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November 5, 2012

Panasonic Announces the AF100A, but is the Upgrade Worth It?

When I first saw the announcement this morning I thought I had misread it, as this is something I believe neither I, nor most M43 users expected, but it is indeed true: Panasonic will be releasing an update to their AF100 line, the AF100A (technically AF105A since its initial release will be in Japan only), on November 15th. With a new camera model, this does seem to indicate that they are committed to the AF100 series of cameras for some time. Here's what we can expect from the new addition to Panasonic's line of M43 cameras:

From the Panasonic press release:

In addition to the professional high quality PH mode (average approx. 21Mbps, maximum 24Mbps), AG-AF100A Series complies with the AVCHD ver. 2.0 (AVCHD Progressive) standard in its new PS mode (average approx. 25Mbps, maximum 28Mbps) for recording, playing and outputting (via HDMI only) Full-HD progressive (1080/59.94p, 1080/50p) images. The PS/PH modes support uncompressed 16 bit LPCM 2-channel audio recording.

The AG-AF100A Series can newly output HD signals with 10 bit 4:2:2 quality via the camera’s live output function and record onto the external devices, such as P2 Recorder, compatible with 10 bit high quality recording through SDI. P2 Recorder also syncs Rec Start/Stop with the AG-AF100A series trigger.

The AG-AF100A Series is newly equipped with the expand focus assist function, which enlarges the center of the displayed image, and 2.39:1 (cinema scope size) safety zone marker.

If you've been following AF100 news, then you know that most of the changes listed aren't new and in fact were announced as a pay firmware update back at NAB 2012. What is new, is the 10-bit 4:2:2 HD-SDI output, and a focus assist function that sounds like the sort that DSLR users have had for some time now.

If you have an external recorder, having 10-bit 4:2:2 HD-SDI output is great news, since you'll be able to get a higher quality image that will have significantly less banding and will have more latitude when it comes to color grading and chroma keying.

But still, this announcement seems to be coming out of left field, as the AF100 has been a slow seller, and the upcoming GH3 and the passive M43 mount Blackmagic Cinema Camera look like they're going to be offering higher quality images and better features at ostensibly a better price (although it should be noted that the AF100A is currently listed as having a dealer determined "open price"). Granted, the GH3 is going to have 8-bit  4:2:0 output via HDMI, but once Vitaly Kiselev has worked his hacking magic, who knows what new functionality the camera might get.

What do you think? Do the new features included in the AF100A warrant an upgrade? Or is this camera too little too late considering the cameras that have been released recently and those that are coming in the near future?

Link: Panasonic AF100A Press Release

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Your Comment

64 Comments

This is great news for AF100 owners like myself, since we can still sell what we have and jump to a Red camera. The bad news is that I'll be lucky if I get half of what I paid for it.

November 5, 2012

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How quickly people ignore the resale value of digital cameras. Digital cameras hold a certain value, and then fall off a cliff.

November 5, 2012

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James0b57

Wait - why is this great news for current AF100 owners?

November 5, 2012

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Swested

The camera would be worthless if discontinued. As long as Panasonic keeps the line going, I can sell it. If I upgrade it to the 1080/60p, even better.

November 5, 2012

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Yeah, I didn't read anything about the ability to upgrade - that would definitely change the situation.

November 5, 2012

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Swested

There's a $250 firmware upgrade for the present AF100 to add 1080/60p. I was referring to that upgrade, and also the stupidity of Panasonic to charge for such an upgrade.

November 5, 2012

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Yeah, that upgrade really irritated a lot of people...to charge relatively much to change things that they got wrong in the 1st place (I'm thinking of 2.35:1 updated to 2.39:1).

November 14, 2012

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Daniel Mimura

Sorry Sathya, but you're on a sinking ship. From 2008 - 2011 Panasonic lost $15 billion (Thats billion with a B). For the 2012 year alone the financials show that they're projected to lose $9.6 billion. If you don't sell your camera soon you'll be stuck with a $3,000 paper weight. If you don't believe me go look up the financials on google finance.

Sincerely
Just the Messenger

November 6, 2012

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Messenger

How can a camera that shoots good quality video ever be a paper wieght? My AF100 has paid for itself many times over and although the upgrades would have been a nice free firmware gift (especially the expanded focus) the AF100 works great, is a solid camera and takes nice images. I'll be using mine for years to come and when it's time to upgrade I'm sure someone will buy at at a reasonable price.

November 8, 2012

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J

It would sell pretty ok if it was priced at like 1000 dollars. Honestly after red's 4,000 red mx deal, it does not make logical, financial sense to buy any other camera

November 5, 2012

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john jeffreys

Except of course if you don't want to deal with enormous RAW footage that only records to ultra-expensive RED drives, shot with expensive PL-mount lenses on an a somewhat unpredictable, heavy 5-year old camera that takes nearly 90 seconds to turn on. Other than that, a RED ONE is great!

That being said, I agree that this AF100 update needs to be priced lower than $2999 to make any sense.

November 5, 2012

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Swested

It may be an older design, but it is 4.5K and records to a solid codec. If you were to stay in the RED world, the media (and most of the accessories) could be used again on the Epic or the Scarlet.
It's not a loss if you go with Red and that's what makes them attractive. It's a loss to go with Sony or Panasonic since they change the rules to suit their pockets and not their customers. Look at the XACV codec that Sony is developing for 4K acquisition; wouldn't it be nice if it could be recorded onto SxS cards people already own? But of course, it doesn't.

November 5, 2012

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Yes but there is the added cost of hardware for editing too, most people now looking at the Red one will be buying their first Red camera, and while it would be a great investment its going to cost a lot more then 4k to get up and running with it.

November 5, 2012

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Peter Kelly

It's not that expensive...it isn't 2006 in the computer world. I bought a $700 laptop a year ago that can edit Red footage.

November 5, 2012

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Gabe

What spec computer do you need to edit red footage, real time, in full resolution?

November 5, 2012

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Peter Kelly

You don't edit in full resolution. Anything with a decent modern CPU, 6+ gigs of Ram and a Cuda video card will allow you to edit Red footage.

November 5, 2012

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Gabe

you edit in 1/4 or 1/8 res, any quad core macbook pro should suffice, oh, and a ton of usb 3.0 or firewire external hard drives

November 5, 2012

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john jeffreys

Just download redcine-x and sample files and see. I have no problems editing with it at 1/2 res or below and I don't have much RAM or CUDA.

You'll fall in love with RAW. I'm very familiar with RAW from stills and *love* that I can do at with motion footage now.

Or very soon. I ordered a Red One a few days ago.

November 14, 2012

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Daniel Mimura

Still easier to use than a film camera...and looks just as good lol

November 5, 2012

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john jeffreys

Useless upgrade for an irrelevant camera. Seriously Panasonic...HPX body, S35 chip, ND filters. That's all you need to do.

November 5, 2012

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dave

You are spot on! They need to produce an ergonomically sane shoulder camera to rival Sony's rather excellent recent offerings in the FS-100, F3, F5, F55, which to me look the best bang for buck student/ high end, S35 sensor video cameras these days.

November 5, 2012

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Lucas Adamson

I suspect they don't for the same reason Canon has way-overpriced their motion picture cameras...because they have a pro division to protect. They have to make the AF100 sucky!

November 14, 2012

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Daniel Mimura

Yeah, totally. The AF100 was the best in its price range until the red price drop and maybe the BMCC if it ever comes out.

R3D is compressed RAW, which makes it better than BMCC (1/4th the file size of BMCC...and that's comparing 2.5k to 4k).

November 14, 2012

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Daniel Mimura

This is great.

It may still be micro 4 thirds, but you can't beat Uncompressed 10 bit 4:2:2. 60fps in 1080.

The Canon c300 is uncompressed 8 bit 4:2:2, 60 fps in 720, but has a high range of iso and is EF mounted for the ever so popular canon.

As pointed out (or will be pointed out), a battle tested red one maybe 4,000, but you are going to have to spend double (if not more), to make that camera work.

I think it could compete with the c100 and the c300 canon put out, due to similar specs and the purpose of this camera.

November 5, 2012

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RJ

I don't see this consumerish camera competing with anything particularly. It's a modest upgrade over the GH3 in practice. If you want low-light, ergonomics and build, you would get C100. If you want burst overcrank, FS700. Resolution and recording format, BMCC. Price and size/weight, GH3. This AF100A is a fairly unhappy medium from all of those, a stopgap product just trying to keep Panasonic in the game for a moment while they resolve obviously severe R&D and managerial challenges internally.

November 5, 2012

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Peter

I agree. The AF100 camera is an aging design, especially internally, since the GH3 offers so much for so little $.

November 5, 2012

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good points, where does it fit in?

November 5, 2012

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Peter Kelly

Exactly.

November 5, 2012

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They do say it's best not to be first in the game, and what Panasonic tried in the AF100 has been bested by the late comers, Sony & Canon in particular of course.

November 5, 2012

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Lucas Adamson

I don't understand all the hate towards the micro 4/3 format. I shoot on a pair of GH2s, and am more than pleased with them. I'm also able to keep my setup much smaller and more nimble because I'm not lugging huge glass around.

I hear it all the time from other people I shoot with. For some reason they're totally sold on full-frame sensors, but none of them can tell me why.

November 5, 2012

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Derik

The sting is worse when you invest $6000 (and then a couple thousand in m43 glass) and watch Panasonic put R&D into the smaller, cheaper GH2 and GH3.

November 5, 2012

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Maybe it's because I started off invested in micro 4/3 and don't have to worry about making parts of my kit obsolete. I was just looking for other reasons (technical, aesthetic, etc) that people wouldn't like the format. All I've heard anyone come up with is the super wide angle / shallow depth-of-field argument. If that's the only advantage to full frame, I think I'll stay invested in micro 4/3.

November 5, 2012

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Derik

That's exactly the problem - who wants to spend 5x the price on an AF100 when the GH2/GH3 employs the same technology, minus the XLR inputs?

November 5, 2012

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Swested

Yeah but the GH3 does 4:2:0 not 4:2:2 , but then again the GH3 comes in at 70mbps without a hack, the resolution from it alone , rumored low light noise reduction improvements kills this camera. Panasonic lost me with this one

November 5, 2012

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Jay slocum

I don't think there is much hate for MFT these days. I think the MFT BMCC pretty much ended that. It's just the AF100 product line seems to be missing the market. It's not a bad camera, but it's not the best for any particular category; leaving a lot of more desirable options out there (as pointed out above).

November 5, 2012

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In the real world of commercial cinema, the full frame nonsense has few takers. It is a bit too dreamy and atrociously impractical in many cases when projecting to a large screen comes into play. The low light, wide open shots are a nightmare for focus pulling, and actually detract from viewer experience. It is the "high" of shallow depth of focus that is getting people hooked. It is very easy to overdo this, and lose all perspective. M43 may not be as popular as Super35 size, but it is a lot closer to being practical and useful than full frame.

November 8, 2012

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B S Kumar

I went from a Sony 1/3 to the Canon 5DMk2 FF sensor. Truly, at night time, the shallow DoF is a pain in the bloody ass - next to impossible to follow focus and you need big glass at f 1.4 to get it. And even if you do get it right, it simply is not all that pleasant to watch. That was a bad mistake for video -not to mention the adapters needed to get the audio.

Now on the FS100, a S35 sensor, ahhh - far far better. That is more like it. Hollywood has been using it for a reason. Bingo. The 1/3's are great for TV and football games, news reports where shallow DoF is NOT wanted. And with the FS100, I can use any lens out there for FF or crop sensors - lots of latitude. Sony got it right. 4/3? Why? It is not even 16x9!!! And then to get that format which is now the new standard, you have to cut off another 20%. I dunno - just doesn't seem to make sense.

November 13, 2012

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Indeed its a lovely chip size, if they have upgraded the monitor and keep the price below 3K it will make more sense than many dslr's. We still don't know if its the same sensor - or GH3's ?
It will hurt the C100 with its lack of any slowmo..

November 5, 2012

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Jim

I'm an enthusiast-level, nature photographer interested in adding video. I'm looking forward to seeing how the GH3 does and considering moving from APS-C to m43 if I can get decent quality and performance in both stills and video. Hypothetically, if I did switch to the format, wouldn't I be a good candidate, eventually, to move up to a dedicated video camera like the AF100 if I've invested in m43 glass? Is it possible that Panasonic is targeting the GH2/GH3 market specifically, rather than (or in addition to) existing semi and pro videographers?
Sorry if this is too naive a question, but thought I'd throw it out there...

November 5, 2012

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Ron

I don't think this is unreasonable, but I'm not sure this camera would be a significant upgrade to a GH2/GH3. You'd get better color depth with this camera, but the resolution probably won't be better. In fact, the effective resolution of this camera might actually be lower; I'm pretty sure the AF100 has lower resolution than the GH2, for instance, even when they are both "1080p."

November 5, 2012

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cows

Good points, cows. I appreciate the clarification. Sounds like Panasonic would have designed a better upgrade if that's what they actually had in mind.

November 5, 2012

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Ron

I think Panasonic is like Sony, with different groups developing similar hardware. Unfortunately, the AF100 came out too late to compete with the GH1 and2, and the onslaught of the 5D.

Ron, keep your money and your lenses. The GH3 is a better bet for you, especially with the AVC-Intra codec (which is much better for editing). Get a decent monitor and a rig (the Edelkrone rigs are awesome).
The AF100 is has everything that a DSLR should for video, but is overpriced plain and simple. If the AF100 was $2500 to $3K it would make more sense.

November 5, 2012

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Useless upgrade for an irrelevant camera. Seriously Panasonic…HPX body, S35 chip, ND filters. That’s all you need to do.

November 5, 2012

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dave

Perhaps it didn't cost Panasonic much to upgrade the AF100, a couple new chips, some programming adjustments, maybe a rewire, etc., tweaking non-selling AF100s dormant in the warehouse. Panasonic is a big company and if a few AF100As sell it's a little more profit in the kitty. Red fever is probably not a global epidemic at the moment, and 4k-8k might not be on everybody's agenda. There might be a handful of filmmakers who stay with 1080 for a while.

November 5, 2012

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animal_264

And this is why you're only getting 8bit 4:2:0 on the new gh3. So panny can protect this pathetic excuse for a camera. What a joke of a company.

November 5, 2012

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Paul

Is Canon any better? Nope. It's sad to these companies being repeatedly smacked around by RED, BlackMagic, GoPro etc. Then again, they deserve it. And with their bleeding balance sheets, it'll hopefully be only a matter or time before the dinosaurs get their act together.

November 5, 2012

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Swested

This was a pretty easy move to predict, actually. Panasonic often releases minor revisions on their flagship camera models, and anyone paying attention to the AF100 rep (Jan) over at DVXuser would know that the line hadn't been discontinued, so this was a logical step.

That said, I found it quite underwhelming - even as someone who got his AF100 when it released and still loves it to this day. However, Animal's right. It probably didn't cost Panasonic too much to release an upgrade since most of the features (minus the 10-bit output) were available via firmware upgrade already anyway, so it makes financial sense for them if nothing else. Still, I'm hoping that there's a sensor upgrade in there somewhere and we just haven't heard about it, but I'm not holding my breath. Here's hoping they get back in the game by NAB!

November 5, 2012

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Jon

If you own an AF-100 now you won't to buy this camera. It's not enough to step up to. If it's a updated sensor that improves image quality and with 10 bit out then that could be interesting but I doubt that is the case.
I want Panasonic to make the next level up from the AF-100 soon. If I don't see a clear path by NAB I'm going to look elsewhere and I know that the next camera will cost twice as much as the AF-100 did so $10K is probably my entry point as far as cost goes. Not interested in DSLR's.
I like MFT as a format and can only hope Panasonic wants to move it to the next level.

November 5, 2012

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100% Agreed.

November 5, 2012

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Jon

I just can't imagine where this is going to fit, price-wise... the only thing I can figure is $2000-3000; more than the GH3, less than clearly superior competition.

With that said, this is such a minor update to the already frustrating and disappointing AF100. We use them at work, and while they get the job done, so much more could have been purchased with the money. I want the m 4/3 format to make it, and steps taken by Black Magic and the GH3 are encouraging... but this is just a disappointment.

November 5, 2012

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David S.

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