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The Week In Cameras

Latest News About the Tools We Use by Michael Murie

Panasonic Gooses the AG-AF100 to 10 Bits

The Panasonic AG-AF100A, the incremental update to the AG-AF100, is now shipping. Most notably the new model is now capable of 10 bit 4:2:2 output when recording to external recorders. Internal recording is still AVCHD 4:2:0, but according to Panasonic the AG-AF100A complies with the AVCHD ver. 2.0 (AVCHD Progressive) standard and adds a new PS recording mode (average approx. 25Mbps, maximum 28Mbps). Uncompressed 16 bit LPCM 2-channel audio recording is supported.

Other new features include: a sync signal through HD-SDI for the Rec Start/Stop with the AF100A trigger; an expanded focus assist function; and a 2.39:1 (cinema scope size) safety zone marker.

The camera body/form factor is largely unchanged, and disappointingly no information about a new sensor or changes in dynamic range or low-light performance were included in Panasonic’s announcement. The 10-bit output should improve the image, though only if you’re using an external recorder.

In many ways, this seems like a minor and almost disappointing update to the first “affordable” large-chip video camera. Well before the release of the Sony NEX-FS100 and the Canon C300, the AG-AF100 offered a large-chip (Micro Four Thirds) sensor in a body with video camera features like XLR audio inputs, ND filters, an optical low pass filter for less aliasing and moiré, and unlimited recording times.

But while Sony, Canon and RED have been busily designing and releasing new cameras, sensors and image processing features, Panasonic seems content to stay out of the fight and even with this update it seems that they aren’t seriously challenging the other makers.

Panasonic AG-AF100A

The AG-AF100A may now be in closest competition with the Blackmagic Cinema Camera. Blackmagic has even promised a model with a Micro Four Third’s mount, though it’s not shipping yet. Both have a sensor that’s smaller than Super35 – though the AF100A’s is larger. Once you get past lens mount, the cameras diverge greatly, having very different body shapes and features. The AF100A has built-in ND filters and is more video camera-like. If you’re looking for a camera that’s quick, efficient and easy to use, the AG-AF100A is probably the camera to get, while the dynamic range and image of the Blackmagic Cinema Camera appears to be superior. Another consideration; the AG-AF100A is about $1,000 more than the Blackmagic.

Panasonic says that the AG-AF100A has a suggested list price of $4595.00, though initial indications are that it could have a street price of about $4,000.

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