Panasonic AG-HPX600: the networked camera

Written by Barry Braverman

Barry Braverman/RedsharkAG-HPX600 HPX600

Equipped with a proxy encoder and WiFi module the Panasonic AG-HPX600 ushers in an era of the camera-server that enables remote operation, screening, and collaboration, on a level we haven’t previously experienced. Barry Braverman reports

In January I had the opportunity to work with the new camera on a short narrative project produced jointly by Chapman University and the Annapurna School of Film and Media in Hyderabad India. The HPX600 is designed primarily as a non-fiction news/documentary camera and so it was clearly working outside its normal job description in a Bollywood production environment.

Impressive signal to noise ratio

Performance was about what might be expected in a latest-generation mid-level camcorder. The camera utilizing 2/3-inch standard B4 mount lenses captures very professional images at 10-bits 4:2:2 to AVC-Intra P2 (upgradable to AVC-Ultra) in a compact shoulder-configured package. The newly developed single-MOS sensor with F12 sensitivity and impressive 59dB S/N ratio is very quiet with little noise apparent in the darkest shadows.


Fig 2 Features at Glance R TR UTO



Fig 1 Features at Glance L TR UTO

The HPX600 at 2.8kg (6.2lbs) sans battery, viewfinder, or accessories, is remarkably lightweight and well balanced. Its low profile makes the camera a joy to hold and peer over, watching as we always must for potential perils approaching from the blind side. The optional two-way color viewfinder doubles as an LCD screen and may well be the best performing viewfinder Panasonic has ever produced.  The camera’s power draw is a scant 17W without the WiFi board or encoder, so a single Dionic 90 may last as it did for me an entire shooting day. I liked the new raised case protecting the side toggles.  From experience I know these switches can be re-positioned inadvertently in the fury of a shooter’s daily struggle.

Onboard encoder for QuickTime proxies

Despite these improvements the real story here is operational. The HPX600 equipped with the optional encoder board produces high-resolution QuickTime proxies, which can be streamed via WiFi or wired LAN and viewed in the browser of a laptop, iPad, tablet, or smartphone.  The camera thus supports a bevy of remote operations from simple editing of the H.264 proxy videos, to camera setup and operation, and screening of videos in more or less real time* from across the room or around the world. *Note there is a several second latency in the streaming video that takes some getting used to when viewed around a live set.


Fig 3 IT Connective Edit UTO

Notable shortcomings of the HPX600 include a new multi-functional menu screen that is maddeningly non-intuitive; the camera lacks a swing-out LCD so shooters must rely on a less manoeuvrable viewfinder limited to the horizontal and vertical axes. The viewfinder lacks a proper tension ring to positively secure the finder to the camera body, and I also didn’t like the flimsy plastic sliding door covering the P2 cards and the chintzy menu dial control borrowed from the company’s lower price stable of cameras.  


The HPX600 camera-server is revolutionary in many respects and a harbinger of greater things to come. Its operational advantages and network-aware features reflect Panasonic’s forward thinking; the challenge for the company now facing obvious price pressure is not to forget all the other more basic operating features like a rugged construction and easy-to-decipher menus.

Tags: Technology


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