November 05, 2012

Panasonic AF100A/AF101A update


It seemed as if Panasonic had forgotten its AF100/AF101 Micro Four Thirds-based AVCCAM camcorder, but it has finally announced an update: the AG-AF100A / AG-AF101A.

The new A series looks identical to the existing model, but will now be able to record 1080p 50/60 (at up to 28Mbps) internally and will produce a 10-bit 4:2:2 output via HD-SDI for recording on an external recorder (compared to 8-bit output on the previous model).

Although this means that the AF100/101 hasn’t been totally forgotten, it is a rather limited upgrade. Given that Panasonic’s own GH3 stills camera can record 1080p 60p/50 at 50Mbps IPB and 24p at 72Mbps ALL-I internally, it seems a shame that the camcorder should lag so far behind a much cheaper stills camera.

Admittedly, the new GH3 only has 8-bit 4:2:0 output via HDMI (although given what hacks have done to expand the recording options on the existing GH2, one would hope the GH3 will be similarly tweakable).

The AF100A/AF101A also gets an expanded focus assist function, which enlarges the centre of the displayed image, and 2.39:1 (cinema scope size) safety zone marker.

Besides the GH2 and GH3, the other option for anyone with an investment in Micro Four Thirds lenses is the upcoming MFT version of Blackmagic Design’s Cinema Camera. It has certain advantages over the stills cameras in terms of faster connections (Thunderbolt), higher bitrate recording and smartphone-like controls (although the GH3 will be controllable from a smartphone), but is not as ergonomically usable as the AF100/101 (nor have its dual XLR audio inputs). However, it does cost less.

The AG-AF100A (the US version) and AG-AF101A (European version) will be available later this month with a list price of €4,150 excluding VAT (about £3,300 or $5,300).

By David Fox

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