Pro video blog…Produced by Philip Johnston DoP/Editor


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.

38 thoughts on “Panasonic AG-AC160 Video Review

  1. Thank you very much for your review.
    Regarding the zoom rocker. Thank you very much for doing the test. I’m actually interested in the HPX250 because of the better broadcast SD and HD codecs. I guess it’s safe to say both models share the same zoom servo control. You displayed a good amount of control but it appears not to be up to broadcast lens standards in terms of seamless zoom start and stop. I was hoping it would be but realistically the camera costs less than an equivalent broadcast lens.
    Great review and thanks again!

  2. Thanks for the review. I like your new format. Seeing what the camera can actually do is most valuable. Time for a trip to Malvern I think.

  3. Many thanks for this review Phillip _ I’ve just bought an AC160 from John Preston and I’m working through the menu’s, so your review helps a lot. I wondered if you had downloaded any of the Panasonic software to import the files into FCP (I’m using FCP7 – been using it with DV untuil now !). Thanks again, Paul.

  4. Thanks for the review. I have the HPX 170 and one of my major complaints is you cannot get a slow crawl zoom speed. Has this be corrected on the AC160?

  5. You do not need any software to import into FCP-7 as long as you attach the SDHC card reader to the MacPro rather than a USB hub, “file and transfer” will recognise the footage.

  6. The camera is promising, but Panasonic could be more ambitious in to include AVCHD 2.0 encoding and providing 1080/50p-60p native recording.

    Lets see what Sony has on the sleeve to “fight” this one, because I need a new camera but have a bunch of Sony accessories and batteries and buying this one I have to spend more.

    Thanks for your time reviewing it.

  7. I can see that on 9db picture looks very clean. How much gain can you apply before picture becomes too noisy or too soft.

  8. Sorry Zlatko I was under the wire with this camera time wise and as most 1/3″ camcorders they don’t go too much beyond 9dBs before grain becomes a problem.

  9. I’m a little disappointed that Panasonic have moved to a CMOS sensor with this camera.
    One of the reasons I bought my HMC151 was due to the CCD. At weddings it’s nice not to have to worry about the incredibly ugly partial exposures caused by camera flashes.
    The 160 does seem nicely resistant to wobble when panning though.

  10. Great review, I have been waiting to hear about these cameras and appreciate your insights. Can you tell us something about the audio compression difference between the AC-130 and AC-160? I’m leaning toward getting the AC-130, but does it record inferior audio?

  11. The 130 does not have the PH mode which records at 21 Mbps (VBR) therefore reading the info sheet you only seem to get Dolby Digital with the 130 rather than LPCM/Dolby Digital switchable with the 160.

    Dolby Digital can cause problems with certain editing systems in other words it’s not recognised.

    I seems you do get lesser quality sound with the 130. At £3000 plus vat for the 160 I would go for the 160 if I were you.

  12. Thanks for the info – ‘Log & Transfer’ works fine and footage looks v.good.

  13. Thanks…one more question, if I may. Which would you personally choose between the AC 160 and the Canon XF105?

  14. I enjoyed your review. I’m considering picking up this camera for use in run and gun docu-reality. I have a question about the LCD screen, is it any good?

    I’ve been using a Sony EX3 and I want to pitch it off the white cliffs because the LCD is so terrible.

    I’m interested primarily in viewing angles and shadow/zebra accuracy. And I’ve yet to hear if the LCD is in 720/1080 or downscaled.

    This camera sounds like a functional HD equivalent to the DVX100 and I’m hoping the LCD is as useful.

  15. Hi dudes i was playing with the ac160 prior to buy and i found that the LCD is placed in a way that using manual zoom is uncomfortable and lead to either move the lcd with the wrist or have trouble with the zoom ringing.

    I also noted that camcorder is big and not so weighty as one could expect from the size, i didnt like that because seems like “just looks” big and too much empty space inside. is the sdhc door is too big, there was no need for such a big door. i prefer a compact build.

    the menu resembles a low profile camcorder: thick characters and too few lines per screenshot.

    it has a lot of things that sony NX5 lacks, surely a good horsewarrior but put aside a nx5 and you will feel ac160 is not up to nx5.

    anyway the camcorder bring out a very nice image and is easy to work with, is just that it didnt make me fall in love at firts sight.

  16. Hi,im a wildlife photographer and this year i have been asked to do some wildlife film work so i was looking at the AG-AC160 with its great zoom, i did like your review on the AC160 and when you showed the power of the zoom with the leaf but how far away was you from the leaf, my main target is Otters on Mull, thanks

  17. The lens is a 28-616mm (35mm equivalent) and for the money you won’t get much better…until NAB 2012. Hold off till NAB next month just in case Sony have something up their sleeve.

  18. Panny is claiming that a firmware upgrade spring 2012 will add 1080 60p (50p) in the 28 Mbps AVCHD 2.0 mode, Mr. Miyagi talks about it on his blog.

    The marked jello-cam in the football shots was disappointing. I don’t think that the Panny CMOS tech is as good as the Sony Exmor-R fast-read.

  19. Thank you for the review. In fact after reading it I bought an AG-AC160 as it seems to be the best value for what it offers. However I have one comment to make:
    When you move the camera sideways you can hear a ticking sound which as somebody has already mentioned in a forum, comes from the optical stabilisation and it is audible only when the camera is off. However when the other day I used the camera outdoors in windy conditions I immediately noticed a high pitched sound coming from inside of the camera apparently caused by the strong wind. The sound was strong enough to be picked by the camera’s internal mic and be heard over the strong wind noise. I spend a long time ensuring that this is not coming from any loose external parts(in fact the sound seemed to come through the openings located at the rear right side of the camera).
    I send the camera back to Panasonic (in Tokyo) accompanied with a short sample video where one can hear the camera noise but Panasonic said that they didn’t find anything wrong with it.
    Does anybody have had a similar experience?

  20. Hi Philip, thanks a ton for the detailed and unbiased review of this camera. I’m currently looking at purchasing 3 of them for a student-run television network that I’m running this year. We do everything from the live streaming of sports to concert shoots to commercials and the AG-AC160 seems more or less the perfect choice thus far. Before I go ahead with the purchase, however, as it’s quite an expensive step forward and we will not be updating again for at least 5 years, I have a few questions. Was anything in the same price range revealed at NAB 2012 that may be a better option? The two most important factors are that the camera shoot to SDHC cards and that there is an HD-SDI output on it. This is so that I can run lengthy high definition cables from the cameras for court-side angles during live streaming.

    If you have any advice for me as to why I should veer away from the Panasonics please let me know! I’m also a bit concerned about what Basil said in regards to the whistling noise outdoors. Can’t very well shoot a news segment with that going on can I?

    I appreciate any feedback, and thanks again for the review!

  21. Love your reviews!!!
    I had a question on the AC160:
    Can it record by IR light?

    If I use an IR spot/flood would any image be recorded? Or is there a built in filter to block this?


  22. Many thanks for the review. Am I correct in saying that Sony have brought out the HDR AX2000 in stead of the NX5. Is the 2000 compatible with the 160 or the same as the Nx5?
    I’m thinking about either the 160 and the 2000
    All the best

  23. Many thanks for the review. Am I correct in saying that Sony have brought out the HDR AX2000 in stead of the NX5. Is the 2000 compatible with the 160 or the same as the Nx5?
    I’m thinking about either the 160 or the 2000
    All the best

  24. Just to say thank you for a great review. I’m really interested in this camera for our documentary work in India. Can you or anyone tell me what the auto focus performance is like. I have seen the HPX 250 criticised for poorer performance in this regard, and was hoping you might have a comment AC160 in this respect of its autofocus. Thank you again. Your review is brilliantly helpful.

  25. Hi new to this but we have some pana 160/120 etc and we think the noise maybe the wind is beating with in internal fan.All of our Panasonic cameras seem to have a fan to cool and maybe this was the noise.Just switch on and listen to the camera..Thanks for this site.peter

  26. Sorry needed to add..good lens but no smooth start and stop…RAMP, Panasonic have done it on most of their domestic models and the HMC81 and the 41 are great for ramp start and stop nut NOT the 160/130/120 also auto focus just sometimes looses it ..Wide angle lens is great and the times two is very useable.Peter

  27. Hi and sorry not had any JVC 6oo use but the Pana 160 is a great all round camera which we have used on most big shows and talking heads but no soft start or stop on the lens and auto focus sometimes just looses it!! if you need it…Shame if Pana got those right especially the soft start and stop it would beat all at this price range..It can do it with the top of the range domestic and the 41 and 81 but not this..Depends what you shoot and what you want..B.C.N.U….

    HDW : If you are not aware the Panasonic AC160 has a free firmware upgrade allowing you to record 1080 50p (NOTE : Not needed if you have a Panasonic AC160A)

  28. Peter,

    thanks for your response! Your right this is a great site.

    How is the AC160A in low light?
    Street scenes night clubs that sort of subject. I’m just getting started, doing real estate, Small business interviews, trade show docs, Political talking head. Pretty much swiss army knife video.
    I want a camera that I don’t have to take the lens’s off. ND’s seem like a good thing.


  29. Hi and hope all is well, honestly you won’t find better at this price, good all round camera but note lens limitations re my other comments.Also note there is an AG120 without viewfinder and an AG 130 with viewfinder WHICH ARE CHEAPER same cameras as the 160 picture wise but less features.. NO Undercrank and NO variable and NO SD out.. If you need that..Hire or borrow one before you buy..If you need a smooth lens start and stop also look at the AG-HMC81 or the AG-HMC41..Not so good pics but very smooth lens..Why could’nt the 160 series lens be like them???? B.C.N.U….Peter

  30. I was just wondering… is there a way to import files from the memory card directly into FCP6, or do i need a card reader and/or software from Panasonic?

  31. Hi Please correct me if i am wrong but i don’t think AVCHD is directly handled in FCPRO 6…FCPRO6 needs to log and transfer ie convert it to some this like APPLE PRO RES 422 which takes time!!.. use a card reader make new file or connect camera USB drag the complete AVCHD file in to the hard drive then convert from there ..All the Pro cameras come with some softwear but it may not be for a Mac… Most modern edit system can handle it direct.EDIUS6, PREMIER CS5 ETC will handle it direct with no conversion!!We use EDIUS with 7 AVCHD camera files in Multicam with no problem ..Google FCPRO 6 and go to Working with AVCHD.All the best.

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