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First Look: Panasonic AG HMC150 AVCCAM camcorder

By John Virata

Back in 2005, my aunt asked me to videotape her wedding. I am not a professional videographer, but rather, over the years I've enjoyed shooting video with all types of cameras, be it via my digital camera, my Flip video camera, to a variety of miniDV cameras. So I agreed to tape her wedding. Last week, my sister got married, and she had seen the DVD I put together for my aunt, and asked me to shoot her wedding.

So I agreed. But this time, I wanted to try something new. I had been reading about the tapeless workflows that DMN's professional's had written about from the various manufacturers, so I wanted to try it out for myself. Panasonic was kind enough to loan out one of its camcorders that capture to SDHC memory cards, the AG HMC-150. I was able to work with this camera for several days.

The HMC150 is a handheld, solid state capture and playback video camera that is built with a die-cast magnesium alloy chassis for strength and light weight. It records HD video to standard SDHC memory cards. These cards can be purchased at most stores that carry digital cameras or computer equipment. For my purposes I used a Kingston Technology 16GB SDHC memory card, which gave about 90 minutes of storage at the HMC-150's highest quality video setting. The camera weighs less than 4.5 lbs, which gives it some heft compared to consumer handheld video cameras, but is still lightweight enough to hold in hand for extended periods. For my application, the HMC 150 was set up on a tripod except for the Wedding dance scenes, where I was shooting from below but still walking around the bride and groom. 

The camera captures video in the AVCHD h.264 MPEG-4 file format. This is a high quality format that outputs very good to excellent quality video. Images are captured with a 13X wide-angle Leica Dicomar 28.3mm-368mm zoom lens (maximum iris opening is F 1.6.) that performs admirably, even in low light situations. I was shooting outside, past 9pm with only candlelight, and still attained decent quality footage. The videos below were encoded via Adobe Media Encoder, NTSC 600 x338 30fps, AAC 160 kbps, 48kHz stereo, Bitrate VBR 1 pass.

Low light shooting with just candlelight. Double click to play video

The HMC150 is built around three 1/3-inch progressive CCD image sensors that capture a maximum 1920x1080 resolution video. It offers a wide range of HD image capture settings, including 21 Mpbs (1920x1080), 17 Mpbs (1920x1080), 13 Mpbs (1920x1080), and 6 Mpbs (1440x1280), and supports a range of HD settings, including 1080/60i, 1080/30p, 1080/24p; 720/60p, 720/30p, 720/24p.

The AG HMC150 captures to standard fare SDHC memory cards

Controls are easily accessible.

 Other features include:

  • In-camera Waveform Monitor, Vectorscope and two Focus assist displays
  • Cinelike Gamma and Dynamic Range Stretch (DRS)
  • HDMI out, Component Out (D Terminal), Composite Out and RCA Audio out jacks, XLR audio inputs, USB 2.0 for file transfer, remote control for Zoom, Iris, Focus, Start/Stop
  • three neutral density filters and three user sets
  • Two locking XLR inputs with switches for mic/line, +48V Phantom Power, Auto/Manual level, and internal/external assignment
  • time/date stamp feature
  • Free downloadable AVCHD Transcoder for conversion to DVCPRO HD available at
  • Three-year warranty program (One year + two year extension upon registration)

The AG HMC150 is an ideal camera for a variety of shooting situations, be it for shooting weddings to surf flicks, to corporate video use and the like--the camera will do well and has a lot of functionality and features for the $3995 price. It brings the features that indie filmmakers enjoyed with the DV tape based DVX 100 to a tapeless solution. With the exception of the lens motor, LCD display, SDHC card door, and viewfinder, this camera has no moving parts, no heads to wear out, and it can't eat your tape, because it is tapeless. The unit weighs less than 5lbs, so it is easy to record video while holding the camera in your right hand. The camera's user settings such as focus assist, auto/manual focus, neutral density filter settings, zoom, and user settings 1,2, and 3, are located behind the lens on a built in panel, while other function buttons can be found when you open the LCD viewfinder. A cool feature is the three levels of zoom speed, which lets you get super creative when you zoom your subjects in or out. Super slow zoom is great especially when focusing in on lighter subject matter, such as a flower girl or the bride to be, while the faster zooms can be had when shooting more action, such as those performing on the dance floor. The HMC150 is a neat camera at an affordable price point. With a tapeless workflow, it is so easy to take the SDHC card that the video is captured to, plug that card into the SD card slot of my MacBook Pro, fire up Premiere Pro CS4 and start editing right away.

Panasonic is currently offering two bundle specials with the AG HMC 150. From June 2009 to March 31, 2010, Panasonic is bundling Grass Valley's EDIUS Neo 2 NLE editing software with the AG-HMC 150. Those who purchase the AG-HMC150 through September 30, 2009 will receive a free Class 6 Panasonic 16GB SDHC memory card. For more information, visit

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John Virata is senior editor of Digital Media Online. You can email him at
Related Keywords:HD video camera, AVCHD camcorder, video capture, video camera,


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