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Any suggestions? Panasonic AG-AC160, Sony HVR-Z5U or Sony HXR-NX5U NXCAM?

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Dean Fragola
Any suggestions? Panasonic AG-AC160, Sony HVR-Z5U or Sony HXR-NX5U NXCAM?
on Nov 29, 2013 at 3:47:10 pm


I hope there is somebody out there who has the gift of patience and can help me with what is probably common sense knowledge and awareness to people in the video community (and I apologize for being so new & uneducated about all this) ...

But in short, I'm much more of a writer than a videographer ... but I do want to shoot some shorts (and then maybe an indie feature) ...

And I don't know where to begin as far as buying a pro-level consumer camera ... as all I know is that I am looking for a true full 1080p (not interlace) camera that shoots at 24fps (for a film look) ... and I need a camera that has rings for focus, zoom and iris ...

But it's just some confusing as so many of these cameras out there (as I do my research) all seem to have like 40 different "shooting modes" ... so I'm not sure what is a selling gimmick in the product description -- vs -- what is legitimate jargon that I need to understand.

Does 1080/24p mean 1080 progressive (resolution) at 24 progressive frames (rate)? ... or does it mean the resolution may be 1080i even though it shoots at 24 fps?

Is there a difference between 24p ... and 24p (native)? What about 1080p? ... and 1080p (native)?

And what's the reason for all the various Mbs rates? ... as, in other words, even if it's true full HD at 24p, if it's at a low bit rate, it's not going to look all that great?

And how about relatively older cameras (like 4 years old) that shoot 1080 HD but to a mini dv tape? ... as those are very inexpensive now ... are they still decent cameras (it's just most people like the convenience of memory cards instead of DV tapes? ... or are mini dv cameras basically just crap compared to the newer cameras?)

For example ...

How about these three cameras? ... what would you suggest? The Sony HVR-Z5U ... or Sony HXR-NX5U NXCAM ... or the Panasonic AG-AV160?

Thanks so much for any help.

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Paddy Uglow
Re: Any suggestions? Panasonic AG-AC160, Sony HVR-Z5U or Sony HXR-NX5U NXCAM?
on Nov 29, 2013 at 4:36:38 pm

> Does 1080/24p mean 1080 progressive (resolution) at 24 progressive frames (rate)?
Unless someone corrects me, the 24p means 24fps, progressive.

Confusingly, even though interlaced video is not computer or cinema-friendly, for slow pans, shooting at 60i and deinterlacing to 30p will be lots smoother than shooting it progressive. Deinterlacing isn't a particularly big chore; you can either transcode to deinterlaced before editing, or edit interlaced and export to progressive.

Choice of camera depends a lot on what you're shooting for. 24p is standard for cinema, or for "the film look" for Vimeo, though the slow frame rate won't be as good for capturing fast motion.
I use a JVC hm150 that'll shoot 24,25,50 and 60 frames per second. The latter two rates are great for slowing down to 25fps (I'm in the UK) for slow motion shots without any frame drops.
The variety of frame rates mean I can use it to shoot footage to match the rate of footage shot by other people, or to avoid flicker from lights when shooting in different countries (not that I've done that yet!).
The JVC isn't particularly great in low light, but a really handy camera to use.

Data rate is an important factor, as long as you get a good picture to start with. So a really good lens is important, as well as a camera that you're able to operate in the circumstances you're filming in.

The now-cheap top end cameras of yesteryear will have really good lenses, but the tape-based workflow is getting harder as firewire threatens to disappear from computers, and that slow real-time transfer is hard to bear...!

I hope that's helped your decision-making a bit.


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Bill Bruner
Re: Any suggestions? Panasonic AG-AC160, Sony HVR-Z5U or Sony HXR-NX5U NXCAM?
on Dec 3, 2013 at 1:38:51 pm

Hi Dean - Paddy has done an excellent job of answering your technical questions, but if you're going to be shooting narrative shorts and, eventually, a feature, the cameras you've listed may not be the best choice.

Motion pictures that most people are used to seeing on TV and in theaters are shot with Super 35 cameras (with a sensor size of about 24.9mm x 18.7mm).

The cameras you've listed all have 1/3" sensors (about 4.8mm x 3.6mm).

The difference in size is illustrated here: Sensor Size Comparison Table

Without going into a long discussion of optics, the bottom line is - the "blurred background" look you see in most movies (to include indies) is very difficult to get with a small sensor camera, and most people aren't using them for narrative motion pictures.

For theatrical projection, you will also want the highest resolution possible - at least 2K, although this is arguable.

The cameras on your list all produce a maximum resolution of 1920 x 1080 or "1.9K".

Several theatrical features have been produced at 1.9K, but this is the exception, not the rule.

Depending on your budget, more appropriate cameras for a low budget filmmaker might be the:

- $7450 (body only) Super 35 Sony NEX-FS700 1.9K resolution, upgradeable to 4...

- $5449 (body only) Super 35 Canon Cinema EOS C100 1.9K resolution

- $4825 (body only) Super 35 Sony NEX-FS100 1.9K resolution

- When Available: $3995 (body only) Super 35 Blackmagic Production Camera 4K resolution

- $1995 (body only) 15.81 x 8.88mm sensor (somewhat smaller than Super 35, bu...

There are a host of other, even less expensive, large sensor DSLR and DSLM (mirrorless) cameras that people are shooting movies with these days (e.g., indie film Upstream Color, which was shot on the Panasonic GH2 DSLM), but there are serious tradeoffs that come with shooting with these cameras.

All of this said, if you still need help with figuring out the basics (e.g., sorting the advantages of solid state media over old-fashioned tape) you might want to start with a couple of books (I recommend a $23 hard copy of "The Filmmaker's Handbook: A Comprehensive Guide for the Digital Age: 2013 E...") - or perhaps a cinematography class or two at your local community college.

This might be a good place to start before you spend thousands of dollars on a camera.

Hope this is helpful and best of the holidays!

Hybrid Camera Revolution

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Jeff Pulera
Re: Any suggestions? Panasonic AG-AC160, Sony HVR-Z5U or Sony HXR-NX5U NXCAM?
on Jan 6, 2014 at 9:53:49 pm

Hi Dean,

About the Sony Z5U - that records HDV which is not full HD - it is "Anamorphic HD" at 1440x1080. Also, HDV uses older MPEG-2 compression, more lossy than the newer cameras using AVHCD (H.264-based). The newer cameras do record full 1920x1080. Also, the Z5U records 24p inside a 60i signal on tape, so you would have to perform a pulldown removal in post to get back to 24p for editing. Not a good solution.

Depending on your budget, the least-expensive prosumer camera with 3 rings is the Panasonic AG-AC90 for about $1700, with native 24p at 1920x1080. The AC130/160 cameras have bigger chips/bigger price tags but should also offer more features and quality of course.

I've rented the Sony AX2000 (prosumer version of NX5U) and that was a pretty nice camera also.

I own a couple of HDV cameras and if buying a new or used camera today, HDV would not be on my list ;-)


Jeff Pulera
Safe Harbor Computers

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Dean Fragola
Re: Any suggestions? Panasonic AG-AC160, Sony HVR-Z5U or Sony HXR-NX5U NXCAM?
on Jan 7, 2014 at 1:19:34 am

Hey Jeff,
Thanks so much for the insight ... as your message was indeed very, very helpful.
Thanks again.

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Will Granzier
Re: Any suggestions? Panasonic AG-AC160, Sony HVR-Z5U or Sony HXR-NX5U NXCAM?
on Oct 23, 2014 at 3:19:20 pm


Well I have had all 3 cameras. My choice is the Panasonic. I will give u my reasons simple. It can do what ever the other two can.... BUT consider this. The z5 is a nice cam but a bit dated. Also it cannot shoot 720p. With the z5 ure also stuck on using more expensive CF cards. I had 2 NX cams and both gave me lens issues. Both were replaced by Panasonics. The Panasonic is an awesome robust camera. The battery life might not be as good as the sonys BUT in my opinion a more robust camera. The Panasonics work flow with FCPX and FCP 7 is unmatched

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