There's no free lunch, but it's getting closer all the time.
Like I said you can buy a red for 4k a evf for 2k, a few other parts for $1,500 and use Zeiss F mount lenses and you'll have a file good enough for hollywood and louis vuitton.
Or if you don't want a film like look there are 2k eng 4:2:2's falling out of the trees in 1080i that look good though look like the video from nfl today, but they work and they're cheap, but don't look to push them to +16 db, cause they'll snow storm.
I don't know what camera your using now, but those little gh3's I use next to the RED are good, you just got to be dead on with exposure and might need some decent lights . . . real lights.
Personally I'd rather have a 420 camera with a high bit rate intra file than a 422 2/3's eng that only shoots 28mbs.
Keep in mind the new gh4 will be 200 mbs, 422 and 10 bit, all for two grand a camera which is somewhere around 50mbs in 2k, which is good enough for broadcast (whatever that is).
In the movie and TV world just a couple of years ago $20,000 to $75,000 engs were the norm and any camera that shot like the RED was film.
If the 10 grand RED I just mentioned is considered cheap, 2 thousand for the panasonic is like being paid and you can push a RED file all over the place if you don't over run the camera and let it get too hot, but honestly, I've shot all my REDs next to the gh3 and it's hard to tell the difference except the RED looks like film out of the box, the gh3 looks like film if you understand how to grade.
I do agree with you that the cameras are sometimes hobbled, Sony is the master at this, but Panasonic FOR THE PRICE, doesn't leave much on the table.
I'm not in the camera selling business, but I can tell you after buying a closet full of cheap plastic cameras, medium priced, video prosumer cameras, expensive (to me) RED's I think the gh3 is like somebody slapped me on the head and said hey, just buy a box of good lenses, learn the camera, learn the autofocus, and start shooting.
You are both right of course. It isn't H264 per se that's at fault, it is the 8-bit, 4:2:0 28-ish megabit low bit rate AVCHD implementation that's very common across the low-end cameras that I object to.
In static tests, it didn't seem to make too much difference whether the AF100 was used with its on-board codec or an external recorder. But when the going got tough- hand-held shaky cam, or smooth gradations like in a diffuse air glow produced by a hazer and a backlight, the footage just fell apart. It was effectively ungradeable, and detail turned to mush.
It was such a shame, especially the 8-bit banding. I'm still disappointed by how good the ergonomics are but how crap the final images are from that camera. In the right circumstances it can look awesome, but more often than not I found myself noticing the flaws. So I'm prejudiced against 8-bit over-compressed formats now.