Recent activity & shop talk.

Panasonic AF-100 Launch Event (Part 1)

A couple of colleagues and I made a trip down to Columbus last week to check out a gear workshop hosted by Scott Handel from Ohio HD Video and his crew at The Backlot to witness a launch event for the Panasonic AF-100.

There were two set ups with the AF-100.  One of them was mounted on a MYT Works slider,

Panasonic AF-100

which in itself was fairly smooth in operation as well as having some flexible configurations.  The second set up was a hand-held ready Zacuto rig. First thing I noticed was the size of the body.  It’s similar to the HVX200 and if you were ever used to shooting with a lens adapter set up, the body loaded with a matte box, lens and FF is much smaller than what it would be using a Redrock M2 or Letus set up (thank God those days are over). The flip-out LCD is of significant improvement over the HPX & HVX screens, offering more resolution, which really helps with focus.  It’s loaded with a diverse array of built-in exposure tools unlike most cameras at its price point or any of the HDSLR’s for that matter. HD-SDI out is another welcomed staple due to the fact that I can’t stand the HDMI output on the Canons because of their frequent buggy connections.  I appreciated all the little things like working with assignable ISO’s, variable color temperature control and of course…familiar Panasonic form factor from the old days.

We decided to shoot our own “on the fly” tests while we were there.  My immediate disappointment was born from seeing

how poorly it handles gradations in skin tones…especially in darker zones like III, IV and V.  The mids to low mids look like plastic IMO.  Of course, the signal is heavily compressed and it’s using a 4:2:0 color space. The tests we performed were at ISO 200, F2.8-4 split at a 172-degree shutter angle. Also, after pulling in the clips into FCP and viewing the raw footage…I was disheartened to see Panasonic’s familiar noisy, creepy crawly blacks…even at ISO 200.  Seriously Panasonic…you need to address this.  I know that the 5D and 7D’s ultra clean sensors have spoiled me but there’s no excuse for such a noisy image.  It was a problem with the HVX200, HPX170 and now, the AF-100.

At the end of the day, I feel that Panasonic missed their opportunity to reclaim their crown with the indie film market. Yes, it’s capable of great imagery and I’d be happy to use it for the right job.  But coming from one of many who have adopted the Canon 5D and 7D, I will continue to favor them for the time being.  Although the HDSLR’s have their downfalls, they fit and go places that most camera’s do not, the offer flexibility and control of exposure in ultra low-light situations better than any video camera I have used and the sensor size / depth of field of the 5D is unique from EVERY video camera on the market today.

A fair evaluation would come from using the AF-100 for a couple of jobs to really give it a chance from start to finish.

Check back on Monday (01/17/11) for thoughts on the Zeiss CP.2 compact primes.  (The Backlot AF-100 Launch Event – Part 2).

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