[UPDATE: Seems like a mistake on B&H's part about the listing, according to Jan Crittenden Livingston at Panasonic it has not been discontinued. So the rest of this post will just serve as a reminder of my mistake -- though some of the information is still relevant.] It's been rumored for a while now, but it looks like Panasonic has finally discontinued the AF100. Sluggish sales and better video quality from a cheaper camera (GH2), meant many low-budget filmmakers saved a few bucks and totally disregarded the more expensive sibling altogether. It's sad news for many who've bought into the Panasonic Micro 4/3 video camera system hoping for an upgrade someday, but this may be the end of the road for that product line. So what exactly does this mean for Panasonic?
Here is B&H showing the discontinued camera:
With the announcement of the improved (and more expensive) GH3, it's clear Panasonic understands that there is a far bigger market for a high-performing but less-featured camera among independent filmmakers. Since many people are recording dual-system sound as it is, the only thing missing (besides a better build) is ND filters, which you're not going to get on any mirrorless or DSLR camera anyway. It may have initially been embarrassing for the video division at Panasonic that a sub-$1,000 camera actually gave better image quality than a sub-$5,000 camera, but the success of the GH2 and the hack actually meant that the company stayed on the radar of filmmakers, as opposed to fading into obscurity thanks to Sony and Canon.
So is that it for the product line? It's looking that way, and I would be surprised if they release a new version, considering we didn't hear anything at NAB about an upgraded AF100. We did, however, hear a bit about a new camera they were calling the 4K VariCam. While details were limited, it will definitely sport a 4K Super 35mm sensor and feature a version of the newly developed AVC Ultra 4:4:4 codec. Though this isn't a direct replacement to the camera that just got axed, it's in the realm of possibility that we could see a version of this camera eventually finding its way down to the price of the AF100. Since details were limited on that camera, there's no reason to speculate too much, but Panasonic may not think they can compete in the $4-$8,000 range at this time, so they are attempting to make the best camera possible under $2,000 and over $10,000 (no word on final pricing for the 4K VariCam yet, since it was in prototype form).
Next year's NAB should clear up the situation immensely, as Panasonic is likely to show off a real, working version of this 4K camera (and maybe even lower-priced versions). Down the road, Panasonic would be wise to work out some sort of RAW format, or at least make it possible for a camera to output a RAW signal, just as Sony is doing with the FS700. The future may be 4K, but there's no question higher-end productions are looking for RAW output, and it would be very surprising if Panasonic did not make a camera at least giving filmmakers the option to go out to a 4K recorder like the AJA Ki Pro Quad.
If you're in the market for a used AF100, there are some decent deals from B&H below. You can also see a few more photos of the 4K VariCam from NAB. What do you guys think? What would you like to see from Panasonic over the next 1-2 years?
[Images courtesy of Adam Wilt at ProVideo Coalition]