Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Those big chip cameras

For want of a better term, the big-chip video cameras (the Sony NEX-VG10 and the Panasonic AG-AF100) are getting a lot of attention at the moment. Will they kill the HDSLR?

The Sony NEX-VG10 is a decidedly flawed camera; stiff lens, moire effects, lack of ND filters and manual audio controls, to name just some of the limitations, yet the price is attractive, and it can produce some nice results if you know how to use it. Philip Johnston has blogged a couple of times about his experience with the camera over the last couple of weeks, and has now posted a "conclusion." His is a decidedly professional perspective:
This is a hard one…on one hand we have a superb shallow depth of field camcorder and on the other hand limitations. 

[...]…well surprisingly the “look” grows on you, as long as you take on board it’s limitations and use manual focus, turn it down to 0dB, turn it onto 24Mbs, take off auto white balance the camcorder performs very well in daylight.
I think he really hits the nail on the head when noting that the camera may confuse "consumer" customers. It is an odd combination of features/price/performance. It's a consumer camera that may appeal more to those who have professional aspirations; yet lacks enough pro-features to make it troublesome.

You do get autofocus and unlimited clip length though.

Meanwhile, Philip Bloom gets to spend three days playing with the Panasonic AG-AF100, and though he's only had a limited amount of time with it, he really likes the "video camera" features (ND filter, XLR audio, audio monitoring) and he's also impressed by it's low light performance:
I have to say 3200 ISO really impressed me. I own a GH1 and have just tested an early GH2. I thought the AF100 was based on the GH1 chip but obviously it is not. I struggle to get anything usable from 800 ISO on that camera. 3200 ISO on the AF100 was so good. Pretty damn clean. It seems to have less digital noise than my 5dmk2, but this is early days of my tests… As sensitive as my 5Dmk2? No, just less noise.
But then the AG-AF100 is more than twice the price of the NEX-VG10 (and you still have to buy a lens or two for the AG-AF100!)

If the NEX-VG10 had the features of the AG-AF100, or the AG-AF100 cost the same as the NEX-VG10, then the HDSLR would die tomorrow. But they don't; and it's not really surprising that they don't. Over the next couple of years, the prices will come down, so I'm sure we're in for an interesting time...

HDWarriorSONY NEX-VG10 Conclusions
Philip Bloom: 3 days with the Panasonic AG-AF100

B & H: Sony NEX-VG10 [$1,999.99 - available now]
B & H: Panasonic AG-AF100 [$4,795.00 - pre-order. Expected end of December]

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