A decade ago, the prosumer camcorder uled mid-level production. First with MiniDV and then with HDV, it enabled
an entire segment of the market to produce
corporate, educational, documentary, special
event, and other content without needing broadcast gear. Then came large-sensor video cameras and video-ready DSLRs, beginning with
the Canon 5D Mark II, a full-frame 35mm camera. It delivered the shallow depth of field (DoF)
that was considered the “film look,” despite
the fact that motion picture cameras have a
smaller image area, nearly identical to APS-C
or crop-sensor digital cameras.
Eventually, the big camera makers responded
with big sensor, APS-C, and even larger cameras
and camcorders. There were also a few smaller sensors such as Micro 4/3 and 1" that grew
into this market as well. But the DSLRs and
the more production-ready, interchangeable-lens, large-sensor camcorders that evolved left
a hole in the middle of the market. In between
tiny-sensor prosumer camcorders and higher-end large-sensor camcorders that required extensive investment in lenses, a need remained
for a large-sensor model with the convenience of
a prosumer camcorder and an integrated lens.
About a year ago, Panasonic introduced the
Enter the Panasonic AG-UX180
AG-DVX200 camcorder ( go2sm.com/200), built
around technology devised for its very success-
ful GH4 4K DSLR. While it wasn’t an APS-C-
based camcorder with an integrated zoom lens,
the DVX200 was about as close as you could get
at the time. It had only a few operational limita-
tions that might hold back professionals. One
was the short zoom, a trade-off necessary to
keep the camera’s weight and price point down.
As a sensor gets larger, the glass required to
deliver a bright, long, and high-quality zoom
gets bigger, heavier, and more expensive.
If you could compromise with the sensor size,
you could get a longer zoom while still avoiding the tell-tale 1/3" sensor or “cell phone” look
where everything in the shot is in focus. That’s
where Panasonic’s AG-UX180 (Figure 1) strikes
a balance well-suited to the prosumer market.
Not only does it have a 20x optical zoom (plus
some digital zoom on top of that); it does so with
a 1" sensor that enables the user to capture some
shallower DoF imagery than one would expect
in a camcorder this size.
All of Sony’s 1" prosumer camcorders (such
as the PXW-Z150, which I reviewed last October— go2sm.com/150) are limited to 12x optical
zoom, which places the UX180 well ahead of the
competition in this respect.
I’ve reviewed several Panasonic camcorders over the years and this one really feels comfortable to me. Controls for
certain features are where I expect
them to be, by and large. The “business
side” of the camcorder puts Gain, White
Balance, Shutter, and Iris controls along
the bottom edge, similar to the Sony
design. In addition, one can slide between several of these settings just by
rotating the dial in the middle of these
control buttons. It’s also how you navigate the menu, if you’re not using the
Professional 4K Camcorder By Anthony Burokas