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Panasonic AJ-HPX3700 Review

Jun 3, 2010 12:00 PM, By Barry Braverman

A no-nonsense performer with a powerful work ethic.


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Hollywood legends appreciate the flattering, organic look the Panasonic AJ-HPX3700 produces.

Hollywood legends appreciate the flattering, organic look the Panasonic AJ-HPX3700 produces.

If cameras had human personalities, the Panasonic AJ-HPX3700 wouldn't have much of a sense of humor. Indeed, the 1080p P2 Varicam is a serious machine, a no-nonsense performer with a powerful work ethic. As Panasonic's flagship, the HPX3700 is hardly an experimental block of metal with heating or shutter issues, and a sensor the size of a battleship. The CCD's 2.2 million pixels are sampled thoroughly and completely pixel by pixel, no skipped lines or shortcuts in the processing here. In fact there is nary an aberration or picture artifact to be found in this top-of-the-line Varicam – a camera that can be relied upon with absolute confidence even under the most challenging conditions. The HPX3700 is a camera designed and built for the business of shooting and earning a living in the upper echelons of the industry; at this level there can be no substitute for performance, reliability, and proven technology.

In early 2010, the legendary Hollywood singer and dancer Carol Lawrence asked me to shoot the ultimate tap-dancing tutorial video, Tacky Taps with Carol Lawrence. The goal here was to capture Carol's inimitable style and grace in a production that would be instructional at its core but also something of a showpiece and historical record of the consummate performer, whose career has spanned five decades, from the role of Maria in the original cast of West Side Story to hundreds of television and live stage appearances all over the world.

Like most performers, veteran singer-dancer Carol Lawrence is highly protective of her appearance on screen. The HPX3700 caters to this extreme level of visual scrutiny.

Like most performers, veteran singer-dancer Carol Lawrence is highly protective of her appearance on screen. The HPX3700 caters to this extreme level of visual scrutiny.

Performance, performance, performance

It made sense to me that the performance of the camera should match Carol's own high level of craft. Given the age of the Hollywood star, the project demanded an organic look with great subtlety in skin tones and control of detail. It demanded a camera with precise color correction and true variable frame rates to capture the dancer's moves with grace, nuance, and flair. Clearly this was not the occasion for an inexpensive prosumer camcorder prone to clipped highlights, stark contrast, and ugly aliasing artifacts. The HPX3700 was the right tool for the job. Carol loved the camera and, more importantly, the camera loved her.

Considering the historical nature of the shoot, the sophisticated P2 camera made good sense. Matched to the Canon HJ22ex7.6B IRSE lens, it allowed me to capture the nuances of the dance steps and the grandeur of the star. The (slightly) overcranked look at 30fps added a nice dream-like effect to the dance numbers, which I captured with an abstracted lyrical quality.

The three-dimensional look

As cinematographers, we are constantly struggling to maintain a three-dimensional illusion in two-dimensional space. We really only have two ways to do this: by maximizing texture and rigorously controlling shadows, and by the use of linear and aerial perspectives in framing our compositions.

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