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Top 5 reasons why I love my HVX200

Panasonic's HVX-200 was one of the most anticipated 'prosumer' cameras on the market, and oh boy did it deliver. It has managed to remain a favorite in the face of new HD codec technologies coming out in recent years, like AVCHD and other flavours of MPEG-4. While it's not without its share of drawbacks and limitations, I still love it, and here are my top five reasons for doing so:

5) An enormous user base
go onto sites like creativecow.net or DVXUser.com and I guarantee that one search in their forums (if it's a well-guided search) will yeild answers to whatever issues you're having with the camera. By this point, the list of questions that other users have dealt with is beyond exhaustive. If by chance you have a question about the HVX that is not covered in a previous topic, post your question in one of these forums and it will likely be answered within the hour. My point is that with thousands and thousands of users, most of whom are more than willing to share their expertise on the technology, the camera should not be a mysterious magical box. I learned every feature and option of the camera by cruising those forums (and with a little help from Barry Green's HVX Book) and by asking questions.
Another advantage of having so many HVX users out there is that it's that much easier to find a freelanceer using an HVX, and therefore you'll have far fewer color and format issues when you bring everything into post-production. Just match your scene files (you could even do this days before the shoot) and you'll be set. Have you ever tried to edit together multiple cameras, al of which were from different manufacturers, and therefore all of which used a different codec? It's beyond a waste of time. The HVX has become a standard for a lot of people, and they're an easy group to round up for those multi-camera shoots.
Anoter advantage of this is that there is an abundance of third-party manufacturers who make accessories designed specifically for the HVX200: Century had a great fisheye lens, Varizoom has a handy zoom rocker/focus remote, and the list goes on. Some may see this as a limiting factor to these accessories (do they become obsolete once the camera does?) but the fact that they are that much cheaper to begin with makes up for it.

4)Editing support
Okay, so I don't consider myself to be an editor first, but from my experienc with final cut pro and Avid, the P2 workfow has seen a nearly seamless integration. Most systems offer you the ability to preview, trim, and directly import clips using the file-based system. That system started great and only got better. DVC Pro/50/HD are all very reliable formats, and my macbook pro 2GHz, 2G notebook, while not being especially fast, can easily handle the playback and edit of HD, including 1080i footage. I wish I could say the same for some of the AVCHD and Apple ProRes 422/HQ codecs I've tried to edit. I can barely approach the speed needed to play back these timelines without dropped frames.
File-based transfer has reduced ingest time enormously, and time is a filmmaker's most important asset.

3)Compact
Okay, so it's not nearly as small as, say, the Canon HV20 or other small HD Camcorders, but for a swiss army knife-style camera, I can pack it into my petrol backpack, along with a Multi-rig support, and carry all the necessary accessories needed for a shoot on my back. It is the perfect camera for shooting on the road or when you would simply get exhausted if you had to haul around shoulder-mounted ENG-style cameras like the XD Cam F350 or, god forbid, a Beta cam or D-3. It's relatively light and, despite what a lot of friends say about its 'boxy, unappealing' design, I like the feel of it in my hands.
Lighter equipment means lighter support, so the Multi Rig and a mid-level Manfrotto Tripod can round out your gear list. No need for a full array of support rods for any accessory you want to add on.

2) Format options
Besides the obvious advantage of having the option to use a variety of codecs to shoot in, there is the often under-appreciated DV tape option. This is extremely useful because, let's face it, many producers still use tape. Granted, whenever I'm in charge of the process and I see a project from pre- to post-production, I prefer to shoot in HD, which will mean either P2 or Firestore; for a lot of people who are hiring freelancers for smaller gigs, like shooting events, it's just plain easier to collect the tape from the cameraman/woman and write the check. Otherwise more time is required to offload the footage, and if the producer doesn't have a laptop or bring their own P2 cards, then this will likely require another meet-up for an offload session.
miniDV tapes are simply easier in some situations, and I'm glad that I have that option.

1) It just looks great
I'm sure that some people are going to say something about how th eHVX isn't 'true HD' because of the whole pixel offset thing (look it up), but nonetheless, if you know how to use it, the HVX will deliver some incredible images. I have to say that, besides the range of format options to shoot in, the control over the image was the biggest selling point for me. Scene files can be used to generate incredible looks in the shooting process, which can save time in post trying to tweek the image in order to acheive a desired look. I can say that I've even gotten away with shooting a scene 'day for night' that would have otherwise cost a lot more to light, not to mention the disturbance that we would have been to the neighborhood we were shooting in had we really shot at night.
And let's not forget the variable frame rates that the HVX offers. Slow motion and time lapse are easy to achieve, though the frame rates don't go as high as some of the higher-end professional camcorders.

All-in-all, I agree with those who have called the HVX a swiss army knife of camcorders. This post has been a little love letter to my camera, and I think that this love affair is one that has several more good years in it.

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