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    Upgrading from HMC150 to AC160 or HPX250...
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    After reading through countless posts here about all sorts of info about the new Panasonic cameras, I figured I'd just simply ask a few questions to "clarify" a few things. I'm looking into upgrading from my two HMC150's to two AC160's (or possibly 250's if someone convinces me that that would be better for my purposes) First...a bit of bkgd:
    • I am a Wedding Videographer and that is basically all I need the cams for.
    • I own two HMC150s and they've served me well. My experience with HVX200A's and HPX170's were mediocre at best. Probably due to lack of knowledge, but still I preferred my HMCs to those P2 options when shooting long Weddings.
    • I shoot almost exclusively at 60p and then edit on a 24p timeline speeding up 250% where I need to (I love hearing about the new 1080p60 update!)
    • Low light performance is HUGE for me.
    • Output is always DVD, Bluray and the Highlight Video posted online.
    • I do basic color correction in post, but I don't need to do a ton because we take great care to set it up right. Occasionally, I'll need to bump up the light in post or color correct a difficult mixed lighting environment, but its often nothing crazy.
    Questions:
    1. Is the LOW LIGHT performance noticeably better on the AC160 vs. HMC150?
    2. Is the LOW LIGHT performance any different (noticeably) on the AC160 vs. the HPX250? If so, how is it different?
    3. I know that the HMC150's are not known for their "sharpness" like say an EX1. Heck, I even read that the HMC40 was sharper...so is the AC160 that much sharper than the HMC150? Is it as sharp as the HPX250?
    4. So I'm "leaning" toward getting 2 AC160s over HPX250s because I'm used to the workflow and also having enough P2 cards to shoot at 1080p60 the entire day on two cameras seems like it would be very pricey. I know the 250 has 4:2:2 color and 10bit output...but, not knowing "too" much about what that means to someone like me in my profession...do those specs (or any other for that matter on the HPX250) make the 250 a better choice specifically for a Wedding Videographer?
    5. Finally, one of the more talked about "issues" with these new cameras is the great zoom lens vs. the troublesome auto focus. I like the idea of a longer zoom although truthfully I rarely think "gosh I'd love to zoom further" with my HMC150s. But I do use auto focus from time to time. All the "main events" I use manual focus for so I'm not concerned there, but for some run-and-gun stuff throughout the day I tend to use auto. Now I can probably "adapt" I'm sure, and maybe the "turbo" focus I keep reading about will help but in your experience, did the software update help those who had issues before? Have the hardware updates helped? (is that even out yet?)
    Thank you all so much for your help. I look forward to reading your posts. Feel free to be as descriptive as you'd like. I plan to rent 2 AC160's next week for a double Wedding that I booked so I'm sure I'll learn a lot by testing them out. The HMC150's have been awesome for me. I don't choreograph my couples so the cameras have given me the flexibility I need to catch it all as it happens and so far so good...my business doubled to 38 Weddings in 2011. From my DVXB to my HMC150s to __?__ , I'm a loyal Panasonic user but I'm always keeping one eye open to any other camera that would be even better for my situation. One day soon, I'll make the change and upgrade my cameras but I figured I'd ask all my lingering questions in one swoop here first. Thank you all for your help!


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    my business doubled to 38 Weddings in 2011.
    How the hell do you do that! I've never been able to earn enough money to both support myself and buy new equipment. Hell, I can't even pay off the original DVX I bought 10 years ago, let alone have purchased two HD cameras and looking to buy 2 more!

    My clients seem to really love the work I do. I see my competitions' work and I'd say mine is better than most. But the clients just don't want to pay what I would need to charge to earn a living and a profit. I can only charge enough for one or the other. (But it's a full time job, so the living has to come first.)


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    Quote Originally Posted by The Irish TRex View Post
    1. Is the LOW LIGHT performance noticeably better on the AC160 vs. HMC150?
    Not really. They both have a native sensitivity of about 320 ISO. The grain is a little cleaner on the AC160 than on the HMC150, and you can gain up to 18dB on the AC160 and it looks as good or better than the HMC150 on 12dB; you can also go to 24dB and 30dB on the AC160, but they both get quite noticeably grainy. So yes, +30dB looks about like +18dB on the HMC150 so you could say it's better in low light, but on either one of them, 30dB or 18dB is too much gain for my taste anyway. I wouldn't use low light as the main reason to say to go to an AC160 instead of an HMC150, there are many other reasons but that's not a compelling one.

    I do prefer the image of the 160 over the 130, it's sharper and smoother, but it's not compellingly more sensitive.

    Is the LOW LIGHT performance any different (noticeably) on the AC160 vs. the HPX250? If so, how is it different?
    Yes, the HPX250 has a P.A.P. 1 setting that doubles its sensitivity and makes it about 1 stop brighter than the AC160, with noticeably less noise. They're the same basic chipset, so the difference is coming in from advanced digital processing and extreme noise reduction. Which is fine in 95% of circumstances, but there can be occasional shots where there's a little bit of micro-jelly in the backgrounds. It's rare, but it can happen, which is why they give you the option of turning it off.

    I know that the HMC150's are not known for their "sharpness" like say an EX1. Heck, I even read that the HMC40 was sharper...so is the AC160 that much sharper than the HMC150? Is it as sharp as the HPX250?
    Yes, the 160 and 250 are both significantly sharper than the HMC150, both are on par with the EX1. The HMC40, in broad daylight, is about as sharp as the 160 and 250. You won't really see that much of a difference on portraiture, but on a wide-angle high-detail shot they're noticeably sharper.

    So I'm "leaning" toward getting 2 AC160s over HPX250s because I'm used to the workflow and also having enough P2 cards to shoot at 1080p60 the entire day on two cameras seems like it would be very pricey. I know the 250 has 4:2:2 color and 10bit output...but, not knowing "too" much about what that means to someone like me in my profession...do those specs (or any other for that matter on the HPX250) make the 250 a better choice specifically for a Wedding Videographer?
    Not really. I mean, those wouldn't be the primary determining factors for me to recommend one over the other to you. I think you would benefit more from the lower cost ($1100 less) and lower memory card costs (SDHC vs. P2) than you would from the 10-bit or 4:2:2. Where the 10-bit and 4:2:2 are going to be most helpful is in grading and chroma keying, and it sounds like you probably don't do too much of either.

    Finally, one of the more talked about "issues" with these new cameras is the great zoom lens vs. the troublesome auto focus. I like the idea of a longer zoom although truthfully I rarely think "gosh I'd love to zoom further" with my HMC150s. But I do use auto focus from time to time. All the "main events" I use manual focus for so I'm not concerned there, but for some run-and-gun stuff throughout the day I tend to use auto. Now I can probably "adapt" I'm sure, and maybe the "turbo" focus I keep reading about will help but in your experience, did the software update help those who had issues before? Have the hardware updates helped? (is that even out yet?)
    I don't think the hardware update is out yet, and there is no software update on the 160. There is a software update on the HPX250, I don't know if anyone's compared them side by side. The turbo autofocus is 1,000x better, IMO. Previously, if you held down the "push auto" button, it would go into normal autofocus, no different than if you just flipped the switch to auto, but now after the update, when you press the "push auto" button it very quickly locks in and stays locked. It's more like an SLR type of focus on a still camera, it doesn't hunt and wander, it just locks in quickly, which is very nice.


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    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Simon View Post
    How the hell do you do that! I've never been able to earn enough money to both support myself and buy new equipment. Hell, I can't even pay off the original DVX I bought 10 years ago, let alone have purchased two HD cameras and looking to buy 2 more!

    My clients seem to really love the work I do. I see my competitions' work and I'd say mine is better than most. But the clients just don't want to pay what I would need to charge to earn a living and a profit. I can only charge enough for one or the other. (But it's a full time job, so the living has to come first.)

    Sometimes I wonder why I do so many. But at almost $3k per Wedding, I can't help it. I like money. Granted, I'm editing 24/7 it seems. Each one takes me about 70 hours to edit because I don't take the easy way out on each part of the video so its almost too much work sometimes. One thing I realized is that there are enough Weddings to go around for everyone. But to say that I don't get nervous every year considering I have a family now (new baby) I'd be lying. But it somehow works out. My recommendations: Look at those whose work is comparable to yours (be honest) and keep your prices competitive to them. But 90% of my Weddings come from advertising on one site (Knot) with 10% from other things like google or referrals. That is the biggest factor by far. I pay $500/month to advertise to 3 counties through that one site and it has been amazing. Knock on wood. I've just had good luck I guess. Also, I'm in the LA/Orange County area so there are a lot of people getting married and videos are more common than maybe some random small town. Finally, going the extra mile with the little things like always driving out to meet the couples is the final thing that puts me over the top. Even if I have to drive an hour and a half, I go to them and 5 or 6 each year tell me thats what put me over another guy. I don't need to shoot 38 Weddings again this year. Nor do I really want to. I'd prefer to have my life back. I just kept raising my prices until the emails tapered off and that's where I remain.


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    Barry!

    Woohoo! I was secretly hoping to hear from you. Thank you very much for your response. Any time I read your posts I read it as fact, not opinion. I could read threads for literally hours sometimes hunting for something and then after reading a response by you, my hunt often stops there. Thank you for all you do for so many people. And thank you for your comments on the AC160 vs. HMC150 vs. HPX250. I read each response like 5 times to make sure I fully digested your input. I read about that P.A.P. 1 feature somewhere on this forum but to hear it put that way makes it VERY enticing. A full stop, huh? Hmmm. Tempting. The most I ever go in gain with the HMC150 is +12db but I try not even go that high if possible because I too don't like noise. But a cleaner +18db equivalent on the AC160 sounds VERY enticing as well.

    Great to hear about the turbo autofocus. I'm excited to try that out when I rent them next week. And I guess I meant "firmware update" not "software update"...my bad.

    I won't be green screening anything really and if I do, I can work with whatever. I used to make even a DVX work with the software I have. But only your P.A.P comment has me still "wondering" if its worth the extra money for the HPX250 even though you said it's probably not based on 10bit and 4:2:2 not being totally relevant to my line of work...Hmmm. I think I'll stick with the AC160 then.

    You know, one last (for now) question I have is that in your HMC150 book you mention the B.Press setting has the least noise (or something like that, I can't seem to locate my book at the moment for exact wording). So, I set my camera's gamma to B.Press and then matrix to Cinelike. Truthfully, I always just left both of these at Cinelike (and Cine-V) on my DVX and HMCs before reading that to get the most "film look" or whatever. But as small as that "less noise" may be, I figure every bit helps, right? So am I reading your words right, Barry? Again, I don't totally know what any of this really means but I've always wondered if switching to B-Press instead of say Cine-V really helps in some way get the most out of the type of videos that I shoot. Maybe I should've posted this question in another thread, but I figured I'd ask now that I see you've responded here. Thanks again Barry!!! MUCH APPRECIATED!!!


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    Senior Member rzr219's Avatar
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    Well here is what I can offer. I do weddings, children's plays and what ever I am asked. I purchased a 250 after looking carefully at the 130 and 160. I went with the 250 for a few different reasons.
    1st 4 channel audio, I know 2 channels are onboard mic only. However I like being able to mic 2 persons and still get room audio all synced to my video.
    2nd P2 card. I like the cheaper media of the 130 & 160 but the only way I could guarantee the card would not loose any data was to run 2 cards at once. We'll whats the point I figured I know the P2 cards don't give issue like the SD cards and I only get one shot and I don't want to loose it, plus I run 2 64GB cards and never look back.
    3rd 4:2:2 10 bit. I also carefully adjust my settings before a shot, however sometimes I still make a mistake and have to make corrections later and I like having allot of room to make those adjustments without loosing quality.
    4th P.A.P.1, I love it so far. No issue except bright outdoor sunlight, then I switch to P.A.P 2.
    5th FBC. I wish this would work under P settings but it is what it is, I can be at a Graduation, Program where parents are flashing away, and not worry about all the flashes going off while I am videoing with a CMOS.
    6th Time code sync. Being able to lock to other cameras and not play with it in post is great.
    7th Rebate. Can't lie, the $730 rebate I got (just 3 days ago) was really nice.
    8th and the real reason. I want to not do as many weddings, I like them however as Jim mentioned its tough. I live in a town of 6,000 and the next big town of 25,000 is 20 miles away (here that is only 20 minuets away LA that is like ... well you know). I do more business with my Photography than Video as they wont pay what I am worth and their friend will do it from almost free. So either I do it and like you I spend hours making it right because it has my name on it or I stand my ground on price (works sometimes but most of the time I loose). I got this camera because I am starting to do more corporate work, commercials and such. I needed a real broadcast camera to do that with so I can make more money doing what I love and not going into debt. I also have a family and Video and Photography work currently dosent bring in enough to do it full time, so I am making a long term move (I hope thats what I am working on) to the end that needs and will pay correctly for my talents.
    I think the 160 for your niche is a perfect fit, do what I did and go to a local retailer and try it out try the 130 and 160 thats what I did. I bought mine locally because they took the time to go over my questions. Also if you are renting the 160 get it a few days before to adjust it. You will most likely want to mod the scene files some or allot.

    PS. I just shot a Love Story footage today on my 250 and it looks beautiful, cant wait to edit it and show it to my clients.


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    The Irish TRex...

    I think too strong a focus on weddings is self-limiting because, as you say, there is a ceiling on what people will pay.

    Surely there is a way to get the editing hours down. I have been playing around with Sony Vegas and, grant you, its not the most popular thing on the planet, but I am discovering ways and means of reducing editing time in this environment.

    Going into corporate video (or any area where you can add value by writing a script and having actors follow this), should let you add revenue on top of weddings.

    And what about documentaries? I am finding that small towns and annual events put on by whomever, seem to value having a 4-min video that they can put on their website.

    So, diversification seems a good way to go.

    My day job is management consulting but I do videos for my company (training videos for management methodologies and enterprise software systems). We used to have to visit customers. Then, we went to powerpoints (boring). The end game was finding that a very brief intro with an actual person talking followed by a "live" demo at a computer, ending up with no more than a 4-5 minute video, seems to work.

    I also do recordings on the side for singers (solo, quartet, bands, choruses) - mostly. for the time being, for musician friends but with an increased portfolio, I have started to get requests where the "customer" is willing to pay.

    In my business,we tell customers it is next to impossible to work out a business strategy without preparing a mind map. You can get excellent mind map software free, all you have to do is use it.

    I recommend this to anyone who wants to investigate alternative revenue sources.

    You can call me at 450 458 5601 if you would like to talk about this . I will give you the source for the free mind map software plus a few pointers on how to use it.

    The members of this group have helped me considerably going from zero in February to getting up to speed with video recording, so I am happy to give something back.
    Last edited by kwkeirstead; 05-26-2012 at 09:23 PM.


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    Back on the HMC150, gamma made a bigger difference in noise; on the latest cameras it isn't nearly such a factor. Cine-D and Cine-V look great on the MOS cameras.

    The gamma makes more of a difference in the tonal rendering of the picture. I would prob recommend you experiment with Cine-V for what you're shooting. Good luck!


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    Thank you guys for the responses. And thanks Barry for clarifying the gamma thing.

    rzr219, great perspective on things having gone thru what I'm going thru in my decision. I am definitely looking forward to playing with the AC160's first when I rent them next week. Unfortunately, I'll get them the day before the Wedding...but hey, that's what the night is for right? ;) I like your thoughts on audio. I too use two wireless mics and with the combined cameras I still have room for a shotgun and the on-camera mic with one XLR left over as well so I've felt good in that regard. But it's definitely something to think about. Man, that P.A.P. 1 seems so nice. UGH! Decisions! Timecode syncing I tried using my HMCs but for some reason it always ended up 1 or 2 frames off. But at 60p, its easy to find a common sync point. No time really at all. Your thoughts on Flash Banding are right on with my thoughts. Although I've seen that FB on the AC160 doesn't seem to be "as bad" as some other CMOS cameras, having FBC on the HPX is a huge asset because as you know, there's a crap load of flashes all night long and while it doesn't always seem to bother the couples, it seems to bother the videographers. Again, enticing. As for P2, for some reason, I've had bad luck with them. I'm actually at my computer now with a Wedding shot a while back on P2 and there are two dropouts during the ceremony...on both cameras. I'm not worried because, well, that's why I have two cameras, but still .... bad luck? Maybe. But I've never had a single issue in 1.5 years of using my SDHC cards. Granted I get the expensive Panasonic ones so maybe that helps. Who knows.

    Finally, kwkeirstead, thanks for your thoughts as well. Truthfully though, I've spent 6 years doing independants, 2 years doing green screen work, and 3 years doing all sorts of corporate events and other gigs, but I've come to love the world of Weddings so I choose to only do that right now. You're right in that I could get the editing hours down. No doubt. I've been editing for 15 years and I know there are others who are faster, but that's okay. I'm farming out my "1st phase" to a guy right now which helps. But with Weddings, I like the pressure, I like fun, and I like the romantic aspect. I've turned down 2 requests for Quinceaneras and Bat Mitzvahs in the last month alone because I've done those and while I charge the same, I don't enjoy it. And fortunately, right now (again, knock on wood) I don't need that extra work financially. And I don't enjoy it. I have to protect my love for editing and some projects, while they may pay, are just "work" to me.

    Regarding the ceiling on what people pay...well, there may be a ceiling, but the way I see it, that's just a ceiling to the floor I'm currently on...there's a whole other level to go up...or two. There are things within the Wedding world that satisfy my need for a "creative outlet", similar to rzr219's "Love Story" project he mentioned above, and that keeps me fresh. Plus, I still haven't shot a Wedding where I say "that was perfect" and that pursuit of perfection is what makes me even more excited the next time around.

    Honestly, I would have NEVER thought I'd be doing what I'm doing. But it's recession proof and in this town, there's no shortage of Weddings. I was in Long Beach last weekend and there were 3 Weddings going on at the same place at the same time just in different parts of the building. I don't think I'll be doing this forever but right now, I love it. Sure, I could use a break on the editing side, but that's my real background so in a way, I love that too. But not to worry about looking for other outlets, I'm about to drop $30,000 at the start of 2013 on a new direction for my Wedding business that will open it up to a whole new world of fun. I'd tell you what that is, but then I'd have to kill you. ;) Plus, I have to get my wife to approve first. Ha!

    Thanks again for all your thoughts. I really appreciate it.
    Last edited by The Irish TRex; 05-26-2012 at 10:18 PM.


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    Senior Member Mike Warren's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rzr219 View Post
    PS. I just shot a Love Story footage today on my 250 and it looks beautiful, cant wait to edit it and show it to my clients.
    If there is any chance you can put it (or part of it) online, even as an unlisted video, I'd love to see it.


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