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Panasonic AG-AF101 Review


The Panasonic AG-AF101 was designed to bridge the gap between the modern DSLR cinematic shooting format and the more traditional digital video camcorder. In recent years the trend has been to shoot video on video-enabled stills cameras given their ability to achieve cinema style shallow depth of field and shoot in less than ideal lighting conditions. Whilst the stills images produced by such cameras can be beautiful to behold, the video shot on these cameras can be rather lacklustre and this is all down to the fact that stills cameras are designed to make the best of a single instance in time compared to video cameras where images must look good at all times. Panasonic realised that they and other video camera manufacturers were losing market share with many people rushing to get video enabled stills cameras such as the Canon 5D MkII and decided to develop the AF101, a camera with the best of both worlds. The AF101 has a large sensor, similar in size to a digital stills sensor or film camera which allows for both similar amounts of depth of field and low light sensitivity, over a more traditonal, smaller sensor in other similarly priced video cameras. Being a video camera the images produced by the AF101 can often far exceed the quality of video shot on a stills camera as a stills camera, typically 12-30mpx, has to shrink down the image to the ~2mpx of HD footage and in doing so tends to produce rather severe jagged lines. This is known as aliasing and is more pronounced when shooting with a stills camera due to the fact that stills cameras are designed to give the best possible image at the highest possible resolution. People often complain that camcorders are more expensive to purchase than stills cameras and for casual shooters this is entirely true. For people looking to get the most of out their shooting however, the AF101 is actually comparable. Given the shape of stills cameras they are often unwieldy when shooting away from a tripod for anything longer than a single frame. This is fixed by purchasing a shoulder mount/rig. These often cost upwards of £800. Most stills cameras have no sound input or use consumer grade inputs for connecting external microphones. In order to record professional quality sound you'd be looking to add another £500. Suddenly that £1-2000 stills camera isn't looking so cost effective. Alongside onboard professional sound and a body shape more suited to filming for long periods, a full camcorder also often comes with both a viewfinder and an adjustable LCD monitor, several handles for different shooting styles and controls more suited to quickly setting up a shot just the way it should be. All of these extra features, in my opinion are very much worth paying the rather large difference in price when it comes to professional shooting, keeping in mind that with all the extra accessories you need to make shooting with a digital SLR a livable solution this price gap slowly closes.

One minor complaint about the AF101 is that slightly over exposed coloured areas of footage have an odd saturation to them, this seems to be a common problem with Panasonics from the same price range. However when shooting you want to avoid over exposure anyway and generally this isn't much of a problem.

Overall the AF101 is a great step forward for affordable professional camcorders and it receives an 8/10.