F900 - How Long Will It Be Viable?
I'm thinking about buying a used F900 V3 body for about $35,000, but a little worried about the lifecycle of HDCAM. I have a project coming up with about 12-14 days of rental and know there will be more work coming in, but I also know I'm going to be buying the 2/3" XDCAM Cinealta when it becomes available early next year. What to do? I already have 2-D600's, 1-HPX500 and 1-HVX200. Are we all going to have to own every camera format to stay competitive these days? Any thoughts about how long the HDCAM format will be viable would be appreciated! (Oh yeah and then there's the RED Camera, Varicam, Sony's new PC Express Card camera.....etc!) What to do....what to do?
Making the plunge into HD is more than buying just the camera body; the lenses, monitors, test equipment and other infrastucture will apply to future HD cameras that you purchase, so that part of the expense is definately safe, and really allows you to spread the cost out over time.
As regards the F900 in particular, I believe (and I own an F900R as well as four Varicams) that the Cine Alta will have a life even after the 2/3" HD XDCAM arrives. This is because the recording format on the XDCAM is only MPEG2, and it's limited bandwidth, while appropriate for news (which is the main intended market of the camera) is not really a high end recording format that will be accepted by filmmakers, commercial producers and others who are already using the Cine Alta. It's my understanding that it will take another several years for the next model 2/3" XDCAM to arrive with the much improved AVC-I codec, which will begin to rival (or exceed) the recording ability of HDCAM.
Owning multiple formats is a new reality for freelancers like you and I; whereas before we were able to comfortably own and operate Betacams to service a wide variey of clients, now the clients have split into different formats, brands and even models of HD cameras. It is certainly more risky and expensive to play the owner/operator game, but the logic of buying the camera/format that your client demands still is functional. The difficulty is the possibility of them accepting cheaper alternatives to the high end models, like the Panasonic HVX500 or the Sony 1/2" XDCAM, but if it's true that you could have 12-14 days rental for a F900/3 that you could buy for about $35K, it just might be the time to pull the trigger.
Remember that the /3 does not feature HD-SDI outputs, so you'll need to add a Miranda or Evertz converter, HD lens and HD monitor at the very least to make a package. In addition, most jobs (that must protect 4x3 for example) require both the wide angle and telephoto zooms (at about $20K each) and you'll seriously have to consider getting newer, more powerful batteries and AC supplies, as these cameras are power pigs, especially when ladened with the typical accessories. If you don't already have a widescreen mattebox for the wide angle lens you'll need that too!
[john sharaf] "As regards the F900 in particular, I believe (and I own an F900R as well as four Varicams) that the Cine Alta will have a life even after the 2/3" HD XDCAM arrives. This is because the recording format on the XDCAM is only MPEG2, and it's limited bandwidth, while appropriate for news (which is the main intended market of the camera) is not really a high end recording format that will be accepted by filmmakers, commercial producers and others who are already using the Cine Alta. It's my understanding that it will take another several years for the next model 2/3" XDCAM to arrive with the much improved AVC-I codec, which will begin to rival (or exceed) the recording ability of HDCAM."
if the XDCAM 2/3' camera head is identical to 900R head,picture quality of 2/3'XDCAM HD 50 should be even higher...
The F-900 records to tape and it is extremely reliable. My problem with the cameras that record to memory cards is the fact that you can't hand the footage off to another person. Yeah, we all know about the P-2 workflow advantages and disadvantages as well as the good and bad of Blue Ray. And the hassles of recording with the Red are yet to be experienced. The F-900 is going to be viable for some years to come. It's not MPEG. It's great for a one man band type of shoot. We just landed a sizable government job and they specified CineAlta and HDCAM tape. They specifically stated that memory cards and optical discs would not be accepted. After being awarded the contract, I asked to client why they were so specific and they stated that reliability was their number one concern.
It's a dry heat!
Sony HDCAM F-900 & HDW-2000/1 deck
5 Final Cut Pro systems
Sony HVR-M25 HDV deck
this will change very very soon.
Clients will experience faster post...anybody will be able to buy cheap P2 or XDCAM HD drive and edit "straight away"and record to cheap HD drive.
I was a bit slow to change myself but after seeing Vegas editing 3 camera multicam almost instantly I changed my mind.I would not buy tape camera today.
Sony EX will be for the masses and Sony EX will be the nail in coffin for most tape cameras.(almost)All new better HD cameras are tapeless today-Pana500,2000,Sony 2/3' XDCAM HD,Infinity and do not forget Ikegami and Hitachi.
HDCAM gear is just too expansive and no longer it is so much better...that is why Sony released SR series.
Picture quality of Panasonic 2000,Thomson Infinity and Sony 2/3' XDCAM HD will be as good or better then 900R.......yet post will be faster and cheaper ...all the equipment will be and is cheaper.
The only difference(for very short time) will be ability of 900R to shoot 24 frames.
Advanages of going tapeless are just too big.
You are mistaken to say that the 2/3" XDCAM is as good or better than HDCAM; it will not be. The XDCAM records a 50Mb MPEG2 recording which is a third the bandwidth and much more compressed than HDCAM. Yes the camer head itself may be similar, but what we're talking about here is a complete system.
And as regards the price, the $35K used HDCAM is the same price as the unavailable 2/3" XDCAM is speculated to be and it will not have 24p at that price. The AVC-I Panasonic devices like the 2000(with hardware AVC-I) and 3000 are not yet delivered and you still have to factor in the price of the P2 media and a proper archiving system.
I'm afraid you've bought in to a lot of pre-release marketing hype regarding the 2/3" XDCAM, the EX format, and all the rest. Bill's origional query about the longevity of the F900 remains, and I agree with Steve, that this camera will have several years of usefullness still. Long enough to amortize it's used price.
[john sharaf] "The XDCAM records a 50Mb MPEG2 recording which is a third the bandwidth and much more compressed than HDCAM."
XDCAM hd 50Mb product with the MPEG 2 compression will actually surpass F900 145 MBit.Perhaps we should have some expert from Sony to explain it to us.
.[john sharaf] "And as regards the price, the $35K used HDCAM is the same price as the unavailable 2/3" XDCAM is speculated to be and it will not have 24p at that price."
Price for 2/3' XDCAM Hd 50 will be US$28,000 including 2' VF.
[john sharaf] "I'm afraid you've bought in to a lot of pre-release marketing hype regarding the 2/3" XDCAM, the EX format, and all the rest. Bill's origional query about the longevity of the F900 remains, and I agree with Steve, that this camera will have several years of usefullness still. Long enough to amortize it's used price."
Well,we will all see...
The rule of thumb is that interframe compression such as MPEG2 can be about 2.5 to 3 times as efficient as intraframe compression such as HDCAM, DVCPro HD, etc.
Using this rule of thumb the 50 Mb/sec XDCAM HD will be equivalent to somewhere between 125 Mb/sec and 150 Mb/sec intraframe such as HDCAM, so it probably achieves rough parity, but is not likely to be significantly better.
This does not speak to the initially more difficult work flow, but those rough early days are passing as Avid, FCP, Vegas and Premiere with MainConcept plug-in now offer good support.
I own the 35 Mb/sec XDCAM HD and love it. Many of you already know that it's approved for Discovery HD Theater and I just noticed in a promo that they're using it for the new History Channel HD series "Ice Road Truckers."
Even at 1/2", 4:2:0 and 35 Mb/sec this is a very professional and very serious piece of hardware. At 2/3", 50 Mb/sec and 4:2:2 it will be awesome.
I've been away for a while on a shoot....it was great to see all the points of view expressed on this topic. I guess the bottom line is if I can make enough to pay the camera off before it becomes a door stop like my D600s will be soon. After doing the math I can pay for about 1/3 of the camera with the money I would have spent on rentals, plus the shoot is spread out over a couple of months (Behind the scenes EPK) so I need to flexibilty of having the camera available for last minute calls from the client. I've also been talking with another F900 owner in town who has expressed interest in renting the body for two camera shoots. Now they have to rent from Wexler and shipping can be an issue on short projects. I already own a Fujinon 4.5 HD lens, but will have to buy the monitor (looking at the Panasonic 8" with wave form monitor built in) and the Miranda/Everest. Like John suggests I may need a couple of extra Hytrons to keep things running all day as well. If I base the decision on a two year payoff it probably makes sense since it will take a year or so for the XDCAM format to penetrate the networks and production companies. I think NBC is waiting for the 2/3" camera before converting? If it's true that the 2/3" version of the XDCAM will not shoot 24p (a brilliant Sony decision!) than I could probably get even more use from producers wanting higher end 24p aquisition. Bottom line....it's a great camera that could always be sold if it's not working enough. (Although the price could drop faster than some of the tech stocks I was holding a few years back!) Thanks for your input........one more question for John.....why do you have four Varicams and only 1-F900? Is the rental market that much stronger for the Varicam?
As regards the Varicam rental market, in a word, yes. I've had much more success with the Varicams than with the F900. I think it's had to do with lower price and workflow advantage, but I think with the new FCP ProRes 422 the HDCAM format will gain some momentum because you can now easily edit it in native HD with simple storage. Previously, unless you catured in DVCPRO100 with a Kona type card you had to pay to downconvert and edit offline, then online, which made it a real pain.
Because I own both formats, when new HD clients made inquiry and I explained the workflow issues, most of them understood the advantages of the Varicam, not to mention the cost savings. Only those who were mandated by their clients to shoot 1080, or were matching previous shoots, choose the HDCAM (HBO, NBC, etc.).
I hadn't thought about the impact Pro Res via Final Cut would have on the HDCAM work flow. I saw the Red Camera 2K footage (Originally shot in 4K) at the Apple booth at NAB this year and it was quite impressive. They had a wipe between the 2K and the Pro Res files and you really couldn't see any difference from a normal viewing distance.
Thanks you for your insights on HDCAM and the shelf life of the F900. I'm going to make a decision on the camera by the end of the week. I want to make sure my EPK gig is 100%going to happen before pulling the trigger. Thanks again!
If you want to get your hands on an F900R to better help your decision. I can offer you a great discount on a rental. It might be a good idea to familiarize your self with the camera in a real life situation. Check out http://www.darental.com
Thanks, but the project will be spead out over two months and the shoot days will be a day here and there. We're shooting a behind the scenes project for a film. I have access to a couple 900s locally, which I've used quite often for shoots but I can't always count on them being available. It's a tough rental situation due to the nature of the project, which is why I'm looking to buy a used camera. Thanks anyway!
Steve would you mind emailing me on prices for your Sony F900 rental. Thanks,