AF100 has been tagged the “DSLR Killer” ever since its announcement last year. It supposedly bridges the gap of traditional ENG professional cameras and the current crop of video DSLRs. Although, I love DSLRs and their amazingly small form factor, astonishing image quality, and simple bang for your buck but their limitations (rolling shutter, moire, recording limits, etc.) can be frustrating. In comes the AF100, a professional video camera with a DSLR sensor. It’s officially the first hybrid of its kind but does it live up to the hype?
Ergonomically the AF100 is a bit of an oddball. For video work, it’s nowhere near as bad as DSLRs but it also isn’t in the form factor of a proper video camera. It does have a nice sturdy top handle, handgrip, and EVF but they’re all oddly placed that you never really get comfortable shooting ENG style with it. You will still need a decent handheld rig to get that nice shoulder mount feeling that professional
videographers have grown accustomed to.
Button placements are a hit in miss. Gain, audio, and white balance switches are nicely placed but it’s missing a convenient record button on top of the handle, handy for those low-angle shots. In and output connections are a placed in the back of the camera body which is great but the plastic covers on them are a bit finicky. My HDMI & USB cover, for example, is already a little loose.
I do like the fact that the top handle and the microphone holder are removable, significantly reducing the camera body’s size. Definitely handy when I need to go guerilla and need the smallest for factor possible.
The AF100 is packed with features that you won’t get from any other professional camera at this price-point. It has zebras, waveforms, focus assist, and a ton of other features that you would expect from a professional video camera.
Without a doubt my favorite of these features is the variable frame-rates, especially the ability to do 60p at full 1920×1080 resolution. The results are simply glorious. I also love the ability to connect via HD-SDI, another feature often absent in cameras under the $5k price-point. The great thing about the mirror-less m4/3 sensors is you can basically use any lens on it (with the proper adapter), from Canon’s to Nikons to expensive PL mount cinema lenses. The 4-stage ND filter is also a huge upgrade for DSLR users. The days of battling harsh sunlight with ND less cameras are over!
In terms of audio, the AF100 features full manual audio control with 2 XLR inputs for professional sound recording. Although I was slightly disappointed that it only recorded at 16-bit 48k. Even my handy H4N Zoom can do 24-bit 96k.
There were a few features that I did find lacking. The EVF or
electronic viewfinder isn’t very good. In fact, those of you who’ve
used loupes with your DSLRs will find it poor in comparison. It’s
small and makes critical focusing, even with the cameras focus assist,
Initially I was very disappointed with the image output of the AF100. It was prone to banding, excessive amounts of noise, and clipping highlights. Obviously, unlike DSLRs, the camera is not great “out-of-the-box”. It took me half a day of experimenting with several custom sets of settings to finally get an image I was really happy with. Banding and noise issues were resolved by staying away from
Panasonic’s “CINE-V” and “CINE-D” settings. Problems with clipping highlights were fixed by slightly under-exposing and just keeping a close eye on zebras.
Overall, the AF100 is a great camera. It may not be the “DSLR Killer”
everyone was hoping for but that doesn’t take away from the fact that
is a full-featured, wonderful image creating professional camcorder.
Will I be getting rid of my 5D and GH2? Absolutely not. Those cameras
are still amazing pieces of technology and I still marvel at the image
quality those cameras can produce in the right hands. BUT… I do have
to say, it’s nice to have the image of a DSLR in a proper video