The Panasonic AF-100 Reviews Are In. Is It a True HDSLR-Killer?
The Panasonic AF-100 (AF-101 in PAL countries) has been out long enough for the speculation about the camera to be replaced by actual videos (and reviews). We've taken a look at some footage from the camera, so now it's time for a review roundup. To me, here's the issue with the AF-100: if the camera is to be considered a "true" HDSLR killer, it needs to bring to the table a full complement of real video camera features -- and lack any glaring shortcomings -- in order to justify its $5k sticker price. Is the AF-100 worth it?
The footage looks very pretty, and there is no shortage of overwhelmingly positive reviews of the AF-100 out there. However, I'm far less interested in reviews that only heap praise on a camera; every device has its strengths and weaknesses, and the AF-100 is no exception. I hadn't read a great in-depth review of the camera until Art Adams at ProVideo Coalition published his evalution:
The AF-100 has a lot of potential, and I’d definitely go with it when the alternative is an HDSLR. Its layout and controls are familiar and it’s designed to do what it does, so it’s much faster and easier to program, judge focus and expose than an HDSLR. It also doesn’t moire like an HDSLR will. On the negative side, though, it’s still basically an HVX-200 with a larger sensor. It clips roughly the same way, which is not a good look in a large sensor camera, and it’s noisy too.
Art also docks the camera for its 8-bit AVCHD codec and notes the HD-SDI output is not 10 bit. It is worth noting that this is a new camera, and users have not necessarily figured out the camera's quirks -- Art was reportedly shooting with the HD Norm-Low gamma setting, which may not be optimal for the high-contrast outdoor setting of the shoot. But other users also report clipping issues (where highlights don't roll off smoothly, but rather clip to harsh "electronic white"), and as a lover of filmlike gamma curves, this is certainly an issue that concerns me. Art does note that "under controlled lighting this camera looks great."
All in all, it seems the AF-100 is a worthy replacement for a DSLR on a film shoot, because of its extensive video controls, better monitoring options, superior audio, and better ergonomics (not to mention its lack of aliasing issues). But the Micro 4/3 mount brings with it issues finding fast, wide lenses, and the limited AVCHD codec of the AF-100 (which some will circumvent with an Aja Ki Pro Mini or NanoFlash) -- along with the aforementioned clipping issues -- means the door is certainly open for a competitor like RED or Sony to capture the "one step above the best DSLR" large-sensor camcorder market.