Running Technical Presales for a UK distributor has its perks. Last Friday I braved the M25 rush hour to pick up the first engineering sample of the Panasonic DVX200.
It’s bigger than you may expect, particularly if you come from a DSLR background. I had held the model at NAB so I wasn’t surprised by the size or the 2.7kg weight. To put this in context, it’s nearly 2kg lighter than a Sony FS7 with the kit F4 28-135 lens.
Most camera operators will at some point in their lives have dragged a family member in to test out a new camera. In this case, the unhappy subject was my daughter who posed as I shot some footage during sunset. I had 2x 32GB Panasonic SDXC UH3 cards to shoot video onto, giving me 45 minutes to 1 hour in UHD 50p at 150Mb/s. I shot using V-Log Lite, which I had already had some experience of with a beta firmware on the Panasonic GH4, and selected 2160 at 50p.
As this is an engineering sample, a handmade camera with beta software, I am not allowed to post or make public any footage I took with it, However, in my opinion this is the most exciting Panasonic camera I have played with since the AF101, way back in 2010.
Shooting V-Log at sunset, the camera easily coped with skin tones in full sun with the rest of the garden in full shade. The pictures even revealed detail in my black dog, Watson, as he casually strolled past in the shadows.
The OLED viewfinder was delightful to use, 2360000 dots in total with 1.77 million used for the video area. The focus assist mode gave me a punch in that I could move to any part of the frame and peaking too. The flip out touchscreen is huge, bright and also full HD.
So with the lens wide open at 2.8, the ND filter on 1/64th I shot until the sun set. Then I shot some more, because when I found the high sensitivity mode I realised this was really much cleaner in low light than my beloved GH4.
Predictably it then rained for three days, so I spent time going though the menu system and trying out some features.
The DVX can shoot variable framerate at up to 120fps in HD mode, and this is what I started with, shooting raindrops on the ivy outside my windows. In truth it took me quite a few minutes to find the VFR mode because it is in the Scene Files part of the menu rather than the recording settings. To get 120 frames per second I set the camera to 60Hz 24p so it would play back as slow as possible. Shutter was automatically set to 125th, but I could change it and I played with faster, but it was a bit too dark to freeze the rain drops as they fell from the sky without using gain.
The 120fps stuff looks fantastic on my 42in HD plasma TV. The drops of water gently rolling down the deep green ivy has a hypnotic effect every time I look at it. Even the 100fps at 25p looks seriously slow. The results are significantly better than GH4 slow-mo footage.
I had read in the specifications that the 13x zoom lens could only focus as close as 1m. However, press function button 4 for Macro Mode and this goes down to a myopic 10cm. I put my ancient Omega Seamaster watch on an upturned cereal bowl and put the camera close enough to hear it tick. I focused manually and then zoomed in a little more than the close focus could cope with then very slowly, using one of the most subtle servo zooms I have ever used, I pulled back until the watch face came into sharp focus which was held throughout the zoom range. No problem with back focus then! The shot IMHO makes the mundane look rather beautiful, so I was appalled when proudly showing it off that everyone notices the out of focus full washing basket in the background.
The lens is a peach. The camera is a gem and I am smitten.
Price is around UK£3,400