We are lucky enough to have one of the very first Panasonic AF100′s in the country. I was on the fence on the camera, but now that i have it in my possession, it’s actually such a great workhorse camera and one that is particularly suited for documentary or anything requiring audio/one man band. Still having said that, the 5d still shines for its full frame depth of field goodness and full frame sensor on the wide side. Here are shots of a recent shoot where we shot both with the 5d and AF100. This was a promo for GMC and The Nate Berkus Show (Harpo/Sony). It was our first shoot on the new camera and we have learned a lot about this great new camera.
A few words on the Canon 5d.
We’ve been shooting with the Canon 5d for the good part of two years now and it’s been a wonderful camera. We’ve shot national commercials on it, tv shows and even my feature documentary which is coming out this year. No one was more on board the HDSLR revolution than me. However, there were a lot of big compromises in using this beautiful camera. 1st and foremost is the audio. I had tried every adapter out there and finally settled on the Tascam DR100 with a special attenuated cable that went into the camera. It’s hard to hold… I ended up sinking a lot of money on a vocas rig which i love but didn’t use as much as I should because it just added bulk but it did help in keeping the shots steady. Having said that I came to love the small size when we were shooting in remote locations or places where we didn’t have a permit. Also the moire and aliasing not to mention the jello effect were not desirable.
Enter AF100. I ordered this camera a while back from my good friends at Abelcine Tech. But when the camera arrived, I wasn’t sure I needed it. After all, i had spent so much money on the 5d to get it to function like a video camera, why did i need this one that has an inferior sensor? The answer came with a call for job for Sony Television to do a promo. The host of the show had limited time and sound had to be pristine. That was it. I decided to take the plunge. To back it up, I called on DP Khalid Mohtsahab to shoot on the 5d. Since the promo was a car spot I knew the 2x crop factor of the AF100 wouldn’t cut it. However, the sound monitoring and small crew was going to be great with the AF100. Thus the perfect 2 camera shoot.
The AF100 is one smart camera. It was clearly the result of input from working professionals in the industry. The function are all very logical and without doing much on research I was able to use the camera with ease practically straight out of the box. AF100 used 20mm/1.7 panasonic, Canon 16-35mm/f2.8, Canon 24mm/1.4, Canon 35mm/1.4, Zeiss ZE 50mm 1.4. 5d many of the same lenses plus the 70-200mm. We took off the handle from the side of the Af100 and were able to mount a wireless mic which you can see from the picture above. With this little package plus a short shotgun mic (Audio Technica 875), the camera is extremely light and portable. I also used our SmallHD monitor on the top of the shoe mount. Camera is a joy to handle and being able to monitor audio going in is a godsend.
Also the red peaking feature on the clear LCD is great for focus in a pinch, but i relied a lot on the SMALLHD which is amazing given the full HD output from both SDI and HDMI. We shot on 2x 32gb SDHC cards which gives you almost 7hours. The batteries on camera are great got about 5 hours use per battery. We had 2. White balance is easy to dial in, you can change ISO relatively easily. One of my favorite things is the 4 stops of ND built right in. Proper zebras for exposures. Waveform monitor. All of these are normal on video cameras, but having shot on the 5d for over 2 years now these things really do help. Also another great thing about the camera is the variable frame rate up to 60fps. Didn’t use on this particular shoot, but shot some amazing looking tests.
Finally a huge plus is being able to record uncompressed 8bit footage using the SDI or the HDMI cable out. This is a huge difference with the HDSLR world and gives you up to 100mb/s footage. Good for a commercials or narrative. i think it might be cumbersome for a doc style run and gun shoot. On the other hand, the direct to edit feature is pretty great. We are on hold for the new KI-PRO mini which records to ProRes 422 natively.
The BAD. Because the new Birger mount shown above is not out yet, we used a Eos to M43 adapter from Adorama ($50) which only allows you to shoot wide open. The Birger mount will allow you to control the electronic aperture, IS and autofocus with the AF100. But until that comes out (supposedly next month) we compensated with the ND and the shutter but still you don’t always want the shallow depth of field look on everything. The 2x crop factor really made it limiting on my lens set. Even my 16-35 which is gorgeous and wide on my 5d turns into a 35-70. I have since ordered the tokina 11-16 to give me a wider lens. I looked at the Panasonic 7-14mm which is great but at $900 doesn’t seem worth it for a plastic f/4.0 that i can only use on one camera. So for the wide shots we stuck with the 5d.
Another lens I am considering which seems the most practical especially for general use is the Olympus 14-35mm/2.0. It is expensive but it’s also the fastest still zoom in the world. Again hard for me to invest in a lens that has limited use. Would love to get anyone’s thought on these.
Noise. I will say the AF100 is definitely more noisy at the higher ISO range, but what it lacks in that department it makes up for in the lack of moire and aliasing. Panasonic got rid of those with a low pass filter that seems to work wonders.
CONCLUSION. AF100 is the first in what is sure to be many large sensor hybrid cameras that are optimized for motion picture. I had a lot to think about as an investment for my company as there are a few cameras we know that are coming out soon, The Sony F3, RED Epic and Scarlet, Arri Alexa (out already and amazing) and another NXCAM camera from Sony. But it was the fact that this camera came out first and at a very reasonable price point that pushed me over the top. Also I am in the mindset that these are all just tools. My real investment at this point is in Canon glass which seems to be functional on this camera as well as the upcoming RED EPIC.
If you want a camera that will give you the ergonomics and control and audio performance of traditional video camera, but with the cinematic quality of an HDSLR that we have come to love at a reasonable price, this is your camera. It’s perfect for documentaries, events and television. Also this is a great camera, if you are like me and have already invested in some fast glass but want a more ergonomic workhouse style camera.
But if you are on a budget, i’d stick to HDSLR which i will most certainly continue to use. And if you need more dynamic range or if you’re going for the high end commercial or cinema look go for the RED or the ALEXA which I will most certainly rent for higher end jobs. This camera will be my go to for documentaries and interviews which is one of my primary forms of work.
Remember these are all just tools. The most important thing is to go out there and use them.
NOTE: If you wanna watch the promo or see what the AF100 looks like broadcast in HD, tune into the NATE BERKUS show all next and watch for a GMC Acadia promo *CHECK YOUR LOCAL LISTINGS. Otherwise, I’ll be posting an HD version of promo here after the promo airs. Stay tuned.
here is a link to the promo.
password: nate show