In a move that is sure to please many, Panasonic have announced their first foray into the truly low budget professional arena with the HPX300. The landscape of choice just got a little more difficult.
The HPX300 marks the first time that Panasonic have used not only CMOS chips, but also full raster 1920x1080 capability on a camcorder of this price range (currently estimated at around £6k). Not only that, but this new camcorder is also a full shoulder mount design, and features facilities such as CA compensation, 4 channels of audio, and the biggie, 10-bit AVC-Intra recording. Not even the HPX500 can do that! Other valuable features include a waveform and vectorscope display. Assuming these are anything like accurate I would hereby like to scream at other manufacturers to include such features in their future professional models.
The 300 features two LCD displays, one on the body of the unit and the other as an EVF, both apparently are as good as the LCD found on Sony's EX series. Recording is to P2 cards and the camcorder also features the ability to record low resolution proxy files to SD cards, an extremely good feature to have. Many PDA units can read SD cards so this adds a lot of potential to mobile footage logging as long as the metadata can be synched to the full resolution files later. Conversely Sony abandoned proxy files when they moved to solid stae SxS recording despite the feature still having a lot of practical use.
Being a full sized (well, slightly smaller in reality) shoulder mount design, the HPX300 will be the camera of choice for many people. Apparently it does not have the same range of picture profile setups as the EX cameras, but it is hard to ignore the fact that here, finally, is a camcorder in a similar price range to the EX3 that can record 10-bit Intraframe footage. That feature alone will mean that as long as the camera head can deliver the goods many people will be swayed.
Any potential drawbacks? The usual issue of CMOS rolling shutter apparently does rear its head. I've not really noticed any issues with my EX3, so I will await a test model before judging the HX300.