Six days ago I shot an interview and B-roll footage with Nevada Morrison in Waverly, Iowa. Yesterday Morrison had a monster day winning the 400-meter dash at the Division III national track meet in Delaware, Ohio. According to the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier she also “placed second in the 200, anchored the 4X400 meter relay to its sixth consecutive national crown and ran on the third-place 4X100 meter squad.” She helped her school, Wartburg College, place second in the nation.
The above photo of Morrison is a screen grab from the Panasonic AF 100 using the Olympus 14-140 lens. This is not a retouched photo from a still camera, just a frame taken from the video and tweaked a little for color correction. What should stand out from a production standpoint is the shallow depth of field—the blurred background.
That is part of the film look that has been so elusive in the past with the lower chip video cameras. When the Canon 5D hit the streets a couple years ago it raised the bar for sub-$5,000 cameras. Without getting too technical, the AF 100 has a sensor roughly the size of the Canon 7D making these kinds of shots possible.
I’ve had this camera for almost two months and love it. It’s not uncommon to see it reviewed at the bottom of the list of new cameras. But as the expression goes, “A number without a reference is meaningless.” After this year’s NAB the list that the AF 100 was being compared to was the RED Epic camera, the Arri Alexa, and the Sony F3. (See Vincent Laforet’s blog.)
Those cameras are all great. Problem #1 is two of those cameras really aren’t widely available, and #2 they are quite a bit more expensive than the AF100—about three to fifteen times higher in costs. So if price (and availability) are an issue for you—and you’re in the market for a camera then take a good look at the AF100.
Of course, I’ll admit that I should be the poster child for these smaller Panasonic cameras. I jumped on board the DVX 100 back in 2003 really excited about its 24P film look. And over the years I migrated up the food chain buying and shooting well over 1000 hours of footage (and six shorts films) with the Panasonic HVX 200 and the HPX 170. (The DVX camera opened the door to a couple overseas shoots and the regional Emmy I won in 2009 was shot with the HPX 170 recording to P2.)
I’m comfortable not only with the price and look of the AF 100, but I very familiar with the menu layout. And as a long time Nikon shooter I am able with an inexpensive converter to use my old Nikon Ai lens. Sure, there are limitations to this camera, but I do prefer shooting with it than the DSLR cameras (I’ve shoot with the D90, 5D & 7D). The four biggest reasons for that are:
1) No need for external audio recording system
2) Built-in ND filters, vectorscope, waveform
3) Ability to check focus while shooting (and I’m not a big auto focus guy, but the auto-focus on the Olympus lens really can save your butt in certain situations—because manual focus can be tricky).
4) I’m old school—started shooting 16mm with the Arri SR and an Eclair NPR— so I simply like looking down a traditional viewfinder when shooting.
When you’re shooting productions as a one-man band (as I’ve often done since moving to Iowa years ago) those four factors are very important. So I’ll concede that the AF 100 can’t match the quality of a RED, F3 or Alexa…but at a street price of under $5,000—forgetaboutit. The AF 100 rocks.
I’m sure Panasonic is pleased just to see it mentioned in the same breath as those more expensive cameras. Think of it as a Division III school competing against a Division I school. It’s not going to win, but its nice just to be in the same race with the big dogs.
Congrats to Nevada Morrison on her fine performances yesterday. Earlier this month Morrison and her 3 other running mates set an all-time Division three record at the Drake relays. Like I keep saying there’s a lot of talent in these fly-over states.