen format, and even a little ahead of Apple and ProRes. AVC-Ultra has evolved a lot over the years. The most critical part of AVC-Ultra is that nearly all variations are at least 10-bit 4:2:2.

First, you have AVC-Intra. These are Intra-Frame formats, recording every single frame of video in full quality. These run at 50mbps, 100mbps, and 200mbps. The 200mbps variation is 4:4:4 12 bit. Next you have AVC-LongGOP. Still maintaining 10-bit 4:2:2 this LongGOP format runs at 25mbps, 36mbps, or 50mbps. As of this writing Panasonic has also announced AVC-4K. At this point specs are a little vague on what exactly that will look like. We know it will be at least 4:2:2 10b-bit. But it could also be 4:4:4 12-bit. At 4K resolution 4:2:2 10 bit would run about 400mbps in AVC-Intra. At 4K resolution 4:4:4 12-bit would be a whopping 800mbps in AVC-Intra. Post by Eric C. Petrie

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Panasonic Announced AJ-PX270 Hand-Held ENG Camcorder

Even though it doesn’t get as much hype as the digital cinema, large sensor, 4K cameras, traditional 1080p ENG-styel shooting is still a very important part of what many video professionals do. Panasonic has revealed their latest camera to meet these needs. The AJ-PX270 is designed in a similar form factor to the HPX250. It features a 22x servo zoom lens with combination mechanical and servo rings for zoom, focus, and iris. Panasonic has moved the XLR ports around. In a style you might see in a shoulder mount ENG camera they’ve put one on the front and one on the back. The camera has all an all new LCD panel and an amazing OLED viewfinder. It has SDI, HDMI, USB 3.0, and ethernet ports. It is Wi-Fi controllable. It records to full size or microP2 cards. The biggest reason to get this camera is it is the first hand held sub-$10k camera to feature all flavors of AVC-Ultra. That means it can do AVC-Intra at 50, 100, and 200mbps. And it can also do AVC-LongGOP at 25, 35, and 50mbps. Amazingly all formats of AVC-Ultra are 4:2:2 10-bit, except AVC-Intra 200, which can be 4:4:4. The AJ-PX270 ships in early summer for around $5,750. Post by Eric C. Petrie

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