Monday, November 29, 2010

Jan Crittenden-Livingston & the Panasonic AG-AF100

Last week Jan Crittenden-Livingston & Bernie Mitchell from Panasonic made an appearance at Rule Camera Boston, talking about the forthcoming AG-AF100. Rule has posted a video of the two-hour event (see below), and for those considering buying (or renting) this camera, the video is particularly instructive.

Crittenden-Livingston has been with Panasonic for 24 years, the last 9 as a product manager, and she described the AG-AF100 as something that had been "designed from the ground up." But while it sounded as though the US division had some involvement in the initial design, they didn't really know what the camera was going to do until they got the manual for it (which had only arrived the week before.) Prior to that, they had to figure out what the camera did by playing with it and clicking the buttons!

Some interesting information:
  • The different model numbers are used to indicate where support belongs. The 100 is a US warranty number. There’s a 105 which is a Japanese number.
  • Four Third and Micro Four Third uses the same size image sensor. The Four Thirds system is based on an SLR design. The Micro Four Third's system removes the mirror and moves the lens closer to the imager
  • Because of the flange-back depth of the Micro Four Third's mount, you can put virtually any lens on it
  • A number of lens adapters are available, including PL Len adapter, 4/3 Olympus OM, Leica M, Canon FD, Yashica CONTAX Mount, Nikon F, Pentak K
  • A 35mm still lenses will have double the focal length (X2) on Micro Four Third's so a 100mm will be 200mm
  • The imager is sealed, so you don’t need dust off!
  • The imager has 12.4 million pixels
  • It has uncompressed audio in it's best mode
  • Comes with a three-year warranty
  • They DON'T see this as an ENG camera
  • Use of an Optical Lowpass Filter reduces aliasing and moiré
  • Has a still capture function that you can assign to any of the three user buttons. You can capture while you’re recording video, but it’s not 12 million pixels
  • HDMI is always active. If you want to have the viewfinder and the LCD active, turn off the SDI output
  • The battery is the same battery as the one used by the AVCcam cameras
  • XLR jacks are line/mic switchable with phantom power
  • Spotmeter; you can move the spotmeter around the image and figure out the luminance of that particular spot
  • Face detection only works on those lenses that have full conversation and the ability built-in
  • Built in optical neutral density filters: 2, 4 and 6 stops
  • Different aspect ratio marking in the viewfinder
  • There is a pre-record option; 3 seconds in HD
  • You can remove all the handles to reduce size or customize
  • Comes with a wireless remote
  • Weight without the lens is about 2 and a half pounds
  • The resolution of the LCD 994,000 pixels. The viewfinder is 1.2 million pixels
  • The cameras are leaving the factory starting around the 18th, and hopefully in everybodies hands by 27th
Another interesting thing about the camera is that it has a video and a film mode. In video mode, Shutter speed is in fractions of a second and Sensitivity is in dB, while in Film mode, Shutter speed is in degrees and Sensitivity is in ISO.

The following are some quotes from the presentation.
I saw a lot of our customers taking our cameras and putting 35mm adapters on the front end to get that shallow depth of field, and then I saw some customers buying DSLRs and then I started hearing all the complaints about the DSLRs because there’s a lot of work-arounds that you have to do.

We basically pulled about 30 people from all walks of the production arena […] and we brought them into a big room, and we had little Styrofoam blocks, and [asked] how do you want this and where do you want the viewfinder? And over the course of three or four weeks we gathered about 400 ideas, and then tried to gell those down into something viable, and usable, because of course everybody wanted an Alexa for $5,000.

Is it a DSLR killer? If all you have is $2,500 to spend, that’s all you spend. You don’t kill it with a $5,000 camera.

The cool part about the camera is that it doesn’t have aliasing or moiré.

Does it have all the same properties of rolling shutter that CMOS sensors have been known to do? Quite frankly, it really is very, very good. It doesn’t seem to give me that skew. It does have one remaining artifact and that’s true for any CMOS imager, and that is the flash band. This will do a flash band just like any other CMOS imager, but the good news; you can fix that in post.

The Cine-like D [Scene File] givers you the greatest dynamic range, but the cruel news is that it will blow out the high-lights, if you don’t control your exposure. With Cine-like D you want to underexpose by half a stop and that way you can bring it back in post.

Dynamic Range Stretch [is available] in all modes. It goes in to the shadows and pulls up what’s going on there, but doesn’t blow out the highlights.
If you think more is better, that is not what DRS is all about. If you use it, it has to have something to do. If it doesn’t have something to do, the only think it’s going to do is make the image noisy. I had a filmmaker in the more-is-better mode, turn it on, and more than half of his footage was unusable.

Relay Recording [automatically switches] from one card to the next. [Creating] a spanned clip. If you don’t want to do that, you can just put in one chip. It will also tell you how long is left and you can manually switch to the second card.

A lot of people are coming to AVCHD and the only experience that you’ve had is by looking at the video recorded on the 5D or the 7D or maybe even our own GH1, and you think you know what AVCHD looks like. But that’s not true, you don’t. Because there is no standard of implementation of the [compression] codec; [only] in the playback. So when you start looking at AVCCAM, Panasonics implementation. We have bi-directional frames, I-frames, we have predictive frames, bi-diretional frames, predictive frames, and what that means is, the codec itself is content adaptive.
[...] So even at 40 mbits, like on the 5D, doesn’t even come close to what 24 mbits can do in this camera.

AVCCAM outperforms XDCAM EX in some situations; particularly when it gets stressed.

Are we looking at making a set of lenses? No. There are so many lenses out there, it seems like reinventing the wheel.

[We do] have a couple of lenses that do auto-focusing. [But] some of the Lumix auto-focusing lenses are a little noisey, and you might find them unacceptable.

There is a manufacturer in Massachusetts that’s making an adapter for the Canon EOS lenses. They are hoping to have that delivered at the same time as the camera; don’t ask me whether or not it is going to honor and respect all of the communications within the camera, but it will go on there and you will be able to utilize the iris function.

[There are] lots of adapters, but look for the source. I bought one, it came from China, and the build quality was just totally cheesy.

Olympus 4/3 lenses: Iris works, but the rest of the stuff doesn’t work. Auto-focus does not function; they use a different language to control their lenses.

[The camera doesn't offer an expanded focus mode] It has color and peaking, and it does a focus bar. What they would have to do [to add expanded focusing] is put a lot more memory into it. Because on that expanded focus, you take the part of the chip and expand. That would assume that you’re actually using the chip for the picture. I’m not. I’m using the Optical low-pass filter that’s on the output of the chip, so I’ve now rolled off some of that high-frequency. […] Taking the chip set and blowing it up would just get my focus wrong.

LL 112210 Part 1 from Rule Boston Camera on Vimeo.

Part II

LL 112210 Part 2 from Rule Boston Camera on Vimeo.

Rule Camera Boston [If you're in Boston, they will be renting, and also selling the camera]

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