Panasonic AF101 (£4175 without lens 1080 50i, 1080 25p 24p or 720 50p with sound)…At the beginning of 2011 I received the AF101 to review and had it almost for six months, this was to be the first of it’s kind, a large sensor professional camcorder…micro Four Thirds (mFT) to be precise. apart from the review itself I used the AF101 on various corporate shoots. Panasonic were unable to keep up with initial demand for the camera as the more people used it and talked about it the more people wanted one.
The major plus points for the AF101 were its metal body, ND filters, easy menu system and the major amount of lenses and adapters that were made for the mFT system.
I would have held onto it if I had not been given the Sony PMW-F3 to review, this showed me the shortcomings of the AF101 especially when it comes to resolution, at only 800 lines it became for me it’s ache-lies heal after seeing the pictures from the F3 beside the AF101. Although good in low light up to 18dBs of gain it was not a patch on the F3, the other disappointment was the lack of a decent viewfinder.
Sony PMW-F3 (£11754 without lens 1080 50i, 1080 25p 24p or 720 50p with sound)…This camera arrived out of the blue and I had a week to produce a review, it had a slightly larger sensor a Super 35mm chip. The F3 was a brute compared to the AF101 and almost three times the price but was it to be three times better, sadly no, but at 1000+ lines and noiseless low light it was better than the AF101 but not as affordable. MTF was producing a Nikon to F3 mount but it was not available at the time of the review so I used three Sony PL lenses that came with the camera.
The F3 was like most Sony cameras that I had owned the PMW-350 being one of them so getting around the menu system was a breeze. The viewfinder was once again poor and you were forced to use the LCD this was my major gripe with Sony apart from the 35MB/s bringing the camera just under the HD broadcast threshold.
It does have the ability to produce 4:4:4 out of the HD SDI socket with a paid update but that leads you to an expensive recorder like a Gemini at £6000+.
Sony NEX-FS100 (£4712 without lens 1080 50p 25p, 1080 50i, 720 50p with sound)…This was to be the last of the large sensor camcorders taking its Super 35mm chip from her sister the F3.
Having no ND filters due to a poor design gave me a bad feeling about this camera…at first. The FS100 arrived at the same time as my NX70 review camera so I decided to review both camcorders on Arran as this had already been set up the week before.
I had a day to resolve the lack of ND filters and was also glad that MTF had supplied me with a Nikon to E adapter. My only choice was the Cokin P filter adapters and holders giving me some form of ND albeit from a resin filter photographic system.
The pictures from the FS100 were stunning and the best LCD/Viewfinder so far, one of its other flaws is the design of the viewfinder loupe, it does not allow you to view your pictures once the camera has reached above your eye line as the loupe goes from 90˚ down to 0˚.
The lack of HD SDI was also a bone of contention but all of my external monitors have HDMI. Unlike its bigger sister the FS100 uses AVCHD onto SDHC cards which is in its favour in my opinion.
Sony HXR-NX70 (£2500 1080 50p 50i)…As I have already mentioned the NX70 was reviewed over on Arran and was the professional version in my opinion of the MC50.
I was very exited by the NX70 as I had been looking for a camera with the picture quality of the MC50 but with control over gain and XLR inputs.
This should have been my dream come true camera but for some interesting features that you only get to know about after owning 2 of them. The zoom rocker switch is appalling and should have never passed Sonys QA, a firmware update is due out in March that will help matters but till then who knows.
Like its wee sister the MC50 the fixed 10x lens looses about 2 stops from wide to tight making the zoom useless in lower light situations and also suffers chroma aberrations in some lighting conditions.
Panasonic AG-AC160 (£3540 1080 50i 25p, 720 50p with sound)… This was a camcorder that had everything…well almost everything. Panasonic had redesigned the wheel and produced 3 hand held camcorders starting with the 130, 160 and the 250 P2 camera.
The 160 was an AVCCAM camera that takes two SDHC cards to its credit has a 22x super duper manual iris lens, XLRs, reasonable viewfinder, syncro scan, over and under speed ramping and interval timer recording and that easy non cluttered Panasonic menu system.
The camera was bulging with features and a clean HD picture up to 9dB it performed very well but the large sensor cameras like the AF101 stand on its head when it comes to clean noiseless pictures above 9dBs.
Sony HXR-NX3D1 (£2800 1080 50i)…This was the first 3D camcorder to have a 10x usable zoom that I had reviewed and its jewel in its crown was the 3D LCD screen…WOW !
So for all that was going for the camera what let it down, well firstly the lack of manual controls during 3D mode, not even white balance. There was also no control over the gain at all.
You do get XLRs and can be used in non 3D mode if required with a lot more manual control but since this camera majors in 3D then in 3D mode its lacking.
Don’t get me wrong the 3D HD picture is stunning on my Panasonic 3D 50″ telly but I sell think 3D has a long way to go when it comes to enticing Joe Bloggs to part with his hard earned cash against an almost 50% reduction for the non 3D HD version.