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NAB 2008: Pro camcorder highlights

NAB 2008 is here, which means new camcorders you can't afford--check out our rundown of the highlights.

Sony's new PMW-EX3
Sony's new PMW-EX3 Sony

Each year the National Association of Broadcasters holds its trade show in Las Vegas and manufacturers trot out their latest professional camcorders. Here are the highlights from this year's show, so far...

Canon XL H1S/XL H1A: Canon checks in with an update to its HDV XL H1. The two new models each include three 1.67-megapixel 16:9 1/3-inch CCD sensors, 20x optical zoom lenses with Canon's SuperRange optical image stabilization, and more granular controls. For instance, the iris is now adjustable in 1/16-stop increments instead of 1/4-stop, and gain, white balance, selective-color noise reduction, and global color controls all have finer adjustments over the XL H1. The difference between the two models comes down to HD SDI, Genlock, and SMPTE timecode support. The $8,999 XL H1S has them, while the $5,999 XL H1A does not. Expect the H1S in June and the H1A in July.

JVC GY-HD200UB: This is really an update to JVC's $5,995 GY-HD200 pro camcorder. The main difference is that the HD200UB adds real-time output for 1080/60i and 1080/50i signals through the camcorder's FireWire port, so you can pair it with an optional JVC hard drive to record 1080i video with this model instead of just 720p. Existing GY-HD200 owners can send their camcorders in to the factory to be upgraded if they purchased the camcorder after February 1, 2008.

Panasonic AG-HPX170: This new pro camcorder offers three 16:9 1/3-inch CCD sensors, 14-bit A/D conversion, 19-bit processing, a 13x optical zoom lens with a wide 28mm-equivalent at its widest setting, and can record at up to 1080i or 720p in the DVCProHD format, as well as a number of other HD and SD formats. The kicker is that this camcorder records to solid-state memory in the form of Panasonic's P2 cards, which are available at the 32GB size right now for up to 64 minutes of recording, though 64GB P2 cards will hit this fall and offer double the recording time. The ZG-HPX170 will be available this fall, though pricing has not yet been announced.

Panasonic AG-HMC150/AG-HMC70: These two camcorders were originally announced back in February, though at that time Panasonic hadn't announced pricing for the AG-HMC150. According to news coming out of Vegas, Panasonic has set the price of the ZG-HMC150 at $4,500--that's about $1,500 cheaper than Lori Grunin's estimate back in February. Looks like I lost the office pool.

Sony PMW-EX3: This follow-up to the PMW-EX1 adds the ability to change lenses and can record up to 1920x1080 HD onto Sony's SxS memory cards, which are very similar to Panasonic's P2 cards, though Sony was only able to show a prototype 32GB card, while Panasonic is was teasing 64GB cards at the show. The PMW-EX3 includes Genlock and SMPTE timecode support. The PMW-EX3 will be available this fall for about $13,000.

Red Scarlet: According to a report on, Red Digital Cinema was teasing its latest HD model, which will include a 2/3-inch mysterium X sensor, 1-to-120fps (or 180fps burst) recording, a 4.8-inch LCD, and an 8x optical zoom lens. It has full auto or full manual shooting modes, as well as HDMI, HD-SDI, FireWire800, and USB2 outputs. It is expected to cost $3,000, though the company is saying that it won't be available until 2009 and states very bluntly on its Web site that specs, delivery dates and design are all subject to change. Indeed, the company's original Red One camcorder went through a number of revisions from the time it was announced until it finally became available.