In December we received two Panasonic AG-AF100 video cameras to add to our rental and production inventory. We figured this would be a good interim camera to have while we were waiting on our Epic and Scarlet cameras and we were right. The camera performs admirably and adds standard videocamera features that are sorely missing from the DSLR cameras such as the 5D and 7D.
The camera image quality is excellent in its own right and the cinema like depth of field due to the large sensor . It works moderately well in low light and produces a pleasing image – less video like then the EX3 but not quite as cinema like as the 5D.
The photo below is of one of our EF100′s rigged with a PL mount adapter, RED 300mm, Red Rock Micro matte box, rails and follow focus on a Sacthler head.
The camera ships mit out lenses, so to equip the cameras we ordered third party lens adapters for PL, Canon EF, and Canon FD lenses. The only micro 4/3″ mount we felt worthy for video was the 20mm, 1.2 pancake lens. By now, most know about the challenge focusing with the inferior LCD and the EVF, and about the 25mb (or so) AVCHD codec. To improve the monitoring we generally use our Panasonic HDSDI 7″, and for improved image recording we have ordered (now delayed) Ninja Pre-Res recorders.
The recent firmware upgrade released by Panasonic fixes a couple of minor bugs with the camera interface, and we expect more upgrades to work with more automated lenses. A couple of nagging things are all about features buried in menus. The lens check being a couple of menus deep. The lens check, which enables and disables features of specific lenses, is one and the other is the shutter speed. I expect there are shortcuts to get to these but I haven’t found them yet. Barry Green’s book is a must have for any EF100 user (just like it was for the HVX-200).
When I take the camera out I generally use the PL Mount adapter with our RED Zooms, bringing both the 18-50 and the 50-150. With a crop factor of 1.3 to the RED, the sweet spot for interviews is around 55mm, so depending on the location I will usually shoot with the 50-150, sometimes using the 18-50 for establishing shots. I most always toss in the 20mm pancake lens, and if the our ever popular Duclos 11-17 PL is available I will add that since it makes for a great b-roll lens.If you are using Canon full frame lenses the crop factor is 2.1x.
The cameras have been extremely popular with our shooters and in rentals. It is not a replacement for an EX3 or an HVX as an ENG camera, but is much more comfortable to use for interviews and such then a DSLR. Part of the benefits are the addition of a headphone jack (what a concept!) and built-in ND filters. Both of these features are normal for most cameras, but absent from the DSLR camp at this time.
Why would I take this camera our over my Red? Well I generally wouldn’t for interviews or studio work, but that is because I own both and there is no economic reason to. However, the Panasonic is a less bulky package, the battery life and record times that are longer with less bulk (smaller batteries and cheap SDHC media), I can bring a smaller tripod, and I can hand hold with ease. One thing that I am in love with (theoretically) is once again having sharpie friendly media. Meaning I can buy cards like I used to buy tape and after they are used, write on them with a Sharpie and put them in our library. Sure I still have to copy them to our editing bay storage and archive them to our DAM library, but I can always go back to the original media if needed. WIth RED and DSLR workflow we can’t justify not reusing the original media, but with $3 per GB for removable media we can.
Here is a good read by Mickey Grant on his first adventure with the camera while traveling abroad and by Philip Bloom in his first days with the EF100 camera. And though some of Barry’s tips are (thankfully) outdated by firmware updates, his tips post is excellent.
If you have any experience with the AF100, please drop us a note.