The Pace of Change
The Pace of Change
September 26, 2010
Staying on top of what is happening in the video and film production industry is a time consuming endeavor. As soon as you get a fair grip on the lay of the land, things inevitably change. In this business, you either embrace that fact for everything it's worth or you wake up one day wondering what happened to you as the rest of the world just carried on. Either way, you're going to tire yourself out eventually, as the pace of change is just relentless.
Just a few years ago, no one thought of shooting video on an SLR camera, and now they are doing so everywhere. I've actually been on several different shoots where a photographer approached me and wanted to know about all the accessories I find are necessary when making these cameras do video work. What is especially interesting to me is that these photographers were all using the exact same camera at the time, sometimes with the same lens attached. That would have been a pretty unsettling thought if I had time to think it before now.
Jan Crittenden seemed pretty exhausted in her encyclopedic review of the new Panasonic AG-AF100 camera at IBC in Amsterdam earlier this month. Maybe that was because it was the longest video review I've ever seen about anything, clocking in at nearly twenty minutes. Or, maybe it was due to the marauding crowd in Amsterdam, who had her dancing carefully around the ever-shifting spec sheet during the week's typical trade show booth banter. If you decide to sit through the entire video, might I recommend you first prepare a nice fresh cup of coffee?Although I had heard of the camera, and had cursorily reviewed its feature list shortly after Panasonic announced it at NAB in April, I was pleasantly surprised by their "70%" prototype that Jan talked around in September. The camera is due for release in December. It is clear that Panasonic is taking their cues from feedback of this camera's target audience. And, as further evidence that Panasonic is playing for keeps, they dropped the initial list price of the camera from "under $6,000 USD" to a much more solid "$4,995."
The AG-AF100 represents the earliest inkling of what Panasonic thinks large sensor field production looks like after the initial HDSLR era. But, this wasn't just some purely internally conjured product. In many ways, its unique feature set reads like an HDSLR wish list. A large sensor that supposedly avoids all aliasing issues (albeit not as large as those found in DSLRs), but with all the rank and file video features professionals simply need: XLR audio inputs with manual adjustments, live dB meters, headphone jack for live audio monitoring, HD-SDI and HDMI simultaneous outs (which don't kill the internal LCD when engaged), built-in ND, a waveform monitor, a flexible intervalometer, two programmable zebras, even timecode... Panasonic is flexing their video engineering muscle in the areas that they have really perfected.
That's not to say that this is the Holy Grail camera. There are important specs that fall a little flat - such as the low bitrate AVCHD internal recording format. Still, the company seems uniquely positioned to capitalize on an empty space in the market - that space between the growing field of HDSLR options with their commensurate aliasing (and all the other drawbacks already mentioned) and the lofty promises of Red's seemingly always forthcoming Scarlet at roughly twice the price.
Somehow, it seems whatever direction Canon takes, they will be struggling more with cannibalizing potential sales of DSLR models. Sony's current offerings in this area are paltry and largely consumer-oriented. Nikon doesn't have a separate video department, so don't look for a competing DSLR-inspired video camera from them. Red doesn't have the manufacturing muscle to get a competitively priced camera out of their shop. So, we're left with Panasonic, and their promising new AF100 model. I'm thinking it's a winner, but if history is our guide, as it always is, a short-lived winner to be sure.