Panasonic’s AF101…”Five months later”

Categories: Miscellaneous 4 Comments

The Panasonic AF101 has started a massive ball rolling from the day it landed in the UK and beyond, Panasonic were quietly optimistic about world wide sales but were dumb struck by the uptake of the camcorder and has outstripped everyone’s expectations. Having owned one for the last 5 months I have only now had time to reflect on what has been a momentous journey with my 101.

Seen here in the making of my first teaching DVD “Getting the best from your Panasonic AF101” and using my favourite Voigtlander Nokton 25mm f0.95 lens, the camera has been a fantastic asset and a joy to use…so why am I swapping it for the new Sony FS100 ?

I not only report to you on my blog but I am a technical adviser for H Preston Media and need to keep on top of the new technology, the other deciding factor is 1080 50p. I am about to embark on a massive project about type one diabetes which involves filming all over Scotland and I need on certain occasions to film interviews with two cameras. As I am about to purchase the Sony NX70 partly because of it’s ability to shoot 1080 50p and various other pro features…XLR inputs, manual gain etc. it seemed logical to look at the Sony FS100 as a partner for the NX70.

I am now used to filming interviews with a nice shallow depth of field (SDoF) so the FS100 with the same colour matrix would match far better. Both cameras will be filming 1080 50p so I wont get any issues on the Final Cut Pro 10 timeline.

I have also off loaded my Canon gear, the 5D2 and 4 “L” lenses I have to admit I won’t miss the 5D2 it was not a patch on my Nikon D3 or Nikon glass in fact I am now building up a new rage of Nikon glass in anticipation of getting my FS100.

Looking back over the last 5 months I can now reveal my thoughts on the AF101 and the range of glass I had amassed.

The AF101 was not perfect but then tell me a camcorder that is, I did not like the positioning of the start-stop buttons, very alien to a seasoned cameraman used to having those buttons on the camera front and behind the lens grip, small detail,… like all camera manufacturers Panasonic are not alone in leaving out features that may be introduced into a future version like, 4:2:2, 10bit, 50Mbs and 1080 50p with sound.

The viewfinder needs to be beefed up in a future design it’s not fit for purpose and even Panasonic will concede to this by having a Cineroid EVF attached onto their demo AF101 at BVE 2010. Hi Res EVFs like Cineroid and Zacuto have grown out of the lack of decent viewfinders and single position low res LCD DSLRs.

So what about my choice of glass…there is no doubt the Voigtlander, Nokton 25mm f0.95 has been my star buy along side the Canon 50mm f1.2 using the Kipon adapter. The two times crop gives these two lenses an angle of view the same as a 50mm and a 100mm lens.

This has been the hardest one to get my head round…the 2x crop…no matter what lens you attach to the AF101 you always get a 2x crop or do you ? All lenses that fit a 35mm DSLR full frame or APS-C give you a 2x crop in other words you only see the picture produced by the centre of the lens which means you get far sharper pictures with no fall off as you are using the sweet-spot of the lens itself.

What about micro Four Third (mFT) lenses, well they are built to cover the 4/3″ sensor itself so you do get fall off and corner aberrations the same as you would using a 35mm lens on a full frame DSLR, like all lenses some are better than others. So is there a 2x crop using a mFT lens, say the 7-14mm f4 Lumix lens, the short answer is yes. To this day I do not understand how a lens made for the sensor size like mFT lenses still incur a 2x crop but I double checked using 3 lenses…a 14-140mm Lumix mFT set to 50mm, a 50mm Nikon f1.4 G and a 17-55mm Nikon DX lens set to 50mm and they all contained the same image size which on the DX and G lens the 50mm was producing the look of a 100mm lens.

Lenses…I had Canon “L” glass but the Kipon adapter is not the solution, after my Kipon became loose I barred myself from using my precious “L” glass on what became an inferior adapter, so most of my latter lenses were the Nokton 25mm f0.95 mFT and my 50mm Nikon f1.4 using the MTF Nikon to mFT adapter.

It became apparent that for interviews the Nokton 25mm mFT or Nikon 50mm/MTF adapter were the favourites and my tip for anyone entering this marketplace is to buy Nikon glass. I am now swapping over to Nikon, again, and is sharper than Canon and that statement comes from a long term Canon man !!!

At some time in the future we may see the Birger mount, this will power your Canon lenses using a £600+ adapter but in reality I now prefer the Nikon glass on a good old manual MFT adapter at under £300.

I am now kitting myself out with various Nikon lenses to use with the FS100, so far I have bought a Nikon 50mm f1.4 G, Nikon 17-55mm f2.8 DX, Tokina 10-20mm f2.8 (Nikon fit), a Sony “A” 30mm Zeiss macro lens and a Sony “A” to “E” adapter and am looking at buying a Zeiss ZF.2 Nikon fit lens.

I am not leaving my AF101 because I do not like the pictures it produces far from it, I am in the very fortunate position of being able to move from Panasonic back to Sony and I have to say I may live to regret my move, only time will tell.

Remember because of my vast knowledge using the AF101 I will still be able to assist you if you have any questions or setup problems…you can email me at hdwarrior@me.com

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

4 comments on this post

  1. chris says:

    To me, the af100 is a great camera. there are lots of great cameras. But you just can’t chase the next camera that comes out. there are features on each camera that make them better than the other. HD/SDI and ND wheel will keep me in the AF boat. If I want super shallow DOF, I’ll pull out my 5D. I’m sure the sony will ROCK, but stack up on them ND’s with that sensor. Good luck!

  2. HD Warrior says:

    You still don’t get it… I am a technical consultant for H Preston Media and I have been asked to move onto the Sony to assist people who buy the FS100 with set up etc. so I don’t need 2 SDoF camcorders !
    It also suits my needs as I will have 2 cameras (NX70) that will shoot 1080 50p.

  3. Saf says:

    Hi there,

    Thanks for your great tips and invaluable information.

    May I just ask you, if u were starting out as new documentary maker, what set of lenses would u use/purchase. I am going to go for nikon, as I also have a nikon d3s stills camera.

    I have the option of buying the nokton .95 u talk about, would u go for that too! Any advise would be appreciated, as I get conflicting advice!!

    Kind regards

    Saf

  4. Crop factor has been done to death on the various forums, but it boils down to: a 25mm lens is a 25mm lens. It’s always a wide-angle. The focal length is a property of the lens, not the sensor.

    The smaller your sensor, however, the more restricted the portion of the image circle it covers. So you centre-crop the field of view. On micro4/3 this means you get a similar field of view out of your 25mm lens as you would from a 50mm lens on a full-frame (stills) camera. I think µ4/3 is actually more like a 1.8 crop for video, not 2, but that’s a minor detail.

    Anyway: this is why the field-of-view may be similar to a “50mm” lens, but the geometry is always going to that of a wide-angle. But the centre part, so you don’t notice as much.

    Similarly, if you could produce an image out of the Panasonic 7-14 on a full-frame body it would be *crazy* wide. Heck, if you could take the lens off a third-inch camera… well, it would vignette like crazy, but a 4mm wide is still 4mm on full-frame.

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