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A New ‘Z’ on the Block

With the Z-HD5000, H itachi has made a ‘good’ product ‘great’

Not only has Hitachi improved on a great product, it has evolved its “Z” series into a state of the art high-definition (HD) camera. The Hitachi Z-HD5000 leads the pack with its three 2/3 inch charge-coupled devices (CCDs) and the ability to switch on the fly from 1920 x 1080 to 720 by 480.

by Chuck Gloman

Hitachi HD5000 The two things that create a sharp optimal image are the sensor and the lens. The red, green, and blue sensors in the Z-HD5000 are native 1920 x 1080 with a F1.4 prism. Since the user is already starting at the top, any HD or standard definition (SD) variation will still allow a tack sharp image. The glass can be either Fujinon or Canon.

Having reviewed the studio version, users will find they have several options for getting the signal where it needs to be, and during the time the Z-HD5000 was made available, it was necessary to get the camera’s signal to the “camera control unit” (CCU) in the control room of the DeSales University TV/Film Department. However, four-pin hybrid fiber optic cable has been found to be an interference-free option for sending images over great distances (a huge leap over the older 28 pin multi-pin cable currently in use at the studio). With two options available—the CU-HD1000 and the CU-HD500—the decision was a difficult one to make. The features of each are:

  • The CU-HD1000 offers 1080i and 720p output in a slightly higher unit (size-wise), with three HD and SD-SDI outputs, analog composite, or component outputs.
  • The CU-HD500 is a more traditional, rack mountable unit that has a few less features than the CU-HD1000, but is still an excellent option. Both models of CCUs feature a built-in intercom system, genlock, a red/green tally system, HD/SDI digital audio, a dedicated teleprompter channel, and an optical power meter.


The remote control unit, the RU-1000VR is the icing on the cake. With that unit users will find that they can color correct images in the background that change hues, but without changing the skin tone of the talent. The opposite can also be done using Hitachi’s skin tone masking feature, which allows users to “paint” the hue and saturation of skin tones without changing any of the other colors in the scene.

If that is not enough, users also have the ability to correct or change chroma and knee saturation, as well as chroma and skin detail. Of course, that is all part of the pristine optics of the camera, but for a student to be able to make minute changes in knee, gamma, chroma, or detail, store those settings for the project, then restore the camera to its original settings easily is “mind boggling” impressive. The only problem with the RU-1000VR is keeping it out of students’ hands because once it was clear they could create the perfect shooting environment, they spend all their time doing just that.

As an example, production staff needed to “brighten” some darker areas on the set where the overhead grid lighting was not illuminating. The black stretch (master black) was remotely adjusted and that raised the level (luminance) without changing the pedestal or knee settings. In addition, there were seven different pre-programmed ultra gamma settings that would help in similar situations.

The reproduction of skin tones on the studio monitors was breathtaking. Connected to our Grass Valley switcher, the vast difference in quality from the studio’s older 2/3-inch Hitachi Z-2010 cameras and the Z-HD5000 was made clear.

To complete the university’s studio package, there was a choice between a nine-inch, VF-L9HD LCD color monitor or a five-inch, VF-HD500 CRT black and white monitor.

The Z-HD5000 camera body and lens lists for $39,000; it is also available in P2 configuration with the CR-P2HD ($11,000 list), which would be great for field use.

For the school’s needs, the Hitachi Z-HD5000 in a studio environment is perfect. Smaller 1/3-inch CCD cameras in studio configuration do not have the optics of a chip that is twice the size. Customizable to almost any environment, users can paint a scene to perfection, and easily match all cameras for better switching. Hitachi is on the right path and so improved a good thing, they made it great.

Chuck Gloman is the Chair of the TV/Film Department as well as an associate professor at DeSales University. He may be reached