During CES 2020 in Las Vegas, Panasonic announced three new compact camcorders with 1/2.5″ sensors. The HC-X1500, HC-X2000 and AG-CX10 all offer 4K 60p recording capability (4:2:2 10-bit up to 4K 30p) along with 24x optical zoom (25mm-600mm full-frame equivalent) lens. They offer 5-axis O.I.S, two manual rings, ND filters, a built-in LED video light, 24-bit linear PCM audio recording, a built-in Wi-Fi module for streaming, and more.
With the recent rise of full-frame cinema cameras, it might look like that large sensors are taking over the whole video industry and Super 35 will become the bare minimum. In reality, there is always the right tool for the right job, and often a larger sensor is actually counter-productive. Compact broadcast cameras with smaller sensors still have their use and camera manufacturers want to offer such camcorders for this market segment – albeit it’s admittedly shrinking.
During CES 2020 in Las Vegas, Panasonic announced three new camcorders with small image sensors, but all are capable of 4K 60p recording, H265, and 4:2:2 10-bit internal video in some modes. Let’s take a quick look at what they offer.
Panasonic HC-X1500, HC-X2000 and AG-CX10 Camcorders
Panasonic claims these are industry’s smallest and lightest 4K 60p camcorders (with integrated lens). They use 1/2.5″ 8.29M MOS sensor paired with the Venus engine known from LUMIX line of cameras. All camcorders feature 5-axis Hybrid Optical Image Stabilization (O.I.S.) This stabilization system should suppress a handshake even at the 24x telephoto end.
All three of them are equipped with a Leica Dicomar lens with 4-Drive Lens System which controls the lens groups independently. This integrated lens offers a 24x optical zoom that ranges from 25mm wide (with f/1.8) angle to 600mm telephoto (with f/4) (35mm camera equivalent). With the digital zoom (called i.ZOOM by Panasonic), the lens achieves 32x zoom at 4K resolution, and 48x at FHD.
According to Panasonic, the lens design suppresses flaring and ghosts. Two manual rings are provided, one for focusing and the other for zoom or iris operation. The manual rings are different sizes, so the appropriate ring can be accurately identified by touch.
Built-in ND Filters are also included with strengths from 1/4, 1/16, 1/64, and clear. Glass is newly used as a countermeasure against scorching from sunlight condensation.
Panasonic promises that Face Detection AF/AE provides precise focusing and sufficient exposure for subjects, and together with the precise focus lens drive achieves high focusing speed, stability and tracking performance for both 4K and Full HD. In addition, subject tracking with color recognition can be activated on the LCD panel.
All camcorders include a newly developed fan which is taking in cold air at the rear side and dispersing heat from the front panel. Such heat management provides long recording times even at the highest quality settings.
When set for 10-bit recording, the camcorder delivers 4K 60p 4:2:2 10-bit HDMI output, enabling high image quality capture with an external recorder. Internally, it is possible to record 4K 60p in H.265 (HEVC) mode (LongGOP/10-bit 4:2:0/MOV, 200 Mbps). Internal recording in 4:2:2 10-bit is limited to 4K 30p and Full HD 60p.
As for file formats, in addition to MOV, MP4, and AVCHD, the AG-CX10 also supports the broadcast P2 MXF format, and recording by the AVC-Intra/AVC-LongG codecs is supported. AVC-Intra100/50 codec support is planned for the future. Recording by all P2 formats requires a microP2 card.
Full HD mode enables slow-motion recording at up to 120 fps, 10-bit, with no additional crop. Autofocus can also be used in this mode.
There is a video light built into the camera’s top handle (the optional handle unit VW-HU1 is required for HC-X1500). It can be adjusted between 30% to 100% using the dimmer dial. IR lights are supported for IR (Infrared) shooting in dark conditions. 850-nm is a recommended wavelength light.
The cameras have both viewfinder and monitor. The 3.5-inch touchscreen monitor has 2,760K-dots of resolution. According to Panasonic, it provides higher readability even under bright sunlight. The tiltable EVF has 1,555K-dots of resolution.
Focus Assist functions include Expand, Peaking and One-push AF for fast, accurate manual focusing. The included battery is unobtrusive when attached and enables approximately 4.5 hours of continuous operation.
There are two SD card slots with unlimited Relay Recording (the device switches automatically and seamlessly from Slot 1 to Slot 2), Simultaneous Recording or Background Recording.
The cameras can record high-quality audio. There is +48V Phantom Power Supply/MIC/LINE Selectable XLR audio input with manual volume for each of 2 channels. 24-bit linear PCM system (MOV/P2 MXF – for AG-CX10 only), 16-bit AAC (MP4), or Dolby Audio system (AVCHD) high-quality 2-channel audio recording are also supported. In the case of the HC-X1500, the optional handle unit VW-HU1 is required for hiqh-quality audio.
A Wi-Fi module is built-in, so there is no need for a separate wireless LAN module. The cameras can also be remotely controlled using a tablet application HC ROP. RTSP/RTP/RTMP/RTMPS-Compatible HD Streaming allows direct connection and streaming over Facebook, YouTube, etc.
In addition, the AG-CX10 has an NDI|HX mode, so an external converter is not needed for data transmission and camera control via IP connection. This requires a license purchase though.
Furthermore, there is 3G-SDI port for connecting to an external recorder (AG-CX10, HC-X2000). Using the USB (micro AB) to LAN Conversion Adaptor with the AG-CX10, the camera can connect to LAN.
Price and Availability
All three camcorders will be available in late March 2020. Pricing has been set very close as there are only minor differences between the models (like for instance the absence of SDI port with the HC-X1500). Panasonic HC-X1500 is selling for around $1,700/€1,420 and the optional VW-HU1 top handle unit costs around $300/€230. Panasonic HC-X2000 will retail at around $2,200/€1,800. Finally, the highest model, Panasonic AG-CX10 will be selling for around $2,600.
What do you think about these new camcorders? Do you use compact broadcast cameras for your work? Let us know in the comments below the article.