The Panasonic DVX200 is a professional, large-sensor, fixed lens camcorder that records a range of high-definition formats, from MOV, MP4 to AVCHD, using Full HD, Ultra HD and 4K resolutions. The large 4/3 sensor allows for beautiful reproductions of images with pronounced shallow depths of field.
The DVX200 records in dual SD card slots, using cards that require a high writing speed. The example shown is a card that reads at 90 MB/s and is either a U-1 or U-3 (must also be a Class 10). If you’ve been checking out cameras from the CMCI, then you likely have an SDHC. If the camera says your SD card is incompatible - check card speed, it should still work. But for best results, you may want to get the higher speed card.
Getting to Know the Camera
First, get to know the contents of the camera bag.
Included in the camera bag you will find:
Battery Charging Unit and cable
AC Power Adaptor and cable
Two batteries – given upon checkout
Explore the camera parts to find the following:
These are just a few parts that will become more familiar with experience. But before you use it for the real thing, you need to spend time getting to know the camera. Shoot some video and audio. The more you use it, the less time you’ll spend troubleshooting and the more time you can devote to creativity.
Inserting/Removing the Battery
The battery compartment is located to the rear of the camera. Make sure the camera is steady and take care not to drop the battery as such impacts could reduce its ability to charge fully.
Opening the battery cover
Removing the battery
Connecting to an AC Outlet
The AC Power Adaptor allows you to plug-in the camera to a wall outlet. Do not use any other AC adaptors except the one supplied in this kit. The AC Power Adaptor is plugged into the camera’s DC input terminal (DC IN) located at the rear of the camera. Next to the DC IN is the Headphone terminal (see image).
Disconnecting the AC from the Camera
When disconnecting the cable from the wall outlet, first set the camera’s power switch to OFF and check that the status indicator light is also off. Then unplug the AC cable from the wall outlet.
Turning the Camera On/Off
From the power switch, whilst holding down the lock release button (the white button seen in the image) turn the unit to ON. The status indicator lights up.
To turn off the camera, hold down the lock release button and turn the power switch to OFF. The status indicator goes off.
Make sure the lens cover is open before you start recording.
Selecting a Mode
At the top of the camera, open the compartment to reveal a set of buttons (THUMBNAIL, COUNTER, BARS). Press the THUMBNAIL button to toggle between the Recording Mode or the Playback Mode. NOTE: When you turn on the camera, the default will be Recording Mode.
Using the LCD Monitor/Viewfinder
Hold the extract part of the monitor (the part with the arrow visible) with your thumb and forefinger and pull gently straight out until it clicks into position.
Rotate the monitor to view – it can rotate up to 270 degrees toward the lens.
Retracting the LCD Monitor
Rotate the monitor until it faces downward and then gently push it back into its housing.
CAUTION – Before transporting the camera to a new location, or when the camera gets packed back into the bag, the LCD Monitor must first be retracted.
Using the LCD Monitor Touch Screen
Access to MENU and other functions can be made directly through the LCD Monitor’s touch screen. Touch and release to select an icon or picture.
There are certain advantages to using the Viewfinder eyepiece rather than the LCD monitor. For example, it's easier to get sharper focus of the lens using the eyepiece (more on Focus if you click here). But before you can focus the lens you must first adjust the clarity of the viewfinder to your eyesight. Doing so will adjust the data code that is visible in the viewfinder so that it appears sharp to the eye.
Whilst looking through the viewfinder, adjust the corrector lever until the data code in the viewfinder looks sharp to your eyesight. This setting will not affect images that are being recorded, nor does it affect the focus of the lens itself. Remember, when using the Viewfinder eyepiece, you must first correct the focus of the viewfinder to your eyesight and then you can focus the lens.
Formatting the SD Card
SD Cards Must Be Formatted to the Camera
When using an SD card for the first time with this camera, it will be necessary to format. Formatting will always erase existing data that is left on the card. Make sure you’ve copied any existing files on the card to a portable drive before you format.
How to format the card
CAUTION: When the camera is accessing the SD card, the access light near the slot lights up. Never remove the card or shut down the camera if the access light is on. To do so may damage the card and corrupt the data.
Troubleshooting SD card issues
When you insert an SD card and power up the camera, you might get a message that says the card is incompatible - check card speed. If you see this, the card might still work - do a test record - but for best results you should use a card that records at 90MB/s and is either a U-1 or U-2 (always make sure it's a class 10).
Tips to Avoid SD Card Problems
Getting Focus Right
Every shot must be properly focused, which is crucial in any professional production. Soft focus shots, unless used for artistic effect, don't count as shots that are in focus.
To focus a telephoto lens you must calibrate it first
Look on the lens controls and slide the FOCUS switch to M for Manual (A would set the lens to Automatic Focus).
Zoom in all the way on your subject and focus by turning the focus ring on the lens. Then zoom out to compose your shot. Each time the camera gets moved you will need to calibrate the telephoto lens.
The large ring located on the lens is the Focus Ring. Turn this ring to focus the shot.
CAUTION In most situations, using the Automatic Focus is not recommended simply because the camera might shift the focus during recording, which could ruin the shot, especially if it’s an interview.
Getting the focus right means having to judge focus properly. You might think you can judge the focus using only the LCD monitor. But it’s actually impossible to rely on this 720p display to get true focus because this monitor doesn’t have enough pixels to render the image sharply. Focus errors are more obvious in high-definition, but fortunately there are ways to get the best focus possible.
EXPAND FOCUS ASSIST
Magnifies the centre of an image to show you more detail than the full frame view. This assist is ideal for setting the focus before you start recording, but is not available during.
To use EXPAND FOCUS ASSIST, press the FOCUS ASSIST button. The central area of the screen is magnified. Use the arrow buttons to move the magnified area around the screen.
This type of focus assist draws an outline around objects that are in sharp focus. Peaking works during recording, but the red outline is not visible in playback. Used in combination, the Peaking and Expand Focus Assist tools will help you achieve the best focus results.
To use PEAKING, press the USER 1 button (usually assigned to the USER 1button).
PUSH AUTO – pressing this button will quickly adjust the focus on the subject and upon release the camera returns to manual focus. This particular assist doesn’t guarantee precise focus because it may lock on a part of the image that you wouldn’t consider to be the most important (e.g., an interview shot where only the background is in sharp focus).
Therefore, the PUSH AUTO shouldn’t be used as your primary focus assist.
You can optimise the focus better if you can see the image clearly without interference from the lighting in the environment. Make sure to adjust the eyepiece corrector lever to your eyesight first before you start focusing the lens.
The best looking video is exposed properly. The key concept to understanding exposure involves the amount of light that reaches the camera’s sensor – too much light and the image will be blown-out, or overexposed; too little and the image will be dark, or underexposed. Bad exposure is simply unpleasant to watch and is, therefore, not acceptable to a professional broadcast.
Getting the right amount of light to enter the lens will produce excellent results. It’s not as hard as you think, not if you commit to memory the following checklist in this order:
How you set each of these items in the checklist will help you control the amount of light that enters the lens.
First, make sure the camera is set to MANUAL operation mode. On the lower left side of the camera, slide the AUTO MANU button to MANU. Don't trap yourself into thinking that AUTO will make operating the camera easier. AUTO is useful only under certain circumstances when it becomes difficult to manually adjust exposure. But when you want the most control, always use MANUAL.
Neutral Density Filter (ND)
The ND Filter is the first thing you should check on your camera. Think of the ND filter as “sunglasses” for the camera - you put sunglasses on outside on a sunny day and take them off inside. The filter is used only in bright environments, typically outdoors on a sunny day. It’s not necessary to use the ND filter indoors, so make sure it’s set to OFF so you can get a fuller range of f-stops.
The DVX200 uses three built-in ND filters: ND ¼, ND 1/16 and ND 1/64. If you start with ND ¼ and the image is still too bright, switch to the next filter (i.e., if the image is too bright, the camera will start flashing ND ¼ so that you can adjust the ND filter to a more appropriate setting).
Strictly speaking, Gain electronically boosts the video signal under low light conditions to artificially make the image look brighter. The common misconception is that Gain allows more light to enter the lens - it does not! The Gain is applied only in low light conditions and only as a last resort to get more brightness out of the image.
Because Gain is signal strength, it’s measured in decibels (dB). You can see the Gain values displayed in the viewfinder. Zero dB means there’s no gain. Every 6dB of gain doubles the brightness of the picture. But the more gain gets added, the more noise appears in the image, which is another reason why Gain is used only as a last resort.
Gain value appears in the LCD Monitor. In this illustration, the Gain is set to 6dB.
It’s important to understand that Gain only amplifies the video signal, but it doesn’t add detail that is currently not visible. At high gain settings, the image will start to look grainy.
Before you can adjust the Iris and Shutter Speed for proper exposure, always start by turning the Gain off. Then open the Iris to its maximum setting and use a slower shutter speed to allow as much light to enter the lens as possible.
Remember, you’re not the only one who checks out these cameras; the student before you might’ve left on the Gain and that could ruin your shot unless you do something about it first.
Gain on the camera is adjusted between L, M and H settings. The L setting will always be 0dB, or no Gain. The M setting will likely be set to 6dB and the H will be 12dB. These values can be changed in the menu settings.
You can also use the SELF/PUSH SET thumbwheel control on the camera to cycle to the GAIN settings. With the Gain value highlighted in the viewfinder, move the thumbwheel up or down, which will apply gain (or decrease it) in 1dB increments for more precise control.
If you have to use Gain to make the picture look brighter, then in all likelihood, your image will be underexposed and look like rubbish. Seriously, getting the exposure right is crucial to a professional production. Add lighting whenever possible, which is a must especially when shooting interviews indoors.
Think of the shutter as a gate that opens and closes; when closed, light is prevented from reaching the sensor. Video shooters typically think of using the shutter only when they are recording scenes with fast action, such as sports events. Changing the shutter to a faster speed helps prevent motion blur. But faster shutter speeds means the gate isn’t open long enough to allow as much light to enter the lens. To compensate, video shooters add more light to get the same level of exposure (opening the iris further to allow more light to enter the lens). When the shutter speed is slower, the gate is open longer and more light can enter the lens, but at the slower speeds there’s the risk of seeing motion blur even when people are walking or waving.
In almost all normal circumstances, the minimum value to set Shutter Speed, and avoid motion blur, is 1/60. If you’re shooting under fluorescent lights, you definitely need to keep the shutter speed at 1/60. In North America, fluorescent lights always flicker at 60Hz frequencies (In Europe the frequency is more like 50Hz). Changing the shutter speed to anything other than 1/60 might cause noticeable orange bands or scrolling waves in your video.
The shutter value is highlighted in the illustration above. Start with a value of 1/60, which is the minimum that you can set shutter speed and avoid motion blur.
Become aware of the Shutter Speed settings on your camera before you change the Iris so you can get the most light to enter the lens.
To set the Shutter Speed - press the SHUTTER button, located on the lower left side of the camera. Pressing this button will highlight the shutter speed value in the LCD Monitor/Viewfinder. Then turn the SEL/PUSH/SET thumbwheel to change the shutter speed value to the desired setting. Use a higher speed for sports and other fast action when you want to avoid motion blur. But use a faster speed only if you have adequate lighting.
This is the last item on your checklist, which you can adjust only after you’ve ascertained the other items. The aperture is simply the hole in the lens where light can enter; the Iris is the mechanism that controls the size of the aperture and the amount of light that gets through. The size of the aperture is measured in f-stops, which describe how much light enters the lens.
F-stops are numbered in the following sequence: f/1.4, f/2, f/2.8, f/4, 4/5.6, f/8, f/11 (these values vary with the type of lens). The smaller f-stops correspond with a larger aperture, therefore, an f/2 admits more light than an f/8. With each setting, or stop, half as much light enters the lens. In other words, an f/2 admits half as much light as an f/1.4.
In most cases, you won’t need to know specific f-stop values to get the right exposure. Just understand that f-stops describe how much light enters the lens. In a low-light environment you would need to use a lower f-stop value to get as much light to enter the lens as possible.
Press the IRIS button, located just behind the IRIS ring, which is at the base of the lens. Note the f-stop values in the LCD Monitor/Viewfinder. Turn the IRIS ring to change the values. When the values say OPEN, the aperture is as open as it will get under the present lighting conditions.
Automatic or Manual?
The camera is capable of judging how much light is necessary to expose the picture properly. Auto-exposure can free you up to concentrate on other things like composition and focus, but professionals rarely rely on this, and neither should you. It’s crucial that you understand how to manually control the exposure, which lets you decide what’s the most important element in the scene to expose for. Also, preventing the camera from changing the exposure whilst recording is another compelling reason to use manual exposure. However, you can certainly use Auto-Exposure as an assist to let the camera judge what it thinks of your exposure settings.
It’s easy to quickly pop into Auto-Exposure mode by pressing the IRIS button. In the LCD Monitor/Viewfinder, the letters STD will appear next to the f-stop value - this is for the Standard Auto-Iris control. Pressing it again will switch your camera back into manual mode, which will then lock the exposure to what the camera decides. But be careful with this – you might expose on an area in close-up, but when you widen out other areas of the shot will be over-exposed.
Framing your shots, getting sharp focus and controlling the exposure will dramatically heighten the quality of your video. Setting the camera to AUTO might sound like the easy way to shoot video, but the results are usually quite poor. If you want great quality video, then learn how to do the work yourself.
Don’t judge the exposure using strictly the LCD monitor. In fact, it’s a bad idea to trust what you see in the LCD monitor. The reason why concerns the backlight setting for the LCD, which changes the brightness of the image in the monitor. If your LCD monitor represents video as brighter than it is, you could be underexposing the video without realising it. If the LCD monitor is too dark, then you could end up overexposing the image simply to make it look brighter on the monitor.
So if you can’t rely on the LCD monitor, then what are your options? It’s important that you remove the subjective guesswork in what is a properly exposed image. Fortunately there are some tools to help you do just that.
Zebra Stripes – USER 6 button, also labelled ZEBRA on the camera
You can apply a monitoring tool called Zebras that show up in parts of the image that are brighter than a predetermined level. Zebra stripes help you know at a glance what areas are too bright, and possibly overexposed. You can then reduce the iris to eliminate Zebras, but it’s not crucial to eliminate them entirely; it might be unavoidable in some things like the sun or light bulbs, but it's best to avoid Zebras showing up in the sky and even on white buildings or cars. When shooting an interview, you don’t want to see Zebras on the face except maybe on little bits of the forehead or nose where they tend to be shiny.
Press the ZEBRA button located at the lower left side of the camera near the rear. Pressing the button will display zebra stripes over areas of the picture that are overexposed.
The stripes are drawn only on the viewfinder image and are not recorded into the picture.
Pressing the ZEBRA button again will turn them off. But pressing the button also allows you to cycle between two brightness values at ZEBRA 1 80% and ZEBRA 2 100%, which represent the minimum and maximum brightness values that will trigger the Zebras. 80% is used as a guide for exposing faces and 100% is used to help prevent what are called "blow outs", which happen when parts of the image are too bright for the sensor to resolve so the video signal overloads. For faces, highlights on the forehead and on the nose might be bright enough to trigger the Zebras, but shouldn't be overblown.
Waveform Monitor – USER 7 button, also labelled WFM
The DVX200 uses a built-in Waveform Monitor (WFM) to help you judge your video’s exposure levels. The WFM basically shows the relative brightness across the image in a 2-D scale. Learning to read the WFM at a glance will tell you whether the image is over-exposed, underexposed or clipped, and it’s a far more useful tool than Zebras.
The graph is essentially a mathematical representation of pixels according to the brightness (luminance) of the image; the higher up the pixels go on the scale, the brighter the image – the lower the pixels, the darker.
The scale uses measurements in IRE (Institute of Radio Engineers). The brightest portions of the image might reach up to 100 IRE (the top solid green line) and dark images might be almost down to 0 IRE (the bottom solid green line), or pitch black. Levels about 50 to 55 IRE represent a medium grey. Ideally, you want to see the brightness distributed across the full scale.
Over-exposed parts of the picture will show more pixels grouped at the top of the graph; underexposed parts will have more pixels grouped at the bottom. A properly exposed image should show the pixels more or less evenly distributed throughout the image.
To display the Waveform Monitor in the LCD Monitor/Viewfinder, press the WFM button, located above the ZEBRA button. Press again to restore the display to normal viewing.
Simply put, the White Balance function tells the camera what is white under different colour temperatures. The light colour itself is measured in Kelvin degrees, which corresponds to what colour a chunk of iron glows when it’s heated at certain temperatures: about 3200 Kelvin the iron glows orange-red, but at 5600 Kelvin the iron will glow a blue-white. The camera sees light for what it is; an area lit by sunshine, about 5600 Kelvin, will look blue-ish; indoor lighting is about 3200 Kelvin and will look to the camera as reddish. Therefore, to get the most accurate colour rendition it’s crucial to get proper white balance.
The DVX200 allows you to set the White Balance manually or automatically. Under WHITE BAL, you can toggle between three settings: A channel, B channel and the PRST (Preset). The Presets are 3200 Kelvin (indoor lighting) and 5600 Kelvin (outdoor), which are toggled by pressing the AWB button at the front of the camera. However, the presets may not deliver the most accurate colour rendition due to the variances in colour temperature across different types of lights. For a more accurate rendition, you need to set the White Balance manually.
When you set the WHITE BAL switch to PRST, use the AWB button, located at the front of the camera, to toggle between indoor and outdoor presets. Or, when you set the WHITE BAL to either channels A or B, aim the camera at a white card, fill the frame with white, then press AWB to set the white balance.
Setting the White Balance Manually
The manual white balance is set using either the A or B channels. To set the white balance, switch to either A or B, then get a white card or piece of paper - the purer the white, the more accurate the white balance. It’s crucial that you move the white card into the light that’s hitting your desired subject, not just in front of the camera lens. If you’re doing an interview, ideally it’s best to have the interviewee hold the card in front of their face because it's the light falling on their face that you need to do the white balance properly.
Zoom in on the white card until it fills the viewfinder frame (or as close as you can get). Then press the AWB button – the camera will display a message telling you that the White Balance has been set properly.
If your lighting conditions change, then you must set a new white balance.
Automatic Tracking White (ATW)
This mode will continually monitor changes in colour temperature and automatically change the white balance to what it thinks is correct. Press the ATW button to enter this mode and the camera will automatically start tracking white balance. ATW is great for shooting in situations when you are on-the-go, but for professional situations you want to use it rarely and simply set the white balance manually, especially for interview shots where the lighting conditions are not likely to change.
To activate the ATW, press USER 2. You will know the camera is in ATW mode when you see the letters displayed in the LCD Monitor/Viewfinder. Press USER 2 again to return to manual white balance mode.
The DVX200 uses a built-in microphone that can capture adequate natural sound for b-roll purposes. But it's inadvisable to use this microphone for recording interviews. As a general rule, to record sound bites (SOTS), it’s best to use an accessory microphone such as a hand-held (stick) microphone or a wireless lavalier (lapel mic). The camera has two, 3-pin XLR inputs for accessory microphones, AUDIO INPUT 1 (located at the top of the camera) and AUDIO INPUT 2 (located at the lower right side of the camera).
AUDIO INPUT 1 - located on top of the camera
AUDIO INPUT 2 - located on the bottom right side
Using the Wireless Microphone
Ideally, connect the wireless microphone receiver to AUDIO INPUT 1 so that it can be connected to the shoe at the top of the camera. Make sure the wireless receiver is connected securely to the shoe.
Audio Input Settings
The controls for setting the audio input of the microphones can be found inside the red compartment on the left side of the camera.
The controls are divided between INPUT 1 and INPUT 2. The INPUT settings are divided between LINE, MIC and MIC +48V. LINE is used when you connect the camera to an audio board, such as when you shoot footage at a press conference; MIC is used when you connect a stick mic or a wireless, and +48V is used only if the microphone relies on the camera as a power source (phantom power). The CH 1 and CH 2 SELECT lets you select which audio channels you want to record to. Audio recorded by a microphone connected to INPUT 1 will be heard on the left channel; Audio recorded by a microphone connected to INPUT 2 will be heard on the right.
For the wireless microphone connected to AUDIO 1, set it the following way:
The camera can automatically select the appropriate audio levels for each channel, but you can also change the levels manually. Switch the CH 1 or CH 2 controls from AUTO to MANU and then turn the knob for the desired channel. Use the audio meter in the viewfinder as a guide; proper levels occur when the audio bars reach up to the notch that is visible over the audio meter line in the illustration below. Beyond the notch, if the bars start to jump into the "red" then the audio levels might be too high, and the quality of the sound could even be distorted.
It's not enough to simply look at the meter to know that you're recording audio. The meter doesn't say anything about the quality of the audio, or whether it's coming from the desired microphone. Therefore, you must ALWAYS use headphones, whether you’re recording b-roll or interviews. Listen for noises that could interfere with audio, such as pops and static.
Using a Stick Microphone
When using a stick microphone, attach the XLR cable to the AUDIO INPUT 2 terminal. Configure the audio settings according to the following chart.