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?