Panasonic HVX200 vs. HVX200A vs. HPX170
I'm in the market for a new small camcorder and have decided I'm definitely sticking with Panasonic. Nothing against the Sony Ex-1; it's a fantastic camera but many of my clients still want 24p mini DV tape so delivering Express Card data is a bit of a tough sell. That's what I always liked about the HVX200 - it really is the "swiss army knife" of digital video and is a great tool while we are transitioning between broadcast standards. Also, now that Hitachi and Fuji have jumped on board, P2 is very well supported. It has some inherent limitations but it's a very solid format and is guaranteed to be around for years. Panasonic has completely devoted its efforts to P2. The HVX200A will be the last camera with a tape drive they ever make. That's kind of amazing. It's the end of an era. However, a lot of broadcast outlets aren't even thinking about HD yet (many of Viacom's brands among them). That said, since I'm sticking with Panasonic and unfortunately have to have the legacy tape drive, I guess it's between the 200 and the 200A. I think the upcoming AG-HPX170 is a far better camera and a HUGE leap forward for mid-levels but it's not coming out until September. I've considered waiting for it and keeping my DVX for tape shoots but frankly, I can't afford to wait that long.
From a cost perspective, this is how it breaks down:
New HVX200 (while they last): $5200 minus a 400 rebate = $4800 and includes a 16GB P2 card
Used HVX200: As high as $3500 on eBay and you don't get a card with that. People here in NY have been asking 3600 on Craigslist.
New HVX200A: $4995-5200 and includes a 16GB card
SO you can get a new HVX200A and it will cost 200 more than a new HVX200. A used HVX200 costs about 1300 less than a new camera but it's going to cost you about 900 for the card. 3500 + 900 = $4400 for used equipment. 4800-5200 for brand new. I'd rather pay 400 for brand new stuff that's guaranteed to never have been dropped so it looks like it doesn't really make sense to go with used gear in this case.
Factor in the HPX170: Same cost as the HVX200A (4995), includes a 16GB card, AND you're getting twice as much camera.
Let's look at the somewhat disappointing upgrade from the 200 to the 200A. Basically it's a sensor upgrade and that's all. Of the many things they could have improved, they focused on the most important - image quality. That's good but at least an in-camera image flip would have been great.... c'mon Panasonic.
So this all new chipset has better Digital Signal Processing (DSP) resulting in:
-better low light performance: higher signal to noise ratio (i.e. cleaner images), less smear (a big problem for the 200)
-faster: 500 ASA as opposed to 200's 320 ASA
-Because chipset is a bit larger, the Leica Dicomar lens is a bit wider than the 200. The 4.2-55mm on the 200A is equivalent to 30-394mm as opposed to 32.5-423mm for the 200. Not that much wider to be honest. You're still going to be needing that wide angle converter..
That's all they gave us. Apparently they were saving all the good stuff for the HPX170! This camera is basically a wish list where everything that sucked about your 200 is fixed and every feature that you wanted was added.
Here are but a few:
-Same price as the 200A and you get a 16GB card too.
-Same chipset so you get the same great low noise, low light performance.
-Wider lens. 3.9-51mm aka 28-368. Now you're talking! That's pretty wide for a fixed lens.
-LIGHT: 4.2 lbs as opposed to the chubby HVX.
-Histogram for exposure control
-In-camera image flip for use with lens adapters
-3 kinds of focus assist
-More useful user button selections like "delete last clip"
-The joystick from the DVX is back as opposed to the crappy 90 degree buttons on the HVX
-6 pin lockable firewire interface
-HD-SDI out (!!!!!)
-8 Scene File settings
-3 ND filers (1/8, 1/16, 1/64)
-5 year warranty like all of Panasonic's other big boy cameras.
-more of course
So, as you can see you're getting an awful lot for your 5 grand. Should I wait until September? Yeah probably.... But can't do it unfortunately.