The fruits of my research into prosumer HD cameras can be found on the evergreen HD Camera Comparison sidebar link. At the HD expo, I got to explore a little into what the pros were using…

The one camera I heard mentioned time and again was Sony’s F900. The rental houses were pushing packages ($1050 for a day — plus another couple hundred for a set of prime lenses to go with it — was one quote I heard). The director of Closing Escrow, an improvised movie shot on HD (which I’ll get to in a later post), used two of them to capture all his spontaneous action. And legendary cinematographer Allen Daviau gushed at the HD and Beyond panel about the “nice images” he was able to get when testing them.

The Panasonic and Thompson Grass Valley reps told Daviau, in essence, he ain’t seen nothin’ yet. Panasonic’s VariCams, with their highly-praised ability to shoot different speeds (especially nice slow motion) have been the gold standard for a while. Panasonic has also been leading the charge in the prosumer area, with their new AG-HVX200.

Meanwhile Thompson Grass Valley’s Viper Filmstream cameras, according to Senior Marketing Manager Mark Chiolis, will keep getting closer and closer to reproducing the look of film (of all different stocks). They are explicitly courting cinematographers by trying to offer a tool that can be as creative as a film camera, with fewer headaches. Initial tests got mixed results from cinematographers, but a lot of cinematographers I talked to at the expo were very bullish about them, because the older generation of cinematographers (at least) still love what they can do with film. (“Kodak keeps cheating,” said Daviau when the panel was discussing film vs. digital, “and making better film stocks.”)

Some of these cameras may seem like a distant dream to low-budget filmmakers. But everything filters down eventually; and in the world of HD, eventually keeps coming faster and faster.