Pro video blog…Produced by Philip Johnston DoP/Editor

Why is it taking so long to produce the review of the new Panasonic AF160…Simple…I live in Scotland, the land of the rain. I kid you not this part of the world is like monsoon season at the moment plus I have had some paying work in-between so I am afraid it’s not been easy putting together a review of the AC160.

I found myself filming my local fox this morning a wee soul that lives beside us in some spare land the picture below was taken earlier this year with her new cubs. The AC160 has a fantastic 22x lens and amazingly has a digital zoom that’s worth its weight in gold.

Filming the fox I found myself playing with the digital zoom which just happens to be on USER preset No 2, the downside is that you only seem to be able to toggle from 2, 5, 10 and off which is a pain as 5 and 10x are not as usable as 2x.

This would be a great wild life camcorder as the 2x digital zoom is very usable and at 44x you are getting a cracking very un-digitised picture, the OIS is not as good as the steady shot seen on the likes of the Sony NX70.

Low light is better than I was expecting from a 1/3″ camcorder but I will be doing some further low light testing this week. The weight of the camcorder is very illusive as it looks a lot heavier than it actually is.

Although it seemingly has a variable frame rate I have chosen to record my footage at 720 50p because it does not film at 1080 50p unless you are willing to forgo sound.

I have tried simultaneous recording onto both SDHC cards and I have also used the syncro scan feature with great success, this very useful feature is badly missing from both the Sony FS100 and the NX70.

UPDATE : Shot footage at 9dBs this evening in a dark pub setting and I was very impressed with the footage viewed on a 50″ plasma TV. The phantom power switches are very small and a tad on the fiddly side for my liking.

Unlike the NX70 although this camera has a 2 stop reduction in light from wide to tight, filming outside this evening you were not as aware of that loss of light that is very apparent on the NX70 and the 160 has twice the zoom ratio !

Outside daylight footage is excellent and reviewing the 2x digital zoom is very impressive the 1st camcorder NOT to look digitally enhanced when using a digital zoom. (Note. using 2x only).

Auto focus struggles sometimes in poor lighting conditions…no more than the competition to be fair to the 160.

My friend Alister and I will be compairing the Panasonic AC160 alongside the Sony NX5 this weekend using a Panasonic vision mixer and both camcorders plugged via HD SDI.


Having been working in the video business since 1988 I have amassed a great amount of knowledge of both the kit and production values over the last 30 years.

22 thoughts on “Panasonic AG-AC160 Progress Report (Updated)

  1. I got paid today and I have to buy a new camera soon because I’m now shooting indoor interviews with my Sony A1, which performs poorly in low light.

    If I don’t buy the AC160, I will buy the HPX171 or the Sony NX5. The HPX171 uses expensive P2 cards and it seems that the AC160 offers a lot more features than the Sony for a slightly cheaper price.

    I guess all I want to know is if this camera has any serious drawbacks.

    I hope it stops raining soon in Scotland, because I would really like to read a full review!

    Has anybody else, anywhere, reviewed this camera yet?

  2. Philip,

    I wonder if the “no sound at 1080 50p” problem is the same as the NX70? If you set it to LCPM audio, the sound won’t play back in most software (only Sony’s own software), but set it to Dolby Stereo and it’s fine. It seems as if the software people need to catch up with 1080 50p LPCM audio compatibility.

    This was discussed at some length on DVinfo when the NX70 was launched, and it was felt that it wasn’t the camera’s fault, because it was producing files that were a bit outside the official AVCHD spec. Not that I’m an expert on that!

    Might there be a menu setting on the AC160 to change the audio format?

  3. No sound when recording at full resolution? That comes close to an advertising standards contravention surely? If legal, at our guest house I must try offering accommodation without breakfast if you opt for a room with a view!

  4. How can you say it has got “fanTastic” lens. Have you ever used standard ENG zoom. For a start is does NOT have constant F stop. Manual controls are not as precise as on standard el-cheepo eng lens. Pana zoom is too wide and chunky for quick manual operation-unless you have “bear” hands you will not be as fluid with it as on other ENG cheap lenses. Camera is good step forward for Z1 users. And once more NON CONSTANT F-stop. Are we getting into photography
    Zooms now ?

  5. Please can you compare low light with some other camcorders like (hm700 hmc150, dvx100, pd170, nx5…)

  6. It’s fantastic for the price of £3000 plus vat, you can’t get an HD 22x lens for anything under £14K. The manual controls are as good as you get on an electronic lens, the aperture is very smooth. You can’t expect a constant F stop HD zoom lens at this price point.

  7. No sound when you are in variable frame rate this is “normal” for Panasonic all through the VariCam range of camcorders. The AF101 does not have sound when it’s on 1080 50p. Only the Sony FS100 and NX70 can record 1080 50p with sound. It does record 1080 50i with sound.

  8. I am hoping to finnish the review this weekend, picture wise it’s as good as the NX5 if thats any help. I think you would kick yourself buying a 171 against the 160…P2 cards are a very dear option.

  9. Thank you for this first overview. What you said about the digital zoom would be a scoop. In your full review, would you please publish a screen of a shot at full zoom and the same subject at full zoom + 2x digital zoom? Thanks a lot!

  10. No you can. Jvc’s camera comes with standard Fantastic 1/3″ HD IEng zoom. It is also better camera for people used to broadcast cameras. It has IT ccd for start. Better schoulder design,better VF. Because of that “photographic” zoom on pana 160, camera has no proper use.
    On final note – Thank you for releasing my remarks, on other forums i would be kicked out.
    Jiri Vrozina

  11. I’m very interested to know if the zoom rocker is as bad as it looks on all the sample video I’ve seen online. Also, very interested to know what the viewfinder is like and if auto focus can employ face tracking like the Canon XF305.

  12. As bad as what ? It works fine on my sample camcorder, smooth and variable. I will be comparing the viewfinder this week.

  13. Just looked at the fox footage on my 50″ screen and the 2x is very usable in fact it’s the 1st usable digital zoom I would happily use myself.

  14. Very happy with my AG-HPX 250. Over the weekend I shot some beautiful pictures in HD and was very pleasantly surprised when I had to shoot in SD yesterday for a 4:3 broadcast. I was able to do a direct comparison between this weeks and last weeks footage and it out shoots (recording) my older Sony 390 – never thought that would happen.

  15. How do you think this would match up with the AF101? Could be an interesting 2 camera setup, this for actuality and the 101 with a fast prime for the beauty stuff…

  16. Hi Philip

    I am now the proud owner of a Panasonic AG-AC160MC, as it is called in China. (I’m a TV journalist here.)

    My big challenge now is finding an English-language user manual, because all of the stuff it came with is in Chinese.

    I can’t find anywhere to download such a manual, not even on the service pages of Panasonic’s UK or US websites.

    Why is there no downloadable English-language manual? Is it because it’s not yet officially on sale in the US or UK?

    I’m thinking that perhaps it’s not yet officially on sale in China either, in which case the one I have bought is a fake! (Only joking; fake Sony and Panasonic top mics are rampant here, but I’ve never come across an entire fake camera.)

    In any case, does anybody have a soft copy of the user manual they could send me?


  17. Hi Steven, I’ve just bought the Panasonic AG-AC160 in Singapore and it’s default setting is 60i. I need 50i and can’t find any way of setting that in the menu. As you’re in China, I figure you’ve fixed this yourself.

  18. We’re trying to decide between the Canon XF300 and the Panasonic AG AC160 for corporate films and docos. We would like to use one that’s fully HD (as defined by the Beeb) but wonder – does the firmware upgrade on the Panasonic do the business? So far can only find fairly negative comments online from people who have managed to suss out how to do the upgrade. Any help would be greatly appreciated as we are very keen to get a new camera at long last!!!

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