Skateboarders seem to adapt to technology at a painstakingly slow pace nowadays, but weirdly, that hasn’t always been the case.
The Sony VX1000 launched in 1995, and it didn’t take long for it to become the go-to camera for skate filmers. Pro skaters also adapted to social media quickly, figuring out how to use Instagram’s various features as marketing tools for their brands and personal use, like 15-second video, Stories, and Reels. But now, skaters seem stuck on the dated tech of Panasonic’s HVX200 and HPX170 cameras and their limiting 720p resolution and obsolete P2 media storage system.
With an ultra-expensive fisheye lens, a clunky importing workflow, and general scarcity for these cameras and replacement parts also being a factor, we thought it might be a good time to start looking at new, more up-to-date camera options. We were curious what alternatives are currently out on the market that perform as good or better than the old Panasonic camcorders.
The ideal choice, in our mind, should be readily available, reasonably affordable, and produce footage that looks good at a resolution fit for modern uses. Seeing as we don’t film a lot of skateboarding ourselves, we figured it’d be best if we tapped into our network of filmmaking peers to ask them what cameras they’ve seen, used, or heard about that could work as the go-to skate video camera of the future.
Shit, I’m kind of stumped on something to replace the HPX for skating. I could honestly see another camcorder style being great but with updated media file storage and the option for something else for fisheye than the Century Xtreme. I really don’t think anything like that is out.
I don’t think there’s a new camera on the horizon. The HPX came around because it’s HD, and has a toggle zoom and a CCD [sensor]. The CCD is old tech but nice. The jello effect on the flash sensors really sucks for skating. I think it’s just a matter of time until there’s a camcorder with toggle zoom that has a really good sensor and works with lots of fisheyes. Once a few of the main filmers have that camera, everyone will jump on. Same as it’s always been.
There are so many mirrorless DSLRs that people use now but the problem with those in regard to filming skating is they don’t have the iconic toggle zoom. The camera needs both a toggle/servo zoom, and it also needs to be able to take a fisheye. That’s what makes the VX and HPX work.
I know people use the Sony FX6, FX3, and the Panasonic Lumix GH6. As far as the classic Handycam style, I haven’t seen a replacement yet. I mean the VX1000 has lasted over 25 years, right? I feel like the HPX still has a few more years ahead.
Sony FX6. That’s probably the most versatile for skating. It’s compact, has decent autofocus, and offers a compatible servo zoom lens.
I shoot with a Blackmagic Ursa Mini Pro. Waylon Bone uses the smaller “pocket” model for the Out There pieces. They aren’t ideal skate cams, but for documentary work they are great. Plus the Blackmagic color science is amazing.Color grading is almost always necessary with any sort of production cam. The HPX is a bit more plug-and-play and most people are just setting their colors in camera and aren’t adjusting much in post.
Overall, the HPX will be around for a while, just like people will continue to use VX’s as long as theres working ones out there. There’s no perfect cam for skating. I think the Sony cams you guys use, like the Sony AX700 is an option. Thats something that can shoot 4K, but can still cut seamlessly with an HPX, without the bulk.
I’ve only been using the HPX with the Xtreme fisheye for the last year and a half for a Vans project. It’s grown on me, but I did get an MK1 Intermediate modded for the HPX from the Death Lens guy. It’s like a bigger glass than the MK and can be cropped to look like the Xtreme. I’ll use it for some smaller projects in the future and it’s nice to have a backup.
I haven’t messed around with any other HD cameras for skating, but I think if I had to buy one, it would be the Sony FX6. I like cameras you can zoom with and I feel like fisheye options for it are kind of endless. I come from a different generation where things weren’t “content,” if that makes sense. I think that’s why the HPX is the perfect skate cam. It’s not overly polished and not cinematic. It’s just a camcorder.
The FX6 is definitely more polished, but I don’t mind it because I’m filming other things at 4K. I think if more people were to use it, more people’s eyes would adjust and it’d just be the norm. When the HVX/HPX came out I wasn’t fucking with it because my eyes only saw skating through a VX, but now it’s kind of hard for me to watch skating in VX if it’s not done super proper.
I guess it depends on what you’re using it for and if you’re getting paid to film. Skating doesn’t always pay, but I know I’d be able to use the FX6 on a lot of other jobs outside of skating. I feel like I don’t film any differently really from when I had a VX, and a camera should feel like that.
There are so many sick cameras out there. I really like how everyone is trying out different setups to fulfill their desires. I know a few guys who use the FX6 setup with the Canon fisheye; seems super versatile and user-friendly. I feel like we’re all so used to watching skate videos filmed on low definition cams, so a high def camera with an image that would be easy to manipulate that wouldn’t take away from the skating seems ideal. Since filmers are willing to drop $10k on a fisheye, I could see some maybe gravitating towards the FX6 in the near future.
I think some key features would be good in-camera audio, zoom rockers, and of course an SD card slot. I also think filmers should keep trying new cameras that suit their needs and not necessarily follow the “standard”. Anything that involves a phone or the Ty Evans body cam rig can save it.
The FX6 with the Canon 8-15mm is a good option. Also, some of the newer Panasonic camcorder-style cameras with the Xtreme lens could be cool. Everyone will have to switch eventually, but it’s all preference. I have seen most cameras look good, depending on who is behind it.
I don’t think there will be a replacement for the HPX-170 that has a motorized zoom lens and Xtreme fisheye in a single camera body any time in the near future.
The best current upgrade in my opinion is using a full frame 4K DSLR (Sony ZV-E1, A7S Mark 3, FX3, etc.) with “Clear Image Zoom” for your fisheye shots and using a separate smaller 4K camcorder with a motorized zoom lens for your long lens shots. Both of these cameras and lenses together are lighter and maybe even cheaper than purchasing a used Century Xtreme on eBay.
I believe the best fisheye dictates what camera becomes the new standard (i.e. the Century MK1 and Xtreme, which are really wide but with a nice amount of distortion). The new standard would have to be a camcorder or a camera with a powered zoom system since it’s so important for skate filming. It would also need a quality internal microphone and a form factor similar to the VX1000 or HPX-170.
Hybrid cameras like the Sony FS and FX lines would be good contenders, but they, unfortunately, don’t have good 16:9 fisheye options. Since no new fisheye for camcorders seems in the works at the moment, I don’t think a new standard will pop up yet. I wish Century or another company would make a tiny version of the Xtreme for more recent and lightweight cameras.
Damn. That’s a tough one. I don’t know if there’s ever going to be a go-to camera like it was for VX and then to HPX. It’s such a giant range. There’s a 4K HPX-style camcorder that some people use.
For me, it’s the Panasonic Lumix GH6. Funny cause I just got Jacob Harris a GH6 to help on a Tom Knox project, and he’s a pretty consistent HPX guy, but he was so stoked on trying a new camera. He said he was getting tired of the HPX and wanted to step up.
I doubt there will be another gold standard. Skateboard filming is all about style. You could film hi8, or iPhone, or 8mm! Whatever you’re feelin! It’s all about what works for you and what look you want. Cameras are just tools. They shouldn’t define what you make.
In all seriousness, isn’t the iPhone the new HPX?
You know, I’ve thought about this a lot lately. I keep hearing that they’re gonna make another run of Xtreme fisheyes for the HPX, which would be great, but also wondering if they’re just gonna get bought out and sold for an obscene amount. It’s definitely making that setup too much for the average filmer to have as their go to setup.
I know a lot of people have been switching over to Sonys like the FS5 and FX6, but its so dependent on who’s filming and how they set their camera for people to be into it. I see people coming around to it more lately, but there’s always this lingering feeling that most skaters want to be filmed the way most people use the HPX nowadays.
Everything is slowly being recycled from a previous time in skating so I wouldn’t be surprised if projects start getting filmed with a VX again [laughs].
Right now I use the Panasonic GH5 with the Canon 8-15mm fisheye. But to get those mirrorless camera to work, you need to rig a handle, microphone, lens, external battery, etc. and sometimes that kills the spontaneity of filming skateboarding. The next great skate cam should have all those features built in ready to go, thats what made the VX1000 so ideal.
The 4K image that comes from the Sony FS5 and FX6 are the best options for versatility, especially seeing more skate footage getting cropped to 9:16 for instagram Reels.
I think affordability plays a role in the next great camera. The Sony FS700 is an affordable option for a modern camera with a servo zoom and fisheye option that record at 1080p.
I see more videographers color correcting their footage to make their videos stand out. A camera with good color depth like the Sony FS5 and FX6 have the upper hand here, they also feature S-Log for a flat color profile.
If cost wasn’t a factor, I’d say the Sony FX6 is the strongest contender. It comes with all the needed features, a high quality image and lens options that would be versatile for years.
BREAKING THROUGH WITH WKND’S SARAH MEURLE
Talking priest cheese, Jante, Allemansrätten, and other Scandinavian shenanigans.
WE HAD A MOVIE CRITIC REVIEW CLASSIC SKATE VIDEO SKITS
Enjoy her unfiltered takes on which skate video skits she thinks are any good.
WHAT HAPPENED TO GERSHON MOSLEY?
From punching Andrew Reynolds, to not getting "pimped" by the industry, Gershon covers everything you wanted to know.
REVISITING “WELCOME TO HELL” THROUGH THE EYES OF A JAZZ ARTIST
Canadian multi-instrumentalist Joseph Shabason removed the original Welcome To Hell soundtrack and re-scored it to Jazz.
MAKING ANYTHING INTO A SKATEBOARD WITH SKATE SHAPEZ
Any shape, any graphic. Come on, those rusty wheels in your brain have to be turning...