My first impression is that it’s like using a slightly heavier and larger DVX100. The camera handles pretty much the same, and most controls are in a very similar location. So if you’re a DVX user, the transition to this camera will be very straight forward, at least in terms of handling.
The images are very clean, and one would expect this given Panasonic’s use of their 100 Mbit/sec DVCPRO HD inter-frame codec rather than the 25 Mbit/sec intra-frame MPEG-2 codec used by the HDV format. It’s hard to say without a side-by-side comparison, but I suspect from what I saw that the DVCPRO HD images are cleaner than HDV images, with less compression artifacts and relatively low noise in the shadows and very clean highlights. I’ll post some video clips soon, but here are two still frames:
There was virtually no difference between the images before and after JPEG compression, but if you’re a purist, you can see the original DVCPRO HD frames as a two frame QuickTime movie (472 KB, requires DVCPRO HD codec). The camera was in the 720/24PN mode with most of the settings at their default values except I set Matrix to Cine-Like and Gamma to Cine-Like-D. I used the Marker feature (spot meter) to set the exposure so the highlights were right at 100 and also used it to make sure that important shadow areas were above dark black.
The spot meter is one of the many features that sets the Panasonic DVX100 and HVX200 apart from other camcorders in the same price/performance class. While Zebras are great for telling you where your highlights are at, they are useless as a precision exposure tool, whereas the spot meter lets you know exactly where a region of the frame falls in the 0 to 100 IRE range. I guess I like this method of exposure becuase when I used to shot film I would base my exposure decisions on both incident and spot meter readings, using the spot meter to accurately previsualize where everything fell in the black to white range of the tonal scale. Why should video be a land of information depravation? I want to know if a black dress is at 10 IRE or 20 IRE and a monitor or LCD display is not to be trusted, especially in bright sunlight, but the spot meter provides accurate information upon which to base exposure decisions.