In third place we have the Panasonic AF101, the large sensor camera to start the ball rolling.
This was the camera to own during the start of 2011 and the amount of emails I got asking about lens configurations and off camera recorders. For the six months I had the AF101 I was delighted with it.
Lets hope Panasonic take such a splendid camcorder and make the improvements that the camera deserves, 10bit, 4:2:2, 50MB/s and 1000+ lines and a decent Hi-Res viewfinder being the least specifications for version two.
In second place comes the only other Panasonic I reviewed this year, the AG-AC160.
What can I say for sheer value for money the AC160 stands head and shoulders above the competition and later on this Spring Panasonic are bringing out a firmware upgrade that will allow 1080 50p…fantastic.
With its far superior 22x HD lens, manual iris and zoom, XLRs, well balanced in your hand, syncro scan, over and under cranking (Speed ramping), usable viewfinder, interval timer record and much much more this camera deserves to be second and was just piped at the post for first.
How can you improve on such a well designed camcorder, 10bit, 4:2:2 but then if you want this you move up to the HPX-250 a camcorder that for some reason I was not given to review last year…sadly.
In first place for sheer value for money and picture quality it goes to the Sony NEX-FS100.
This was a cheeky wee devil one that I did not have a lot of time for in its infancy…no HD SDI and ND filters were so against the grain. By fate I had to swap from having the Panasonic AF101 over to the Sony FS100 not a move I was looking forward to…till the review…I took it over to Arran more for the fact it had arrived two days before I was due to review the NX70 and thought it might be novel to review 2 camcorders at the same time.
The pictures from the NX70 were good but the pictures from the FS100 were amazing both Chris and I could not believe what we were watching that evening in Chris’s house…stunning ! I fell in love with the FS100 from that day onwards and she has produced some of the best footage for me to date especially interviews.
Interviews are especially pleasing with this camera having that large Super 35mm sensor gives you a shallow depth of field to dream of especially using a Nikon 50mm f1.4 prime lens.
I was told by a Sony birdie when I asked the question “Whats the difference between the FS100 and the F3 ?” Sony “The FS100 is slightly noisier than the F3 and has no SDI or ND filters” Kidology as far as noise in my books this camera may not have S-Log but the picture is rock solid and bloody brilliant up to 18dBs and this comes from a man who has witnessed the F3’s fantastic noiseless pictures for himself.
The one thing I know about Sony is that they DO NOT compromise any camera’s picture quality, its the best or nothing, the same cannot be said of their competitors.
Once you get your head around the ND filter problem and in my case bought a smashing GenusTech Rig which then allows you to swap Vari-ND filters very easily and the fact that my Sony PVM-740 monitor has an HDMI socket…your sorted.
Sony must be in a strange place with the FS100 as they need to upgrade it at some point without compromising the F3 but if they upgrade the F3 to 4K that problem will disappear because not everyone is ready for 4K and a 10bit, 4:2:2, 50MB/s FS200 with SDI and ND filters would be a dream camera indeed…PS. Do something more substantial with the camera handle on V2 please.
So why did the others fail ?
So what about the PMW-F3, NX70 and the HXR-NX3D1…Firstly the F3 is a great camera but not value for money and flawed by only having 35MB/s SxS cards, this was my main gripe with Sony and I hope version two will solve this when the Canon C300 is just round the corner.
The Sony NX70 should never have passed QA with that shocking non adjustable zoom rocker switch and they are keeping us till March 2012 before we get some resolve to this problem, the chromatic aberrations on the tight end of the lens is not clever, lets hope we can get an interchangeable lens with version two and a rocker fit for purpose. (Please note : all camcorders are updated every so often so if I make reference to “version 2” its not that I have secret info its letting Sony, Panasonic etc know whats preferred in a further incarnation of that product.)
The Sony HXR-NX3D1 is a good first attempt but rather lacking in the manual controls department especially when you are in 3D mode. Not having any control over its gain left this camcorder out of the running.
Amazingly two camcorders from Panasonic out of four Sonys made the grade and if I had reviewed the HPX-250 it might just have been a clear top 3 for Panasonic, this should be a lesson to JVC and Canon who did not give me any cameras to review during 2011, lets see if you can reverse the trend during 2012.