Barry Green talking about the New Panasonic AG-AF101

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Barry…I’m posting this from the show floor at IBC, where the first working prototypes of the AF100 are being shown to the public. I’ve had the luxury of working with the pre-production AF101, which is the European model of the AF100. Same basic camera, because all of them are NTSC/PAL switchable.

This prototype isn’t finished yet, so I can’t say some things definitively, but I can say this – I’m done with shooting on DSLRs. This thing is the bomb.

It is basically everything that I was expecting/hoping it to be, and more. I mean, I was expecting an HPX170 with DSLR-style shallow DOF, and yeah, that’s it. What I wasn’t expecting was variable frame rates up to 1080/60p. I was hoping for things like 2.35:1 frame markings in the viewfinder, and yeah, it’s got it. I was expecting things like zebras, waveform monitor, vectorscope, uncompressed audio, XLRs, line/mic/phantom power controls, manual audio, pre-record, interval recording, and everything else that the HPX170 does, and it has pretty much all of that (I didn’t see time-stamp for legal video, but … seriously, this isn’t a legal videography camcorder! Although, it could be, I guess).

I wasn’t expecting simultaneous HDMI and HD-SDI output, that’s really pretty awesome. You can use a cheap HDMI monitor, and use the HD-SDI to record to a NanoFlash or KiPro or whatever, simultaneously. Cool.

I was expecting timecode. I wasn’t expecting the ability to sync timecode through LTC (like the HMC150 has) so you can easily sync to timecode slates, to external sound recorders, or to other camcorders in a multi-camera shoot.

I was hoping for (well, demanding really, but it amounts to “hoping for”) a high-def LCD, and yes, that’s what it has. High-def LCD and high-def viewfinder. But what I wasn’t expecting is that they said that in the final model, the LCD will actually be better than the one on the HPX370. That’s really good news!

I was hoping to be able to remove the top handle, and you can. I wasn’t expecting to be able to remove the side handgrip, but you can – which lets you strip the unit down to a fairly small box, and also reveals three 1/4-20 mounting holes on the side, which I can just imagine people will be using to attach all sorts of accessories, Red-style. Now that I’ve seen those two items come off, I really wanted them to make the viewfinder/XLR pod removable, so you could strip it down to a totally svelte box, but that’s not possible. I have asked them to consider this for a future version, as that’d be really cool.

I was pretty happy to be setting the sensitivity by ISO instead of by gain levels. But you can do both, at least in this prototype.

As for images – well, imagine a fully-hacked, fully-improved GH13 with better sensitivity and without the aliasing or low-light banding, and that’s a good start. It crushes the 7D/5D for clarity and detail, and I shot brick buildings at every possible zoom setting, and there just isn’t any rainbow moire. Finally! You can do a wide-angle, deep-focus shot without any fear of the camcorder ruining the shot! And your talent can wear corduroy, or fine-striped shirts, without turning into a huge purple/orange smear! But I can’t really comment too much on the imagery, because it’s not done yet – by their estimates, it’s only at about 70% of completion, and they expect to be able to improve it and make it even better by release time. Which is really promising, because while it’s not perfect, already it’s better than what people are going to be comparing it to.

I put on my Zeiss ZF 85mm and 50mm, also used a hyper-sharp Olympus 14-35, and at the booth they have a Zeiss Compact Prime 35mm. And, I used the GH1’s 14-140 and I even mounted on the GH1’s compact pancake 20mm lens, which looked preposterously tiny on such a big body, but really it was pretty darn cool. The 14-140 makes the AF100 into basically a complete video camera, the autofocus is smooth and nice, the zoom is manual but not too shabby, and the range is great (even if the minimum f-stop isn’t). With my 85mm and 50mm (both f/1.4) super-extremely-shallow DOF was extremely easy to achieve.

Now, keep in mind that everything is subject to change. They might add more features, or they might take some away. It’s a pre-production prototype so it’s very early, and (to borrow a line from Red) “everything is subject to change.”

Skew? Hugely improved. Didn’t get to do a comparison test, but the 24p skew of the AF101 felt like it was at least as good as the HPX370/EX1.

I am sooo not disappointed. They have built pretty much exactly what I was hoping for. There are things I’d like to see added before it’s released, obviously, and no we didn’t get some of the wild things we were hoping for (like a new 50-megabit 4:2:2 AVC codec) but what we did get is pretty much exactly what we needed – better-than-DSLR imagery in a professional, proper video body, with all the conveniences and features that pro video shooters are used to.

Price will be £4000.

HDW…Barry has been the first “outsider” to my knowledge to actually film with the AG-AF101 and by all accounts this camcorder will indeed be a winner with DPs who have for technical reasons not joined the growing band of DSLR users.

This is a great step forward for professional cinematography and if you want one of the first AG AF101s then get your orders in NOW…This will fly off the shelves in December.

Barry also told me that in about 6 weeks that takes us to end of October, there will be an adapter for Canon lenses that don’t have the older manual iris ring. This will allow auto/manual iris via the camera and auto/manual focus.

For all your video production needs in Scotland, get in touch with Small Video Productions

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