The new Panasonic AG-HMC150

Panasonic thought it was April and NAB time today, and so they had a bunch of press releases. Among them was their new high-end prosumer/indie camera, the HMC150. This is a pretty nifty camera, an upgrade over the HVX-200, which was the indie filmmaker’s darling so far. This camera uses 3CCD 1/3″, which creates as much background blur as the HV20. Not very much that is. On the other hand, it records full HD at 30p and 24p, and also native 720p and 1080/60i. It’s expected to cost $6000.

The most interesting point here is that Panasonic goes AVCHD and the tapes are a thing of the past. I did fully expect that all prosumer cameras will be AVCHD for this next generation. I now expect Sony’s and Canon’s announcements to also be AVCHD-based.

The AG-HMC150 sounds sweet with its 3.5″ LCD screen, but two things really bug me to the point that I want to throw this camera to the head of its product manager:

1. No internal (swappable?) hard drive in addition to its SDHC card slot. This makes the camera even more expensive, and honestly, not as convenient as Panasonic would like us to think it is. Panasonic is a big flash manufacturer, so they want us to buy, buy, buy SD cards. Freaking douche bags.

2. According to the press release, it uses 13 mbps for 1080/60i (1440×1080). This is not enough. We’ve seen that res/bitrate on many other cameras and quality was not even better than the HV20 which is a $700 camera nowadays. Panasonic should give at least 18 mbps to 1080/60i and 24 mbps (full AVCHD spec) to 1080/24p/30p (1920×1080).

And 1080/60p would have been nice too, at around 40 mbps (even if they had to go over the AVCHD spec). But I understand that it might be a bit early for 1080/60p (the next big version of Blu-ray will support that, but that’d be in years from now).

But honestly, these two points above, are really stinky. I can’t wait to see what Canon has to offer for their next-gen prosumer line. I have $3000 to spend.


historyisaweapon wrote on February 14th, 2008 at 7:04 PM PST:

Why is this an upgrade over the hvx? This is more like a mistake.

divide wrote on February 15th, 2008 at 2:54 AM PST:

Why wouldn’t 18mbps be enough ? Remember it’s h264, not mpeg2. You can find near perfect quality, x264 encoded 1080p movie on the web, at 13Mbps (VBR).

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Eugenia wrote on February 15th, 2008 at 3:02 AM PST:

I have seen raw h.264 13mbps 1080i (at 1440×1080 no less) and it’s WORSE than the HV20’s HDV mpeg2 at 25mbps. As for 18 mbps, that’s only good enough for 1080i. For FULL 1080p, that’s 1920×1080 at 24p or 30p, it better be 24mpbs. 18 mbps just won’t be enough for it. Yes, h.264 needs less bitrate than mpeg2, but so far we’ve seen poor quality at these bitrates. I mean, I now I even see the HDV artifacts at 25mpbs now that I got a full 1080p monitor to watch raw footage. AVCHD’s is even worse, and this is a PRO camera. So it better be hella good, or it’s $6000 down the drain.

Richard wrote on February 15th, 2008 at 3:49 AM PST:

Even if you can squeeze good quality into a small bitstream, that does not necessarily mean that you can do this in Real-Time in a Camera, remember that with 2-pass encoding and adjusting all the tiny little parameters that can make a difference depending on what kind of footage is encoded, you can get a better quality encoding in postprocessing.

But this cannot be done during filming, so I guess it is better to have some more bandwidth to waste, because operating at the bare limits of a codec is most likely not a good idea when this is what your “raw” footage is that you would like to work with.

This is just to prove Eugenias point. 😉

WoWu wrote on February 16th, 2008 at 4:14 PM PST:

1440×1080 are not even specs of MPEG4/H.264/AVC.
This spec comes from the H1414 specs from MPEG2 and are originally 4:3 Layer since “non square” pixels are also n o t part of the MPEG4 H.264 specs. So this is not really what we expect from a follow-up of the HVX 200.

phred wrote on February 18th, 2008 at 4:47 AM PST:

For someone who is so far ‘ahead’ of ‘studip consumers’, i would have thought that you were aware of Sonys new contender in the 1080p prosumer stakes. Especially as it was released last year (2007). As you will see, the XDCAM EX spec., (at $5000) makes the panasonic effort look like just another expensive toy for the ‘Look at me, I’m a REAL cinematographer/videographer’ marketplace.

WoWu wrote on February 18th, 2008 at 5:23 PM PST:

@ Eugenia … you can not have seen H.264 at 1440 because 1440 and non squared pixels are not part of the H.264 specifications and AVCHD is just a trade marke of what Sony and Panasonic want us to believe tobe the standard H.264. Read the papers … it is proprietary.

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Eugenia wrote on February 18th, 2008 at 6:02 PM PST:

All Canon’s AVCHD cameras do 1440×1080, so yes, I HAVE seen it. At 13mbps no less. The AVCHD consortium is a joke compared to HDV’s in terms of enforcing their spec. Camera manufacturers are able to do whatever the hell they want to do with it, and still get validation from the consortium.

bg wrote on February 20th, 2008 at 7:48 AM PST:

This is not an upgrade to the HVX200, it’s an upgrade to the DVX100.
But more that that, it’s an answer to Sony’s HDV camera’s, and filling a hole in the price range lineup of cameras.
The HVX200 is still better than this and all the HDV or AVCHD cameras, but it is too pricy for a lot of people. This will be a camera for the price range somewhere in-between the DVX100 and the HVX200.

Michael wrote on February 22nd, 2008 at 8:10 AM PST:

Just chiming in here.
You wrote: “This is a pretty nifty camera, an upgrade over the HVX-200, which was the indie filmmaker’s darling so far.”

This is actually not true. Rather, the AG-HMC150 is the successor to the DVX-100… or the HD (non tape) version of the DVX-100.

There is a P2 based, intraframe, 4:2:2 colorspace camera that will be announced later this year that will be the successor to the HVX-200. A camera that will “answer” Sony’s recently released XDCAM EX-1.

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