Panasonic “AF100 is not a DSLR killer”, more details released by Jan Crittenden Livingston

Very detailed information of the AF100’s full capabilities have been presented in public by Panasonic by Jan Crittenden Livingston.

Panasonic’s AF100 is a brilliantly specced machine, which has lead some people to believe that such dedicated professional video cameras mean the end of DSLR filmmaking. Panasonic themselves have now said that they believe the opposite.

Through a presentation given at DVExpo, Jan’s slides reveal some of Panasonic’s own thinking behind the positioning of the AF100 in the market place. The official price is also revealed, at $5000 for the body.

Panasonic say that they recognised the demand for larger sensors, the use of DSLR lenses via 35mm adapters and (post DSLR revolution) some of the complaints about moire & aliasing.

The AF100 is addressed at those customers.

Panasonic say that moire & aliasing is solved by an optical low-pass filter, not something electronic in the image processing pipeline or better scaling. Rolling shutter is improved by faster scanning on the sensor, essentially it is a more powerful overclocked chip compared to the lower power consumption chip in a DSLR.

Sensor output is a maximum of 60p, which suggests to me the AF100 is using the GH2’s imager, not the older GH1 LiveMOS. The GH2’s imager allows the ‘faster scanning’ I mentioned above, to reduce rolling shutter. It is noticeable that rolling shutter is also slightly improved on the GH2 itself due to the faster sensor output of 50/60p.

HD-SDI output (essentially the pro version of the HDMI protocol) on the AF100 is uncompressed and 4:2:2, 8bit. It is suggested that the EVF has to turn off whilst monitoring via HD-SDI, but I’d speculate that it means either / or the EVF/LCD has to be off to enable live monitoring via HD-SDI. 3 feeds seems a bit ambitious, 2 more reasonable.

Audio recording is also uncompressed, at 48Khz, 16bit – there are two XLR jacks. The audio pre-amp circuits are better quality than in DSLRs by a significant margin.

The manual focus assist can be used during recording. Significant professional video toolset includes a live waveform monitor and vectorscope plus two sets of customisable zebras. That’s some serious kit there.

The AF100 has a HDR mode called Dynamic Range Stretch and selectable markings in the EVF, one for shooting cropped footage in 2.35:1 to mimic the popular cinematic anamorphic aspect ratio.

White balance presets exist, and by the way – it’s interesting to note that manual WB on the GH2 goes all the way to 10,000k for shooting white balanced footage under ultra warm lighting tones. Not sure what the limit is on the AF100 but sure to be an extensive range.

Fan of timelapses? The AF100 has a built in intervalometer, for up to 24hrs of run time. It also has a handy pre-record feature of 3 seconds so that spontaneous events are not curtailed by the slow trigger-finger of a camera man provided the camera is pointing in the right direction!! Record time is up to 4 hours on one battery.

Removable handles both top and side, allow ‘further customisation’ of the product which is a great idea and opens up a new market for 3rd party supplies and accessory manufacturers, such as Hot Rod Cameras or Zacuto, as well as Panasonic’s own. Smart move.

Panasonic also stated in the presentation that accessories ‘will be key for fleshing out focus and zoom options’, which of course means follow focus systems and possibly even add-ons that allows smooth powered zooming with the kit lens.

Codec wise the AF100 has a “High quality AVCCAM PH mode (24Mbit), full production codec, I frames, B frames and P frames”. The GH2 now has I,B and P frames and 24Mbit too. A good move!

Panasonic expressively say that if AVCHD is not desirable, the user can take the uncompressed HD-SDI output and effectively get raw video in 4:2:2. It will be nice if the GH2’s live HDMI output has this won’t it? Although the cost of a Nanoflash device is very high. Personally I find the robustness of the hacked 44Mbit GH1 AVCHD all I need. It really cannot be underestimated, just how much more clarity and solid motion it brings to the plate. The GH2’s footage has a risk here of being undermined in good light by the hacked GH1, which is a lot closer to the AF100 than people think in pure image quality terms. The picture is very stable now.

The AF100 comes with a 3 year warranty.

So, it’s all out there. Do you fall into the category of users who’d pay more for all of those advantages over DSLRs? Let me know on the comments below.