The Panasonic AG-AF101 “A win, win for drama”

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I have collated some interesting comments from some of the bloggers who have tested the new Panasonic AG-AF101 and it looks to be a winner with DPs who never quite saw the benefits of the DSLR.

Philip Bloom  www.philipbloom.net

The waveform/ vectorscopes are fantastic, 100 times better than what the histogram on the Canon DSLRs. A very accurate way of judging exposure. The viewfinder on the other hand was not good, but that because this is not the one that will end up on the final camera. Just a temporary one. So I used the LCD screen all the time and sometime my Marshall 5″ HDMI monitor. The LCD screen is actually pretty good. You can help get focus by adding detail on and there is a peaking option too…No digital zoom in that I could tell, but that may be added in the 25% to come, or not!

I actually did not record any XLR audio. It’s there, I am sure it works a treat. It’s a proper video camera after all with XLRs, levels, a headphone jack. The thing that REALLY excited me was the overcrank mode. I could record 1080p 25p at 50FPS or 60FPS in 24p mode!! Wonderful, no more limited to 720p mode here! The overcrank in this camera is simply beautiful. I used to shoot so much slow motion with my EX1/ Letus combo but obviously not possible with my 5Dmk2 and the 720p 50p/60p of the 7D has so much moire and aliasing that it gets me down, shoot shallow depth of field and it works fine as demonstrated in my film “As the water”

Being able to shoot full HD overcranked to 50FPS or 60 and the ability to record high quality audio in camera has totally sold me on this camera.

Other upsides of the camera. It takes just about any lens with the right adaptor. Everything from PL to Leica M. Really useful that! Loads of really accessible and useful buttons on the outside include the ability to easily switch to overcrank at the touch of a button. I have heard rumours that you can change the speed during a shot but I was not able to do that. This may be because of the 25% or you simply may not be able to!

The US list price is pretty damn good too. It’s a lot of video camera for the money! Here in England we are a bit screwed as always. So frustrating that.

Yes it is a bit ugly, especially with little lenses…but I would rather have a camera that performs really well and was a bit odd looking than a beautiful camera that shoots ok pictures. But still a nice manly lens on there and she looks WAY better!

Nigel Cooper  www.dvuser.co.uk

To say I’m impressed by the AG-AF101 would be a gross understatement; the AG-AF101 is quite simply one of the best HD camcorders I’ve seen in many years. Everything this camcorder stands for is incredible; it is totally revolutionary, the large sensor, the HD viewfinder and LCD screen, uncompressed audio recording, interchangeable lenses, solid-state recording to low-cost SD/HC and SD/XC media, over-crank and under-crank at full 1920x1080p up to 60 fps, time-lapse, the list is endless; and all for £4,295. What is there not to like; this camcorder is totally freaking awesome. Oh, and the picture quality, well that certainly has the ‘wow’ factor too!

The AG-AF101 has a whole string of very cool tricks up its sleeve, many of which have never been seen before on a digital HD camcorder. One such feature is the automatic focus tracking. The AG-AF101 can automatically track somebody’s face and constantly adjust the focus on them as that person moves around the scene or moves towards the camera. This is achieved by setting the camera to recognize the subjects face using the small joystick on the side of the camera (or should I say thumb-pad-stick as it is quite small), then shifting the small spot meter box on the LCD screen and positioning it over the subject’s face; one set, simply hit the record button and step back in amazement as the camera tracks focus on the person’s face as they walked towards the camera. Of course it goes without saying that you have to have an autofocus lens for this feature to work. I never got to test the Facial tracking system as that is part of the 25% that is missing, so too is white balance so I was stuck with auto-white-trace.

HDW : So far both reviews were done using pre production models which were only 75% finished so both Philip and Nigel were not getting the “full picture”. Philip is reportedly flying to Japan during this month to give us a feel for full production model and do some interesting filming with the AF101.

Back in the UK we shall get our hands on a full production model during December and I am one of the few DPs in a rare position to be using an AF101 on a major documentary starting in January. Unlike the DSLR which has made a lot of friends the AF101 is the first fully professional shallow depth of field camcorder to be produced by a major video manufacturer.

As Mr Bloom points out it’s a bit of an ugly looking camcorder until you present it with the right lens and lets be honest it’s not how it looks that matters rather than how it performs. The AF101  records onto SDHC cards at 24Mbs and for a broadcast production you can take 4:2:2 out of the HD SDI socket into a NanoFlash running at 50Mbs upwards.

I have no doubt that this camcorder will see it’s introduction into the broadcast market place talking pole position from Sony 750s and 35mm adaptors. The size will be refreshing to drama producers as they no longer need large heavy, time consuming rigs like track and dolly setups. The camcorder will take up a far smaller footprint than a Sony 750/35mm allowing smaller sets to be used further reducing costs.

We are also getting a fully blown professional, wireless, pull focus adaptor for the AF101 which will be a joy to use, the company in the USA make pull focus rigs for the RED ONE camcorder so we are being treated to a Rolls Royce of wireless focusing aids, they hope to have it available for mid December 2010. The pull focus adaptor will only use Canon glass but I have no doubt that we will also see a prime lens version in the near future.

In fact if we talk costs alone a full blown BBC drama could be reduced by at least 15% using these camcorders if not by more if you take out all the expensive to hire, heavy duty Jibs, tracks, dollys, time dramatically reduced de rigging…rigging and that equates to more money in the pot for other dramas…now that must be a win, win situation for the bean counters alone !

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

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