DVX100B - The Evolution of Excellence
By Barry Green and Jarred Land

Okay, so there’s a new color. And it uses a new manufacturing process that eliminates lead. So is that it? Is that all there is that’s new with the AG-DVX100B?

Come on. You don’t think Panasonic would lame out like that, do you? On the contrary, the DVX100B offers 20 improvements over the DVX100A it’s replacing! Some are significant, some are minor, but all are welcome changes that make an old favorite just that much better.

First, what’s not there: no 16:9 CCD chipset. No P2 card slot. Nothing radical like that; and truthfully, nobody should expect changes like that in a model revision anyway. This is a “letter” revision, not a whole revamp (if you want features like that, Panasonic has a new HVX200 they’d like to point you towards).

The DVX100B is much to the DVX100A as the DVX100A was to the original DVX100. Panasonic listened to everyone's comments over the last year; even suggestions from guys and girls right here on DVXuser, and got busy tweaking them to add nearly two dozen new improvements. Here are most of them:

VIEWFINDER/LCD:

The list of improvements starts with the viewing system. The DVX100B becomes the first under-$5,000 camera to offer full-frame viewing! The new viewfinder and LCD show the full frame, rather than the “overscan” frame typical on other cameras.
The VF and LCD are also higher resolution. The LCD panel gets a modest boost, from 200,000 pixels (on the DVX100A) to 210,000 (on the DVX100B). But the viewfinder gets a massive infusion of resolution, going from 180,000 dots (on the DVX100A) to 230,000 pixels on the DVX100B.
Finally, the VF and LCD now have selectable display aspect ratios! That means they can show either 4:3 or unsqueezed 16:9. In squeeze mode, the LCD now shows proper framing (on the DVX100A the “squeeze mode” would show squeezed footage in the viewfinder/LCD). The aspect ratio can be manually or automatically controlled, which means you can also use it in conjunction with the Anamorphic adapter and still see the properly-displayed widescreen picture.

REMOTE CONTROL:

The DVX100B offers the same remote focus/remote iris control that will be included on the HVX200.There are now two remote ports, one for zoom/rec (which is compatible with existing DVX zoom controllers) and a new port that provides for remote focus and iris! The DVX becomes the first camera in this price range to offer remote exposure control. Varizoom and others will be producing new remote controls that take advantage of this new port.

HEADPHONES (headphones… headphones … headphones …)

Okay, this is a little one, but it’s a big one too. Probably my #1 pet-peeve about the DVX100A is the “echo” you hear in the headphones when shooting 24P. In the DVX100B they’ve introduced a new menu option which lets you choose which source the headphone jack uses – live, or from tape. Choose “live” and the ECHO IS GONE! Thank you, Panasonic!

FIREWIRE OPTIONS – Transfer Scene Files, and Sync Timecode!

The DVX100B now makes matching multiple cameras a breeze. You can instantly share your settings with another user, or calibrate multiple cameras to have identical settings. Just plug in a 1394 cable into each camera and choose FILE TRANSFER in the menus. You can transfer a single scene file, all scene files, or the whole camera setup file instantly.
Here’s another first for a sub-$5,000 camera: the DVX100B has the ability to sync to external timecode! Plug in any DV device into a DVX100B and it can force its timecode to conform to the other device. This makes setting multiple cameras to identical time-of-day timecode instantaneous and foolproof.

VIDEO AND AUDIO CHANGES

The video signal-to-noise ratio has been improved. DVX100B footage is noticeably “cleaner”, with less video “noise”.
The microphone sensitivity has also been increased by 6dB. The onboard microphone is now twice as sensitive, making it that much easier to get strong, hot levels from the onboard mic.

FUNCTIONALITY – Little changes that make life with the camera that much easier

Display Off button – now with the press of a button, you can hide all the information on the LCD and viewfinder. The new Disp Off button instantly erases all on-screen displays. It’s easy to get a cluttered viewfinder; this Disp Off button lets you quickly see the full frame. Very nice!
End Search in Camera Mode: Previously if you wanted to search to the end of the tape, you had to swap to VCR mode. That took several seconds and it would also erase your custom scene file settings (if you hadn’t saved them). Now with the DVX100B you can use End Search right from camera mode – it’s a small thing, but a very welcome thing that makes the camera just that much friendlier to use.
Menu System Revamp: apparently the DVX team has been watching some HGTV, because the menu system got an Extreme Makeover. Gone are the MS-DOS-looking menus; in their place is a sleek colorful easy-to-read, easier-to-navigate menu system. Some menu items that where a little confusing have been corrected. (such as Tape Protect being relabeled as Power Save)
Power Zoom Speed – the middle zoom speed has been slowed down some. When changing to the DVX100A, Panasonic slowed the slowest zoom speed, but they left the middle zoom speed alone; that made for a somewhat rougher transition from slowest to middle speed. On the DVX100B the middle zoom speed has been slowed down so it’s a smoother transition between the slowest and fastest speeds.

PHYSICAL CHANGES

The LCD Panel’s hinge has been redesigned – the LCD panel can now open up 120 degrees, instead of 90 degrees as on the DVX100A. This gives you some more flexibility in positioning, as well as minimizing chances of breaking if you brush by something with it open. The pivot is a little more robust as well, so it should stay a little tighter over use.
Speaker Placement: A few items have been moved on the camera body; the VCR buttons have been moved inside the LCD panel (where the speaker was), and the speaker has been moved outside the camera body (to where the VCR buttons were).
Tape Transport: The transport has been completely beefed up.. it now is much more secure and handles the strain the camera weight put on the door via the handstrap. With the transport upgrade however, the 100B loses the “interval rec” feature. You can still do one-shot recording, but the camera doesn’t have an intervalometer to automatically re-trigger one-shot recording.
Deeper Scene Dial: They raised it a bit on the 100A, but now on the 100B the Scene dial is almost completely protected, to avoid accidental changing. The actual dial is also new.
Tripod Socket – the DVX100B has a newly-designed, heavy-duty tripod socket, redesigned to be more rugged than the DVX100A’s tripod socket.
Get the lead out: one of the main reason the DVX100B is here is because of the manufacturing changes was to accommodate the RoHS initiative, which demanded removing lead from the manufacturing process. The DVX100B is fully compliant and lead-free.
New paint color: The DVX100B shows its colors with a sleek new Black Sapphire body color. It’s classy and beautiful, and the new texture makes fingerprints impossible to see.  That'll keep your camera looking new, and nicer, longer.

WHAT’S IN THE BOX

Manual size: The manual has been shrunken down aprox. 25%, so it is now much easier to fit in the camera bag for reference, It is now about the same size as Barry's DVX book. The pages are also marked a little better so you can quickly find items, and the language has been "simplified" a little bit.
Finally, last but not least, the DVX100B ditches the old CGR-D16 battery (which lasts for around 90 minutes) and replaces it with the massive, magnificent CGR-D54, a battery that can drive the camera for nearly five and a half hours. The DVXuser Batteries also fit and work well with the B.

There you have it. Over 20 revisions, from minor to fairly major, and all of them welcome. So the big question becomes: DVX100A or DVX100B? Should you grab a DVX100A with all the rebates and freebies, or wait for the DVX100B? And that’s a question that only you can answer. Right now the DVX100A offers about $1200 worth of accessories and cash: a $500 rebate, the DVX Book/DVD, the Magic Bullet Editors software, a free CGR-D54 battery, and a box of AMQ tapes. Panasonic hasn’t announced if the DVX100B will include any of these goodies, although it’s a safe bet to say that there won’t be a rebate on the new model! The changes and refinements in the DVX100B are primarily in usage, but not really in the footage (other than a small reduction in video noise). So as far as end footage on tape, a DVX100A and a DVX100B will deliver nearly identical results. If you’d like to save some money with a rebate, the DVX100A is still a solid choice, while they last. But the DVX100B is a nice refinement, a polished, more finished DVX100A. If the additional refinements and features of the DVX100B are what you want, and you judge the new features to be worth the price, the DVX100B is a great new camera that improves on a great thing. It’s not out yet, but it’s coming: it should be available on US store shelves by October 31, 2005.

 
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