At A Glance: Panasonic AG-HMR10 Recorder And AG-HCK10 Camera Head

For the 2008 Oscar©-winning film Slumdog Millionaire, cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle needed a camera system that would be small and light enough to chase running children through the crowded streets of Mumbai. For those scenes, he used a Silicon Imaging SI-2K Mini that was wired to MacBook Pro computers stored in a backpack he was wearing. The outfit enabled Dod Mantle to move at a much quicker pace, perfectly capturing the chaotic slums of the city.

For shooters looking for a similar setup at a more indie-friendly price, Panasonic Broadcast has recently released two interesting products for its growing AVCCAM line. The AG-HMR10 handheld recorder ($2,600) and the AG-HCK10 compact camera head ($1,800) can be connected via cables in either three-meter or 20-meter lengths. The recorder, which is sold separately, has the capability to capture 1080 and 720 resolution in the AVCCAM format to SD memory cards. (A 32 GB SDHC card can record three hours of 1920×1080 video at the highest-quality PH mode, which is up to 24 MB/s.) The recorder is light, weighing in at only 1.2 pounds and measuring 3.78×2.07×5.24 inches, making it suitable for handheld work or attaching it to a mount with its four 3mm threaded holes. The recorder also has a decent 3.5-inch color LCD monitor, which can display footage or thumbnails of shots similar to their prosumer camcorders.

Perhaps what’s most interesting about the Panasonic HMR10 is that it contains HD-SDI outputs, enabling backup recording of uncompressed material from higher-end cameras. It also can downconvert HD to SD. Additional features of the HMR10 include a waveform monitor, a vectorscope display, zoom, color bar and tone, record check, prerecord, auto record, metadata recording, 11 one-touch operation buttons and a few other features.

The HCK10 camera head, aka POVCAM, resembles many of the lipstick cameras that typically are used for crashcam-style shooting, such as the Iconix RH1. The camera has three newly developed, ¼-inch, 3.05-megapixel, HD-resolution 3-MOS imagers to deliver high-def quality similar to many prosumer or high-end consumer camcorders. The camera weighs in at a little over half a pound and features a 12x optical zoom lens with Optical Image Stabilizer (OIS) and Dynamic Range Stretch (DRS). Like most of the Panasonic consumer and lower-end prosumer cameras, the HCK10 records to AVCCAM, which is an MPEG-4 codec that doubles the bandwidth efficiency and improves video quality over the older MPEG-2 HDV format, quickly becoming extinct due to file-based recording. There’s a vendor named Polecam that’s using the combination to create a sort of poor-man’s jib arm, giving a shooter more range with the POVCAM.

The HMR10 and HCK10 as a package is an interesting release from Panasonic, although the addition of Genlock would have benefited the system, enabling ambitious film-makers on a tight budget to create their own makeshift side-by-side 3D camera rig with two HCK10 camera heads. (The omission may be due to the upcoming release of Panasonic’s 3D HD-camera system.) Since the technology is available now, it also would have been amazing to be able to record wirelessly from the POVCAM to the recorder, although this would have put the system at a much higher price tag. Maybe version 2.0?

Contact: Panasonic, (800) 211-PANA,