The Panasonic DVX100a & Me – A Love/Hate Relationship.
I have a special attachment to the Panasonic DVX100a, which is my first real filmmaking camera… the camera I learn a lot about filmmaking on. It does 24p with great color and picture quality, but at the same time, it has its shortcomings.
Obviously, for the price, it’s a great camera, but I’ve sort of outgrown it at this point on an artistic level. Here’s the reason… and it’s pretty simple. DEPTH OF FIELD. Depth of field is important because it can greatly affect the mood of the story. It guides the viewer’s focus on whatever you want them to focus on. And yet, another thing it can do is build suspense. If you’ve seen the movie THE STRANGERS, then you probably know what I’m talking about.
In THE STRANGERS, there is a shot where one of the characters is walking slowly and one of the “bad guys” appears behind him. Now, it’s a really tight shot on the “good guy,” so try to imagine this. As the “good guy” walks toward the camera in a tight close up, we see one of the “bad guys” in the background following him with a weapon. The focus is on our good guy, and everything else is blurred in the background. This technique adds suspense because you can’t really see what the masked villain is doing in the background. At one point, he disappears and you’re not sure where he is, or what’s going to happen. I don’t want to ruin the film for you guys/girls, but let’s just say that it’s a very effective moment in the film… a moment that keeps you on edge… and when it’s all over, you start to realize that your grip has tightened around the closest arm rest or person.
So Depth of Field is definitely the main reason I’ve outgrown the DVX. Another is the low RESOLUTION.
Don’t get me wrong, the DVX produces fantastic images, but HD has brought us even closer to the look of modern movies shot on film. The DVX, for my taste, produces soft images. With the DVX’s lack of native 16:9, you drop the resolution even more (whether you stretch in post or use the camera to stretch the image, you’re still losing some resolution – yes, even with the 100B’s 16:9 mode).
These are the main two things that have really limited my filmmaking, but in all honesty, I wouldn’t mind putting up with the resolution issue for a bit longer if I had Shallow Depth of Field. Resolution doesn’t matter to me as much as Depth of Field does. Resolution just makes it look prettier.
24p. The first prosumer camera to offer 24p and it still is the king in it’s category. Fantastic job, Panasonic!
Cine-Gamma. Killer! Better highlight handling than A LOT of cameras in it’s category and a decent amount of Dynamic Range make this camera shine!
Color Rendition. Absolutely beautiful colors, but then again, this can pretty much be simulated in post. It’s actually preferred to give your footage that look in post so that you don’t accidentally clip saturated colors. But the option is there if you need it.
Repeatable zoom and focus. This is key. There are some cameras out there that have infinitely spinning zoom rings which sometimes doesn’t allow for repeatable zooms. The focus ring functions well for repeatable focus.
There are a ton of things I could go on and on about, but those are key for me. Panasonic’s DVX100 series was an awesome camera for me to learn on, but in all honesty, I have outgrown the camera (the stock camera) and I am in need of something else. Perhaps a 35mm adapter? That Letus Extreme is looking pretty tempting right now…
What do you guys recommend? I know there are a lot of you out there with 35mm adapters, RED ONE users, RED fans, HPX500 and more 2/3″ CCD users… what do you guys recommend from your experience. Heck, give recommendations for both – large budgets and small!
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