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NAB 2023: Panasonic Talks New 4K PTZ Cams for Indoor and Outdoor Shoots

Panasonic Product Engineer Tom Levis provides a first look at the AW-UR100 outdoor-ready 4K PTZ cam with 3-system stabilization as well as its indoor counterpart, the AW-UE160, the two new offerings in the Panasonic PTZ lineup, in this interview from the Panasonic booth at NAB 2023 with Streaming Media's Marc Franklin.

Panasonic touts the new AW-UR100, which debuted at NAB 2023 in April, as the world's first IP65-rated (water-resistant), 4K 60p-capable, outdoor-ready PTZ camera built to withstand stormy seas thanks to three-system stabilization, a built-in defroster, and a lens-mounted wiper. The new PTZ was on prominent display in the Panasonic booth being tossed back and forth like it was riding a mechanical bull, alongside a monitor showing a strikingly stable image. Streaming Media's Marc Franklin of Franklin Creative Media caught up with Panasonic product engineer Tom Levis in the company's booth to discuss the camera's features, its positioning, and where it stands in Panasonic's growing line of PTZ camera models.

"So," Franklin begins, "why don't you tell me about this new camera you've got here?"

"A lot of folks are familiar with our HR140 that we've had out for a long time," Levis says. But customers have been looking for a 4K option in the outdoor camera space. The UR100 brings a lot of the great features that we had in our HR140 including its really impressive dynamic image stabilization system. Here we're showing three different types of image stabilization. We've got mechanical stabilization, an optical stabilization, an electronic stabilization going on here. On top of that, this is an IP65-rated camera with full 12G-SDI output. We also have an option for a fiber optic output. So just bringing all the great features of our modern cameras including live streaming with SRT as well as traditional baseband inputs and outputs. We've got a full heating and dehumidifying system in here. We've got a wiper blade that can also be hooked up to a into a tank to actually bring wiper fluid up and down as well."

The Tank of PTZ Cameras?

"How much abuse can this camera take?" Franklin asks. "Are we talking, like, hurricanes?"

"With the IP65 rating [for water resistance]," says Levis, "these are designed to go on the outside of buildings and towers and to live outdoors permanently. We know that when our customers install an outdoor camera, it's usually not easy to get that outdoor camera down. So it's designed to survive wind, salt spray, water basically anywhere you wanto put this thing in heat and cold weather."

"This is like the tank of PTZ cameras." quips Franklin.

"This one is really, is really a beast, but it's an elegant tank, if you will. It has Panasonic Connect's tried and true imaging systems in here, so it's really going to provide you with high quality, up to UHD 60p output."

"And it uses all the same software as your indoor models?"

"Yes," Levis confirms. "So it'll be fully compatible with all the same controllers, all of our software, including our PTZ Control Center to be able to have full control and customization for this camera.

Introducing the AW-UE160 (Indoor) 4K PTZ Cam

The other brand new Panasonic PTZ model that premiered at NAB 2023 is the AW-UE160, a 4K PTZ cam with a newly developed 1" MOS sensor and a new optical low-pass filter to reduce moire effect when shooting against an LED wall in staging or worship settings. Panasonic says the camera delivers "the highest sensitivity of Panasonic's entire PTZ lineup."

"Our UE150 has really been a top-selling camera for us," Levis says. "The UE150 is staying in our lineup, but we are adding our UE160."

"What's the difference between them?" Franklin asks.

"We've added a couple features," Levis says. "For one, there's a brand new imaging sensor that's going to offer us a better low-light sensitivity. So this camera's going to be a little bit easier to use in the darker areas. We've also added a whole sweep of new features. One that we're really excited about is phase-detect autofocus. With our older autofocus system, you might see some hunting and things like that. With phase detect, we're going to be able to quickly snap and gain an accurate focus. We're also really excited that this is the first ever native SMPTE2110 PTZ out there on the market. That means you can take an SFP and bring this into SMPTE2110 network that's going to offer video and control including a return video feed. You can actually send a signal to this camera and it'll output that video. This is also going to offer high-bandwidth NDI up to 4K 60 as well as NDI|HX for those times when you need a little bit more bandwidth. We've also added two three-pin XLR cables for audio, including 48 V phantom power, and those will embed our audio onto any of our outputs from the camera, including the 2110 outputs. We've also upped the DSP to be a full 256-kilobit, so you're going to get a much better audio experience with us. What we envision this camera as helping to fill the gap between a higher-level studio camera and a PTZ. So we view our PTZs as a way to take the quality that we're known for with our cinema and studio cameras, and bring it to a more affordable, more accessible price."

"What size sensor is in the UE150?" Franklin asks.

"This is going to use a 1" sensor," Levis replies. "It is actually a larger sensor that is cropped to one inch. The reason we do that is to maintain our lens. So with the 150 we had an optical 20X zoom. We're going to have the same performance from the UE160 to have that 20X zoom without having to sacrifice where you can use this camera. We want to be able to make it the most Swiss Army knife-type camera, wherever you need it. We're going to have that mix of a wide, wide shot and then be able to still get that 20X zoom out of it.

"Do they also offer digital Zoom?" Franklin asks.

"We also offer our iZoom technology," says Levis. "iZoom actually allows us to do a digital zoom, but without going to subpixels. So the idea is that if we're in full HD mode, we've got a UHD sensor, so we can zoom that down to get an extra 10X, so we're going over 30X. Then at that point when you're in UHD, you still get about an extra 4X of zoom ratio out of that without going subpixel, so no loss of quality. We do offer digital extenders too. There's a 1.4 and a 2X digital extender available on that for when you really just need to push in to get that tighter shot."

From Security to Broadcast

"There's a lot happening with PTZ cameras this year, and these is some of the most exciting things I've seen," Franklin says. "It used to be that the PTZ cameras were basically security cameras. And now they've come into their own as a group of cameras."

"If you look at a lot of the Panasonic folks," Levis replies, "we've got our 15-year badge. That means it's been 15 years since one of our engineers said, 'Hey, what if we took a security camera and used it in a broadcast environment?' And so we've continued to evolve from that, being a kind of security camera placed elsewhere to it being a thing of its own. And so what we bring with the PTZ is not just high-quality video, but also the workflow improvements. Shortly, with our UE40 and 50 cameras, we're actually going to be adding a built-in auto tracking system. So that will allow you to follow a target around, and it's built directly into the camera. That's coming in June as a free firmware update for users who already have that UE40 and 50. We're going to do the same with our UE80 camera. We haven't made any announcements on whether we're going to do it with our new UE 160s for these cameras. We offer another auto tracking system that uses GPU acceleration to give you a more accurate, smoother motion. But we want to have offerings for all of our customers. We want to make sure we can offer the best products from everyone from the education space all the way up to you know, broadcast and cinema levels of production."

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