The cloud ready camera built for next generation broadcasting
Panasonic’s latest handheld ENG camera, the AJ-PX270, featuring the AVC-Ultra codec family and wireless connectivity, enables recorded content to be shared almost instantly and accessed from anywhere.
The AJ-PX270 is the first P2HD handheld camera recorder with AVC-ULTRA recording and built-in microP2 card slots. In addition to the established AVC-Intra100, the AJ-PX270 has AVC-LongG, which enables extended recording of 1920x1080 10bit 4:2:2 - true broadcast quality footage.
The optional AVC-Intra200 codec for master level recording offers a wide range of choice, while the two built-in microP2 card slots with simultaneous recording functionality and newly designed multipurpose compact zoom lens add real broadcast quality to the camera.
The AJ-PX270 removes the need for traditional video uplink, perfectly positioning it for the growing live stream and freelance news gathering market. The camera enables a wireless production workflow via LAN, with 3G and 4G connectivity from Autumn 2014.
White balance and video gain control toggle switches (the camera features a 22x focal length range) are positioned easily to hand under the lens and, for the first time in a handheld camera, an audio fader control and record start/stop are located at the front of the camera.
Two microP2 card slots enable cost-effective operation for either relay recording or simultaneous recording, where the same codec can be recorded on to both cards for secure backup. The microP2 slots can be used with standard SD cards for even greater efficiency when recording six codec’s with 50Mbps or less and a single P2 slot is also provided for integration with existing P2 workflows.
The handheld camera’s network connectivity makes the production workflow more efficient and accelerates the broadcast workflow from shooting to on-air.
But away from the traditional broadcast market, the AJ-PX270 opens up the world of high quality content generation to corporate users, YouTubers and freelance news journalists too – so now everyone can be a broadcaster.
A TRUE STORYTELLER IN A PRACTICAL TEST
Renowned Director of Photography Matthias Bolliger, a member of the German Film Academy and winner of two German Camera Awards, goes wild with the Panasonic AJ-PX270 in an urban jungle.
Here it is - the pre-production model of the next generation Panasonic handheld, the AJ-PX270. Brand new, without a serial number yet - just an adhesive label: "AJ-PX270 - Made in Japan". But what is so good about the AJ-PX270?
Not so long ago the only way it was possible to comply with official broadcast codec standards of at least 50 Mbps and 8bit 4:2:2 colour sampling was with a 2/3" shoulder camcorder. Fortunately, times have changed and higher quality internal recording is now a feature of compact camcorders. But codec and resolution parameters are not the only decisive factors when choosing a camera - handling or setting options are just as important.
The new camera has improved on both counts: zooms are now finally possible in the 1/3" camera category in creep speed as well. Decent focal length movements or reframing’s when "on" are now no longer the sole prerogative of removable lens - which is also the reason for the new PX270 zoom scale from 0-999, or 1000 settings.
The servo motor needs three minutes at creep speed to go through the 22x focal length range of the camera – this is great. A definitive colour matrix function is another new feature in the compact camcorder segment: image parameters such as "RB Gain Control" for all white balance memory locations and color temperature settings are now independently adjustable. The only complaint, and only really with an external monitor, is that the menu display is so large and superimposed that it is no longer possible to evaluate the actual image when fine tuning. Well-known Panasonic colour matrices such as "Norm", "Fluo" and "Cinelike" can now be further refined as well.
More compact and lighter than its immediate predecessor, the HPX250, the new PX270 offers a whole variety of possible recording codec’s: AVC-LongG50 and 25 as well as AVC-Intra100 and 50 are available, the first three of which support 10bit 4:2:2 sampling. In addition, AVC-Intra200 is optionally offered as "virtually lossless". Two microP2 slots and a classic P2 slot are available as storage media. Recording on both microP2 cards in parallel with simultaneous backup is possible.
In terms of connection technology, modern cameras have ever more IT connectivity, and the PX270 is no exception. It features a LAN terminal, USB 3.0 host and USB 2.0 device on the back of the device and under the handgrip is yet another USB 2.0 connection for the optional WiFi dongle. HDMI and HD-SDI can be operated in parallel and a 1080/50p signal is also to be output in 3G-mode via HD-SDI. The promised 3G/4G plug-in, available from Autumn, offers a world of opportunities for YouTubers and 24-hour news and sport gathering.
The features of the lens closely resemble those of the AG-HPX250 camcorder: 22x zoom (f=3.9 - 86mm). The focal length range does not sound that amazing at first, but when converted to small picture full format, it would correspond to a focal length range of around 28mm to more than 600mm. Not even certain large studio box style zooms have a greater focal length range. The maximum focal aperture of the lens in the wide angle range F1.6 - zoomed in F3.2.
In accordance with the manufacturer's data, the sensitivity is defined as F12 in 50Hz mode and indeed, thanks to the new 3MOS "high-sensitivity sensors", even in wintry twilight the image quality at 0db was surprisingly detailed and far better than with previous Panasonic models.
Optical image stabilisation and in particular longer focal lengths, are crucial for documentary use, this is a real positive of the improved OIS (Optical Image Stabilisation), and particularly noticeable with telephoto settings. The lens has three rotary rings for manual control of focus, zoom (zoom with limit stop) and iris control. Previously, iris control was often a particular problem in the compact camcorder category as there were no finely tuned aperture stops for changes during recording. However, the PX270 has the option of fine-tuning the iris aperture more precisely. In other words, the controller controls the aperture in 1/6 degrees, thus enabling aperture movements when "on".
Were there any complaints during the hands-on test? As with any camera, there were a few niggles. On the PX270 it would be the positioning and design of the main menu button. This cannot really be found intuitively, so that every time you change the menu, you really have to look at it as well. The electronic viewfinder at the end of the device is in OLED technology in 4:3 format, resulting in camera data displays not being presented as a 16:9 image but in a letterbox frame. Although a good idea in itself, at 0.5" the size of the display is still quite modest. So you will always want to work with the 3.5" LCD display now mounted at the front as far as possible. The camera data is traditionally above the 16:9 picture content, but there is now a central DISPL toggle switch to enable rapid removal of all the data apart from the timecode - a sensible upgrade.
Generally speaking, handheld camcorders from major Japanese manufacturers seem to resemble each other more and more in terms of handling. The AJ-PX270 is a significant step toward the "ideal camera".