We've owned the Firestore with our HDX900 since July 2007.
To answer your first question, yes it can be controlled to record from the camera. That's how we use it 99 percent of the time. You can also easily switch that to record locally from the Firestore.
-No, you cannot confirm/playback in-camera. I suggested to them once that there at least be an audible beep to help confirm that the Firestore took the command to record. Otherwise, like film, the only way to "confirm" is to see the that the counter is moving.
-The firewire connection is a bit flaky and you really need to use gaffer tape to even be remotely confident that you'll maintain a solid connection. Even with that it doesn't seem to take much to lose communication through the firewire. We always have someone on our crew watching the firewire to be sure it's recording. We own two because we believe in backup and that's saved us a couple times when one of ours froze. We rebooted it after the job but were glad we could keep moving along using the other without holding up the client. The firestore is definitely NOT for run and gun/docummentary situations. In those instances we just record to the HD tapes. Whenever we use the Firestore we always record to HD tapes at the same time for instant archival and backup. We have lost shots on the firestore because it didn't roll when we thought it did and the tapes saved us. In each case that happened because we spun to grab a quick shot, no time for another person to check the counter.
Bottom line for me, it's an amazing tool for the Post -production flow but not the most dependible on-location unless you can afford the extra crew person to babysit it every time you hit record. If you're grabbing action handheld, stick to the tapes.
I think some handy guy in his garage is going to make a killing selling a better firewire cable for these kinds of setups. It should have a 45 or optional 90-degree bend coming out, as we can already do with BNC and XLR audio connectors, so as to lay more flush against the camera, and it should have a tight moisture-and-dust-proof silicone rubber seal around the interface area, better strain relief, and some way to make the connector "lock" in place by expansion/friction, better than desktop firewire cables. You should also be able to order an exact length using an online custom configurator web page, so it can be cut and made to order for your specific setup, without extra loops to get caught up on things. I would buy this in a heartbeat. You hear me, Firestore and Markertek? I want a percentage for the idea:-)
I like your thinking Mark. We do use a 90 degree cable, but we could only find one with that angle on one end. A two ended, flat/flush version would be nice. I bet some type of add-on velcro-type thing to lock the cable could be figured out. We did order a couple of two-footers so we didn't have to loop the cable so much. Firestore can do so much to easily improve their end. Panasonic needs to be sure they follow suit on the camera end, but bI think they are less-motivated to do so.
I recently bought an FS-100 160Gb DTE for our HDX900 and, while not the best form factor or user interface, I'm happy enought with the physical setup and am a big fan of 720/24PN or 30PN modes. I record in Quicktime PN and get 6.5 hours at 720/24PN, which makes the Firestore very convenient. It's super easy to capture using QT clips, more so than P2 PN mode.
For mounting on the HDX900, I bought a Noga Israeli arm that
screws into the rear 1/4-20 thread on the camera handle, placing the Firestore at the rear of the camera or rear left or right side. I like it on the operator side so I can see at a glance that I'm in 720/24P, PN mode, TC matches. I have a Hirose 4-pin DC cable as well as a dual D-Tap DC cable to power the unit and a 16" double down angle Firewire cable, so the form factor isn't too bad. The DC cables were bought at
B&H Photo and the Firewire from usbfirewire.com.
The model number is RR-CFS-6R086R08-16