Phil Peel

Film, video, photography, sound and story

Feedback on the new Panasonic AF-100 by Adam Wilt

Posted by Phil On January - 17 - 2011

Subject: Re:[cml-future-cameras] AF-100 in the wild?
To: Cameras in development and what we would like to see
<cml-future-cameras@ls.cinematography.net>

Had a quick look at one courtesy Jeff Regan at Shooting Star Video on
Thursday, and ACed for Art Adams shooting on one today. Art was out
with it all yesterday, too, and I’m sure he’ll have plenty of opinions
(grin), but here’s my thumbnail sketch.

The camera resolves about 700 TVl/ph cleanly and then aliases
enthusiastically above that, very similar to an HXV200, HPX500, or
HPX170 albeit at a somewhat higher spatial frequency. The aliasing is
clean, luma-only aliasing; there’s no chroma aliasing, fringing,
sparkles, etc. to be seen. And while the aliasing is apparent on a
test chart, it’s rarely visible in real-world pictures.

Haven’t measured dynamic range but it’s a bit contrasty and
video-like. Highlight handling is comparable to DVX / HVX / low-end
HPX-series cameras: bright, saturated colors tend to veer towards
saturated secondaries (cyans, yellows, magentas) before clipping to
white. Contrasty sunlit exteriors are often very challenging, but get
the contrast under control and the images can be very pleasing.

There’s not much apparent difference in image quality as ISO is
boosted from 400 (native) all the way up to 3200. It appears the
camera employs heavy and aggressive 3D noise reduction. Jeff tried
some quick swish-pans past test charts after our discussion Thursday,
and said that at higher ISOs there’s a faint ghosting of the previous
frame or two in contrasty areas, which tends to implicate 3D (temporal
as well as spatial) NR. We stayed at 400 today except for a final,
we’re-losing-the-light shot at 800.

We hung an Alura 18-80mm off the front of the AF100, via a Hot Rod
Cameras PL-mount adapter and a cobbled-together lens support hung from
15mm rods run from our MB20 matte box, which was itself attached to
the AF100 via 19mm rods on an E-T hybrid bridge plate. The whole
conglomeration wasn’t quite properly aligned–the front of the lens
was a bit higher than the centerline of the body once we’d adjusted
the support to center the lens in the matte box–and the camera output
black until we lowered the lens support 5mm or so. Throughout the day,
the camera would occasionally lose the picture until we physically
wiggled the lens or its mount… was it too much stress on the front
plate, triggering the built-in capping shutter or causing an
intermittent electrical fault?

In mounting and adjusting the lens on the camera, its attachment to
the body felt downright rubbery and springy compared to mounting a
comparable lens on a RED ONE. There was a lot of up-and-down and
side-to-side play at the front of the lens; the front plate of the
camera isn’t nearly so stiff and rigid as on a heftier camera.

After schlepping the AF100/Alura combo from setup to setup over the
course of a day it wound up feeling not a whole lot less bulky and
weighty than a RED ONE/18-85 rig (it was, of course, but it sure
didn’t feel like it!). I’m not entirely convinced that hanging a
ten-pound lens on a three-pound camera is the optimal setup; between
the wiggles and the weight, it just seemed mismatched. Jeff had a
whole mess o’ Nikon primes with an adapter, and Birger is working on a
Canon EF mount with full electronic control, and those would seem to
be better choices for this rig. (Of course, I had three Lumix MFT
zooms and one prime in my bag, spanning the gamut from 7mm to 300mm,
but it would have been my funeral trying to pull precise focus changes
on those servo-driven, no-focusing-scale, non-repeatable lenses!)

The shipping camera didn’t look or feel much different from the
prototype I saw in November:
http://provideocoalition.com/index.php/awilt/story/quick_look_panasonic_ag-af100_mft_cine-style_camcorder/
Overall, think of the AF100 as a large single sensor,
interchangeable-lens version of an HVX200/HPX170 (yet with VFR to
60fps in 1080p!), and you won’t be too far wrong.

Adam Wilt
filmmaker, Meets The Eye LLC, San Carlos CA
tech writer, provideocoalition.com, Mountain View CA
USA

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