Panasonic AG-AF100 Interchangeable Lens Camcorder ReviewIf you've been looking for a plethora of professional features at an aggressive price point then look closely at the Panasonic AG-AF100 - this beast is one beauty of a performer.
Not overly stylish by any means, the Panasonic AG-AF100 is somewhat reminiscent in appearance of a brick - but with a lens, viewfinder and carrying handle. In a fashion similar to the Mercedes automobiles of the 1970s, its blocky exterior camouflages the fact that great things lie inside. There truly is genuine beauty within this beast and video professionals especially will appreciate its many virtues.
Gobs of Goodies
Built for the professional, the AF100 has an abundance of features and manual adjustments. Those most frequently used are easily accessed via buttons, switches, knobs or dials situated around the camera's exterior. Many of these are easily fine-tuned by delving into user- friendly menus where other, lesser-used features also reside.
The first pro HD camera to embrace the Micro Four Thirds standard, the AF100 is small, light and is compatible with a variety of lenses for increased interchangeability and excellent video recording performance. The standard provides for an image sensor very near in size to that of 35mm film cameras - 17.3mm by 13mm. A standardized lens mount and specially designed interchangeable lenses are also provided in the standard (lens not included with the AF100.) Micro Four Thirds lenses, Four Thirds, cinema, 35mm film and other lenses may be used with the appropriate adapters.
Our tour of the camera begins at the front upper-right where we find a four-position neutral density filter wheel reaching 1/64 ND. In the lower right corner is the automatic white balance (AWB) button; follow this button to the left side of the camera for custom white balance or presets - VAR ranges between 2400K and 9900K.
Along the camera's left side is a double row of buttons and switches located below the swing-out display. Among them are the iris button and adjustment wheel. The button switches the iris from auto to manual allowing use of the wheel to dial in the desired setting. Next to these is the gain switch. Values for its three positions may be custom, VIDEO CAM mode values range from -6dB to 18dB while in FILM CAM mode they range from ISO 200 to ISO 3200.
One of three user definable buttons, user 2, resides next to the white balance switch. The bottom row also contains the CH1 and CH2 audio level adjustment dials. The top row contains the function and user 1 buttons, the focus auto/manual selector switch and the push auto button for engaging autofocus while in manual mode. Here too, are the display/mode check button, power on/off switch, record/playback indicator lights and mode button for switching between record and playback functions.
The LCD monitor flips out to reveal buttons for color bars, optical image stabilization and exposure assist functions such as EVF DTL, zebra and waveform. Counter reset and time code set buttons, along with the audio channel and input select switches finish off the area behind the display. Above the display are the menu and exec buttons, start/stop button number two, volume control buttons for the onboard speaker and a joystick for playback control and menu navigation.
Around the back is the flip up viewfinder, below which, are the dual SD card slots for continuous relay recording, card status lights and a flip down door. Directly below is the battery compartment, to the left of that is the slot select button for choosing the active slot for recording. Below this is the dial select button and wheel for adjusting shutter speeds and frame rates. Slow and fast motion effects may be achieved using variable frame rates from 12fps to 60fps. To the right of the battery compartment are five port covers hiding connectors for A/V Out, USB 2.0, HDMI, index, S/S, camera remote, headphones and SDI Out.
On the right side are two XLR jacks with line/mic switches, Start/stop button number one and the third user definable button. The handle, attached ahead of and above the onboard microphone, is also removable. It has threaded holes in addition to an accessory shoe for mounting various accessories and an external microphone mount attached to its side.
With more features, functions and adjustment capabilities than we have room to describe, the bottom line is that this is a great professional quality camera. Image quality and color reproduction are excellent with beautifully shallow depth of field. Given the variety of gain adjustments, low light performance is good, with acceptable noise levels. The wide range of shutter speeds and frame rates makes for some great timelapse, slow and fast motion effects. The rolling shutter effect experienced when panning quickly is delightfully minimal. Onboard audio is actually pretty good but plugging in a quality XLR microphone produces excellent results.
- Large imaging area
- Very shallow depth of field
- Accepts wide variety of lenses
- Variable frame rate recording
- Three internal ND settings
- Focus and Exposure assist functions
- Does not include lens
If you've been looking for a plethora of professional features at an aggressive price point then look closely at the Panasonic AG-AF100 - this beast is one beauty of a performer.
Mark Holder is a video producer and trainer.