Smaller, Smarter and More Capable: Today’s Field Cameras, Camcorders

2011 offers wide range of affordable, flexible ENG equipment
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2011 offers wide range of affordable, flexible ENG equipment

For many years, government video got the short end of the broadcast camera/camcorder stick. The very best equipment – the Sony Betacam – was too expensive for smaller video departments. As a result, many had to make do with prosumer or even consumer video formats, right down to video home system (VHS).

by James Careless

Thankfully, times have changed. The advent of digital technology has driven prices and equipment size down, while pushing capabilities up. The result: For government video producers in the market for new equipment, it is a good time to be buying.

Here is a run-down of the latest and greatest in the field video camera/camcorder market, by manufacturer:

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Canon’s XF100/XF105 Camcorder CANON’S XF100/XF105 CAMCORDER

Touted as Canon’s smallest professional camcorders, the new XF100 and XF105 high definition (HD) camcorders pack a tremendous amount of performance into a handheld form factor. The difference between the two is the XF105 has an HD-serial digital interface (SDI) output and genlock in/SMPTE time code (in/out) terminals while the XF100 does not. The XF100/XF105 uses the same Canon XF codec found in the more expensive XF300/XF305. This is an MPEG-2 4:2:2 50Mbps codec used for HD video and full non-linear editing (NLE) systems compatibility. When deployed in pairs, the XF100/XF105 can be used for 3D video shoots. Content is recorded to Compact Flash cards, which are hotswappable. Both models come with Canon 10x HD optical zoom lenses, 1920 by 1080 “complementary metal–oxide–semiconductor” (CMOS) image sensors, and 3.5” “liquid crystal display” (LCD) view screens. (Prices were not available at press time.)


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FOR-A’s VFC-7000 Camera FOR-A is not a company that usually comes to mind when it comes to government video. But if you need a variable speed HD camera that can capture slow motion video up to 700 frames per second (fps), then the company’s new VFC-7000 is worth looking at. Equipped with a high sensitivity CMOS sensor, the VFC-7000 offers variable frame rates from 125 to 700 fps. The VFC-7000’s electronic high-speed shutter can shoot as fast as 1/200,000ths of a second, to capture fast-moving subjects without blurring.

“This is a 720p, 720 by 1280 pixel camera that can capture up to 9 seconds of video at 700 fps,” says Ken Truong, FOR -A’s Product Manager. “The camera has two HD-SDI outputs; one for a viewfinder and the other for either live or played-back video. You can even shoot live while viewing video from the camera’s memory at the same time.” Winner of a Government Video Salute Award at GV Expo 2010, the VFC -7000 is list-priced at $44,500.


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Grass Valley’s LDK 3000 Camera A “value-priced HD camera” is how Grass Valley describes its LDK 3000 HD camera. Deigned for studio use but capable of working in the field, the LDK 3000 (which has a list price of $73,000) can shoot in 1080i50/60 and 720p50/60. It is outfitted with three 2/3 inch, 2.4 million pixel Xensium imagers, supported by onboard tools such as Double Digital Sampling and dual integrated A/D converters to create razor-sharp pictures. The LDK 3000 can be controlled using Grass Valley’s Ethernet-based C2IP control network. For long distance shoots, the camera can connect to an HD triax transmission system that supports cable runs up to 3,900 feet, or 7,800 feet with a triax repeater.


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Hitachi’s Z-HD5000 Camera Mindful of tight government budgets, Hitachi has added an “economical” HD studio/field camera to its value-priced Z Series line. The Hitachi Z-HD5000 is a portable camera that shoots in either1080/59.94i or 1080/50i. It can be connected to an optical fiber, triax, RF wireless adapter, or a P2 HD recorder for standalone recording. The Z-HD5000 is equipped with three 2/3” native 1080i “charge-coupled device” (CC D) sensors producing 800 lines of resolution, F10@2000 Lux. List pricing for the Z-HD5000 ranges from $17,500 up to a completely configured studio package with lens for $37,529.


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Ikegemi’s HDS-V10 Camcorder The Ikegami HDS-V10 GFCA M is an HD/”standard definition” (SD) camcorder that records to removable GFPAK Flash memory. It provides 4:2:2 digital component recording using the popular MXF file format. The HDS-V10 has a 2/3” 3-CC D sensor system and digital process “integrated circuit” (IC ) or “application-specific integrated circuit” (ASIC ), which is also used in Ikegami’s top-of-the-line HDTV cameras. The CC Ds are selectable between native 1080i (2.3-mega pixel) and native 720p (1.0-mega pixel) settings. Worth noting: A buffer memory is installed in the camera head where video is recorded for 30 seconds. This allows for continuous video recording even when GFPAKs are being swapped out. The HDSV10 can be found online at for $22,295.95.


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JVC’s GY-HM100 Camcorder Like the Canon XF100/XF105, the JVC GY-HM100U is a compact handheld camcorder designed to deliver professional HD results. The 3-CCD GY-HM100U shoots in either 1920 x 1080 (1080p24/25/30, 1080i) or 1280 x 720P (p60/50/30/25/24) pixel formats, and records natively to MOV or MP4. Its video can be edited immediately using “Final Cut Pro” or “Adobe Premiere” without conversion or transcoding. This camcorder records to dual SDHC memory cards, allowing for continuous recording while one card is being replaced, and has a Fujinon HD lens with manual or auto modes. The GY-HM100U is priced at $2,795.


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Panasonic’s AG-HMC80 Camcorder For $2,850, Panasonic’s AG-HMC80 delivers a shoulder-mount camcorder that shoots in both HD and SD formats. This allows it to bridge the gap for production facilities sticking with SD for the time being, but who want to “futureproof” themselves for an eventual upgrade to HD. The AG-HMC80 is equipped with three CMOS imagers, which can also shoot 10.6 megapixel digital stills. The HMC80 records video in all four professional AVCCAM HD recording modes, and can shoot in 1080/60i, 1080/30p, 1080/24pN, 720/60p, 720/30p, 720/24pN in HD mode; 480/60i, 480/30p and 480/24p SD DV. Video is recorded onto SDHC Class 4 or higher, memory cards. The AG-HMC80 has a 12x optical zoom, and an “optical image stabilizer” (OIS) for smooth stable shooting.


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Sony’s XDCAM PMW-EX1R Camcorder

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The $7,790 handheld Sony XDCAM PMW-EX1R is another HD/SD camcorder that allows producers to bridge the gap between new and old production technologies. It is equipped with three 1/2” Exmor CMOS sensors, each with a native pixel count of 1920 by 1080. As a result, the PMW-EX1R produces professional quality video in 1080p, 720p and 1080i HD; it also records SD video in the DVCAM format. This camcorder uses removable SxS memory cards, available in storage sizes from 8GB to 64GB. The PMW-EX1R has a fixed Fujinon 14x optical zoom lens, a “cache recording function,” and an “infrared” (IR) remote control receptor on the rear of the camcorder’s handle allowing remote control from both the front and the rear of the unit.