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The State of Solid State

Capture technology just got smaller

Shooting with the Panasonic HMC40PUY
Tape has been around for quite some time, but the not-so-new kid on the block—Solid State—is creating quite a stir. Solid State technology uses either: a hard drive, DVD, or card media to store your audio and video information. Here’s a brief roundup of what’s available from some of the larger manufacturers in Solid State technology.

by Chuck Gloman

Beginning with Panasonic, there are two distinct offerings in solid state: the Panasonic AGHMC40PUY, an AVCHD contender recording to an SD card; and the HPX300 capturing images to a P2 card.

Listing at $2,295, the AG-HMC 40 is a twopound wonder that records 1920×1080 HD video using MPEG-4 technology—that means 1080/60i, 1080/30p, 1080/24p, 720/60p, 720/30p, and 720/24p utilizing three one-quarter-inch CMOS chips. With a Leica lens, built in waveform monitor/vectorscope, and no standard-definition capability, the moving images from this camera are stunning. Your only limitations are the size of your SD card.

Canon Vixia HF S11 The $10,700 AG-HPX300 camera has three onethird-inch CMOS chips and also records a full 1920×1080 onto Panasonic’s P2 card. This workhorse shoots in the same HD modes as the AGHMC40 with the addition of DVCPRO HD’s megabyte rate. However, you also can record in DVCPRO 50, DVCPRO, and standard DV (480 lines). At five times the price you have better glass up front (17x versus 12x), HD and SD, and longer recording times onto the costly P2 cards. I intend to do a side-by-side comparison of both of these cameras shortly.

Canon offers the $1,400 Vixia HF S11 camcorder which shoots to an internal 64 GB MPEG-4 flash drive. With five recording modes (LP, SP, XP+, FXP, and MXP), you get from six to 24 hours of material with the last two speeds being HD. Having just one CMOS sensor, image clarity will not equal larger three chip models, but for the price there will be few complaints.

In the $800 price range, Canon recommends the Vixia HF200 camcorder with one quarter-inch CMOS chip. With a 32 GB SDHC card, that halves the recording time of the HF S11, but at half the price you still get true high-definition images.

JVC has the GY-HM100U, with three quarter-inch CCDs, which needs a bit more light than comparable CMOS sensors. Also recording onto an SD card, the HM100U has two quality modes: HQ’s 1920×1080 with 1080p/60/30/24; 1440×1080 with 1080i/60; and 1280×720 with 720/60/30/24p. JVC’s SP mode has 1440 x 1080/60i, and 1280 x 720/60/30/24p. This $4,000 camcorder captures sharp images without breaking the bank.


Stanley Lebar, who headed the Westinghouse Electric project to deliver live video from the moon in 1969, died of cardiac arrest on Dec. 23 at the age of 84.

Lebar designed and built the special camera was used by Astronaut Neil Armstrong when he first set foot on the lunar surface during the Apollo 11 mission. Ten of the special cameras were constructed in a contract with NASA, and the price tag for each was $1 million.

Lebar recently revealed that he had been tapped by Westinghouse management as the company’s point person to address the world media in the event that the camera didn’t function properly. “That was a reality that I preferred never having to actually cope with,” Lebar said.

The device did work as planned, allowing an estimated global audience of 600 million persons to witness the historic first footsteps on the moon. Moving up to the Pro HD department at JVC is its GY-HM700UXT shoulder camcorder weighing in at $8,500. This camera features a detachable Canon 14x zoom lens and three large, one-third-inch CCDs. Recording to two hot swappable SDHC cards or SxS media, the HM700 has variable frame rate recording and data rates up to 35 Mbps. Depending on the capacity of your storage media, the camera records in 1920×1080 including 1080p/24p, 30p, and 1080i/60; as well as 1280×720 with 720p/60, 30, and 24p.

Sony also offers multiple options with their disc based XDCAM technology, which will be the topic of a future comparison.



PANASONIC It may be hard to decide which camera would best suit your needs. Most of the hard-drive-based cameras are considered prosumer but shouldn’t be overlooked. Several manufacturers also offer external hard drives that may be used to record your digital images in the field.

I believe the future is in Solid State. Tape based recording will still be with us for the foreseeable future, but my opinion is that Solid State is more dependable for the long term.

One of the greatest benefits of shooting Solid State is that your recorded footage is immediately available for post production. Digitizing videotapes is a thing of the past. This factor alone saves time in editing. Images are available as thumbnail icons and are usually read as a hard drive once connected or inserted into your computer.

Final Cut, Avid and Adobe Premiere all support solid state technology with their latest versions of software. Once you go Solid State, it might be hard to go back.

Chuck Gloman is program director of the TV/Film Department as well as a member of the faculty at DeSales University. He may be