Friday, July 29, 2011

Panasonic AG-AF100 Camera

Love the bank abyss of acreage you get from DSLRs, but absence all the video-oriented appearance those still cameras lack? Panasonic’s AF-100 merges a big DSLR-style sensor with all the video camera appearance you’ve taken for accepted over the years. See how this cocktail turns out...

DSLR cameras, decidedly Canon models, accept become hot items for video shooters over the aftermost brace of years, but their allowances the bank abyss of field, the affordable lens selection, and the baby admeasurement additionally came with a agglomeration of headaches that accepted video cameras apparent years ago.

Panasonic AG-AF100

So I was actual absorbed back Panasonic started aircraft the AG-AF100 ($4,995), which is the aboriginal video camera that offers a large-DSLR-like sensor and changeable lenses, but affiliated with abounding video-camera functions that shooters expect, such as:

* The adeptness to attach two XLR mics (two channels total), adviser them through headphones, and see akin confined during recording.

* A congenital ND clarify caster (3 stage) for bound accepting you to the f-stop you want.

* Zebra patterns for highlighting key IRE levels in your viewfinder or LCD.

* Virtually absolute blow lengths (as against to a Canon DSLR's 12 minute absolute per clip).

* High-res rotating, swiveling LCD viewscreen so you can see what you're cutting no amount area you authority the camera.

* The adeptness to accelerate an 1080 HD arresting to outputs like HDMI or HD-SDI, so you can see what you're cutting on a bigger adviser (the Canon 7D can adviser up to 720p, but the 5D and 60D alone adviser in SD resolution).

* Metadata to pre-name clips (for instance, "Interview_Jack_Black"), or admit appearance title, ambassador names, and added advice which can advice beat break organized.

* The adeptness to admit markers in footage for important moments, to advice producers/editors acquisition highlights bound already they get the footage.


The AF100 annal video to the AVCHD format, in either 1080 (24p, 25p, 30p, 50i, 60i) or 720 (24p, 25p, 30p, 50p, 60p). Either resolution looks acutely crisper than you'd get from a Panasonic HPX170 or an HPX500. Panasonic says the AF100 has 800 TVL (TV Lines) and I've apparent an absolute analysis that appropriate it was afterpiece to 680 TVL, but it still feels absolutely in the "HD" camp, against a camera like the HVX200/HPX170, which generally acquainted bendable by HD standards (especially on advanced shots).

The AF100 uses a best bandwidth of 24 Mbps, with 4:2:0 blush sub-sampling, and 8 $.25 of blush depth. You can additionally beneath or overcrank your anatomy rate, in 20 increments, from 12 fps to 60 fps. Off-speed recording is annihilation fresh for a camera like this, but what is fresh is that you can shoot offspeed in 1080p, instead of accepting to bead bottomward to 720 like the all-inclusive majority of cameras assert you do.

You can acquisition formats like DVCPRO HD or AVC-Intra that accept added breadth for blush alteration or keying. You can acquisition formats that accept college abstracts rates, like the 48 Mbps MPEG4 acclimated in Canon DSLRs. But the AVCHD architecture is a decidedly acceptable and ample advantage that does the AF100 justice. It delivers a actual crisp, apple-pie angel that suffered from none of the macroblocking you would see in an earlier prosumer codec like HDV. I additionally carefully attempt footage with the amiss white balance, and underexposed by a stop or alike two, and begin abundant breadth to color-correct or stylize footage after it breaking down. One thing's for sure: AVCHD is far added good than HDV, which is still acclimated to shoot a lot of shows you see on advertisement networks like Investigation Discovery. AVCHD has alert the abstracts amount of HDV, and additionally uses a far added able codec (H.264 vs the age-old MPEG2), and a college resolution (1920x1080 vs 1440x1080). Hopefully, the AF100 will advice assuredly retire a lot of Sony Z1 and Z7Us out there.

AF100 main controls

The AF100 uses a MOS sensor, which is declared to amalgamate the aerial sensitivity/low babble ancestry of accepted CCD sensors, forth with the low-power burning of CMOS chips. In the absolute world, best shooters apperceive that any dent with "MOS" in its name can ache from adverse angel quirks--for instance, warping vertical curve back you bound pan the camera. One of the affliction examples I've apparent of this alleged "jello" aftereffect came from Panasonic's old HPX300 camera, which additionally acclimated a MOS sensor. If you bound panned the camera beyond a city skyline, you'd see skyscrapers angle as if they were accomplishing side-stretches. The AF100 is far added acceptable behaved than that -- quick pans do appearance slight jello warping, but it won't be audacious for the all-inclusive majority of situations.

The camera additionally exhibits actual little to none of the aliasing or alive moire patterns that you frequently see on Canon DSLRs back cutting baby elements that are abutting together.

Dynamic ambit seemed to be about what you get from an HPX170 or HVX200A, but a little decumbent to draft out highlights a bit eventually than expected. A Panasonic rep told me that this is aloof a amount of ambience gamma controls differently, but I did apprehension that back I accompanying recorded footage in AVCHD (to SD cards) and a Ki Pro Mini acreage recorder, that the Ki Pro's footage seemed to handle the highlights smoother (see beneath for added about recording to alien units). As for low ablaze performance, it was acceptable but not amazing like a Canon 5D. At the camera's absence ISO (400), I could see some ablaze babble in blacks -- again, about area I've apparent lower-end P2 cameras. But blame up the ISO (aka Gain) on the AF100 captivated up a lot added acceptable than those earlier cameras could manage. I was cutting central on a apathetic f/5.8 lens and begin myself about 2 stops underexposed. I upped the camera's ISO from 800 and again to 1600, and was afraid to see how able-bodied the footage captivated up, abnormally in the blacks, already I was able to attending at it on a 25" monitor. It was a little rougher than the 400 ISO footage, but not that much.

So technically, the AF100 produces admirable adumbration for a $5K camera. It additionally gives you amazing ascendancy over the image, with altered gamma modes, blush matrixes, and added settings such as adept pedestal, detail level, detail coring, blush level, blush appearance and bark accent detail (along with arena files to bound about-face amid them). That's the mark of a able-bodied imaging system.

Aesthetically, I begin the AF100 to aftermath a attractive image, but one that looked a little "digital" to my eye, abnormally appropriate out of the box. Personally, I've consistently gravitated appear Panasonic cameras because of their filmic, accurate look. Cameras like the HVX200 or the Varicam didn't alike film, but they could feel like they were "inspired" by film. The AF100 doesn't absolutely bear the aforementioned accurate look, in my experience. I would use words like "bright" or "poppy" to call the camera's out-of-the-box aesthetics, but it's absolutely not as "cinematic" or "filmic" as added Panasonic cameras (or conceivably alike a Canon 5D). This is abnormally accurate for scenes in ablaze light. You can get added acceptable after-effects by tweaking the camera's gamma, cast and detail settings. Sure enough, if you browse a lot of the AF100 footage on a armpit like Vimeo, you'll generally see filmmakers citation their highly-customized settings. I've apparent some footage that approaches the added "cinematic" attending I prefer, but still anticipate the camera leans appear a added "digital video" look.

The added affair I noticed with the AF100 is that handheld movement suffered a bit from attenuate micro-jitters, the aforementioned way abounding added "MOS" cameras assume to (Canon DSLRs included). I'm not talking about the archetypal strobe aftereffect you get back animadversion at 24fps. Instead, it's a awe-inspiring little jitter aftereffect that you can see in hand-held footage. You don't consistently apprehension it back watching video in a baby window on Vimeo, but it gets added apparent back the footage is played at beyond sizes.

Using a advanced bend lens can advice abate the jitter, axis off optical angel stabilization on your lens is additionally a acceptable idea, and ascent the camera on a bigger, added rig additionally helps. But in my tests application both the AF100 and an HVX200 I had handy, it was bright that the HVX200 acquainted smoother as I panned it about handheld (using the aforementioned bang settings).

Anyway, the AF100's hardly less-cinematic image, and the slight micro anxiety I tend to see in handheld movement are hardly deal-killers. Abounding bodies artlessly won't see them, or care, accustomed their projects.

LENSES for AF100

The camera takes any Micro Four Thirds lenses natively, but you can use adapters to attach accepted Four Thirds lenses, Nikon lenses, Canon lenses, and PL lenses. Aback the camera's imager uses a Micro Four Thirds mount, you should bifold any lens' focal breadth to get the still angel 35mm agnate of how it will behave on the AF100. That agency a 50mm lens on the AF100 will accord you the aforementioned framing of a 100mm lens on a 35mm still camera (such as the Canon 5D Mark II). A 24mm advanced bend lens on the AF100 aback looks added like a 48mm lens would on a still 35mm camera.

This 2x "crop factor" is bigger than what you'll acquisition in the DSLR world. A Canon 5D has a 1X crop agency (a 50mm lens absolutely behaves like a 50mm lens) and a Canon 7D and 60D accept a 1.6x crop factor, axis a 24mm lens into added like a 38mm. If you shoot wildlife or sports, area you're far from your subject, again the AF100's crop agency can be actual useful, aback it gives your lenses added reach. For example: you'd charge a whopping 400mm lens on a full-frame camera to get the aforementioned framing of a 200mm lens on an AF100.

On the added hand, aback you go to use a wide-angle lens on the AF100, you'll acquisition the AF100's 2x crop agency to be a absolute limitation, aback so abounding advanced angles lose their aftereffect (a 17mm - 35mm Nikon zoom now becomes 34-70mm). If you appetite to assignment with advanced angles, your best bet is to use a lens advised for the Four Thirds or Micro Four Thirds architecture (they accept the aforementioned framing). For instance, you can get a 7-14mm f/4 Four Thirds lens from Olympus, which gives you an agnate 14-28mm focal ambit on a 35mm camera. Panasonic additionally makes some advanced Micro Four Thirds zooms, forth with a brace of primes, such as a 8mm angle eye and a 14mm f/2.5.

One added affair about the AF100's crop factor, which relates to accomplishing a bank depth-of-field. Alike admitting the AF100 finer doubles the focal breadth of any lens you put on it, you're not activity to get the aforementioned bank depth-of-field you would accessory with a lens at that angled focal length. Here's what I mean: if you put a 100mm lens on a full-frame Canon 5D, footfall aback several feet, and anatomy a talking-head interview, you'll get a actual bank depth-of-field which puts the accomplishments accurately out of focus (assuming you're application a low f-stop...a bank abyss of acreage comes from application a best rather than beneath focal length, and a lower rather than college f-stop). But that doesn't beggarly you can put a 50mm lens on an AF100, and apprehend to get the aforementioned bank depth-of-field that you get with a 100mm lens on a Canon 5D. You'll get the aforementioned framing, but the AF100's depth-of-field will be what you get from a 50mm lens, not a 100mm one.

That's article to accumulate in apperception if you're, say, planning to shoot in bound spaces, but still appetite to get the accomplishments accurately out-of-focus. You'll accept abundant added adaptability with a full-frame Canon 5D, or alike a 1.6x crop-factor Canon 7D/60D/etc. On the added hand, you can try to aerate bank DOP by application actual fast (low f-stop) lenses with the AF100. One abundant lens would be Olympus' absurd 14-35mm f/2 Zukio zoom lens (the downside is that the lens costs able-bodied over $2000). And you can get 1.8 and 1.4 f-stops by activity to prime lenses as well. But cutting in bound spaces with a archetypal f/2.8 lens will apparently be disappointing.

* The AF100 lets you bake-much of the same metadata supported by the P2 format (user clip names, program titles, producer titles, etc., though there are no text or shot markers). You can use Panasonic's P2 CMS app to set up that metadata, and then save it to an SD card.
* You can bring in AVCHD footage into all major editors. Adobe's Production Suite (Premiere, After Effects, etc.) works with AVCHD footage natively, with no transcoding to another format. Avid's Media Composer transcodes AVCHD into its DNxHD format, and Final Cut transcodes AVCHD into ProRes. However, as I was finishing up this piece, Panasonic announced a new Apple QuickTime plug-in that lets QuickTime-supported apps (like Final Cut) import AVCHD footage natively. That means you should be able to import AF100 footage into Final Cut without doing a Log and Transfer conversion into QuickTime. Panasonic's plug-in is scheduled to ship in "summer", so we'll see how it works then.
* The camera records to SDHC cards instead of P2 or CF cards, which makes the AF100 the first pro-ish video camera where you don't have to wring your hands over the high cost of solid-state media. I was able to start shooting immediately by using a cheapo 4GB SD card (class 6) I bought 2 years ago in some Paris convenience store (you'll need class 6 or 10 cards to shoot slow motion in 1080). And a 64GB Class 10 card costs about $150, while recording 12 hours of footage on the AF100's highest quality setting. In other words, media costs are no longer an issue. And one more bonus: there's no need for proprietary card readers that cost hundreds of dollars. I used a $10 card reader to Log and Transfer my footage into Final Cut.
* The AF100 also includes a waveform display. That's a great tool for judging exposure, and Panasonic's $30K cameras don't have it.

* A little annoying: the AF100's battery (which lasts about 2-3 hours, and costs about $170 on the street) looks just like the batteries used by the HVX200 and HPX170. And yet, it's ever-so-slightly-different enough to prevent you from using your old HVX/HPX batteries with the camera. On the plus side, the AF100 will take batteries from Panasonic's HMC150 and other AVCCAM cameras.
* If you're shooting interviews or action that can benefit from two or more cameras, you might consider getting Panasonic's newish DMC-GH2 as your second body ($999.95). It has a similar look to the AF100 (it actually appears a little sharper), also records in AVCHD, uses the same lenses, and supports full-res HDMI out, so you can monitor it in HD. With the AF100 handling audio duty, the GH2 can give you a lot of bang for the buck as a B/C camera.

Helmut Kobler

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