08
Aug
11

AF101 / AF100 vs GH2 vs ? – Stop moaning, Start shooting!

af100 af101 cinematized ssv

Courtesy of Shooting Star Video

When i bought a demo Panasonic AF101 two weeks ago, and tweeted about it, i received an unexpected number of negative responses. Not that the responses were negative as-such, but were mainly providing me with links that showed me that i’d made the wrong choice. People were eager to point out that the AF101 sucks and that there are much better cameras on the market today. I had to endure watching crazy comparisons with Red and Sony F3 cameras (that cost 4 times the price of an AF101) and even with the Canon 5D and 7D, in order to learn that the Panasonic AF101 is probably even worse a camera than the 900 euro Panasonic GH2.

But thank you all, i knew all that the moment i bought this camera. Before i get into detail about the possible shortcomings, and explaining why i still went for this camera,  let’s see what some shooters have found testing the AF101. I’ve included links to the discussions.

 

  • bad handling of highlights, color channels burn out easily and give these parts a nasty yellow hue – link – link
  • “plastic-looking” skintones when not correctly exposed (see the point above) – link – link
  • noisy, and the noise is linearly distributed along the gamma curve; so: noise everywhere – link – link
  • the BBC has tested this camera thoroughly and came to the conclusion that the sensor sucks with less than 1300 lines and a lot of distortion – link
  • it has an old HVX type of sensor and not the new GH2 type generation; it is not suitable for taking stills or according to some, not even suitable for shooting HD video
  •  it is a commercial hype; a cheap DSLR in a videocam housing and the rest is a lot of marketing – link
  • the affordable Panasonic GH2 is better than the much more expensive AF101 – link
If you read the articles carefully, including the comments, you learn that 33% of all “problems” can be solved by properly exposing and dialing down the detail settings. Another 33% of the camera-bashing is delivered by people that have never used the camera themselves and judge quality based on Vimeo movies. The final 33% base their judgement on comparing the camera with the Sony F3, a camera four times as expensive as the AF101.
Did i start worrying after reading all the provided “thumbs down” links? Well, to be honest…. a bit…
I was very happy and even a little surprised to see that the camera performed surprisingly well in The Great Zacuto Camera Shootout 2011, episode II
When i finally had the chance to play with the camera for a few days, i was able to redeem all the bullshit about this camera. When properly set up, using the flattest picture profile, with “Detail” AND “Coring” dialed down all the way (-6 or -7), properly exposed using the great waveform monitor, this camera DELIVERS! With the right lens (Voigtlander Nokton 24/0.95 or better) and maybe occasionally underexposing 1/2 to 1 stop, you get your filmic quality.
Oh, yeah… Since i own both the GH2 and the AF101, i can tell you that the whole “The GH2 is better than the AF101″ is another myth, plugged by GH2 fanboys, and regularly by people not even owning either one of these cameras. They can hardly be compared, specially if the comparison is done based on charts. The AF101 sensor works in a totally different manner. It derives perceptual detail in a totally different and also inventive manner compared to the GH2 (using aliasing as a vehicle). The perceptual detail of the GH2 could look better when shooting charts, but the GH2 is using straight-forward electronic detail-enhancing that you can’t switch off AND uses a totally different way of rendering the picture from chip data.
Recording from the HDMI output using the Atomos Ninja recorder delivers great images from both the GH2 and AF101, but they are different! I can’t say that one is better that the other, just different.
My personal feeling is, that the GH2 has smooth roll-off of highlights by using a kind of auto-knee mechanism. It protects the highlights, but only up to 100-ire! This is a pure consumer camera that performs best as a run-and-gun camera. The AF101 has several controls for protecting the highlights, as well as a 110-ire range! Considering this, the GH2 has less latitude than the AF101 when both are exposed “to the right”; the GH2 up to 100-ire and the AF101 to 110-ire (“super-white”). The AF101 is not a consumer camera, simply because it’s too complex for most amateur users.
Out of the box, the AF101 is NOT a run-and-gun camera at all; it will produce video-like images, instead of the GH2. The AF101 is a video camera, the GH2 is a photo camera. At least, out of the box that is.
People who don’t understand how waveform-monitors, picture styles, matrices, gammas and knees work, should not even consider testing or reviewing the AF101, and keep their comments to themselves…
To loosely quote Philip Bloom: stop shooting charts, start shooting people!
Fort those interested. I’ll publish our AF101 settings in the following post.
Cheers!
Martin Beek
Twitter: @martinbeek
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7 Responses to “AF101 / AF100 vs GH2 vs ? – Stop moaning, Start shooting!”


  1. 1 brunerww
    August 13, 2011 at 9:43 am

    Thank you for this post, Martin. It is sometimes a challenge, but I try not to listen to advice on cameras from people who have not actually shot with them.

    Really appreciate what you’ve said here – I’m a GH2 owner, and love my camera for what it is, but I recognize that it is a consumer still camera with great automatic video image processing, and that it has limited ability to control video color and detail. If I want pro level image control, I understand that I have to buy or rent a pro camera.

    That said, thank you for showing what the ~3000 Euro GH2/Ninja/Nokton combination is capable of in your earlier post. Very impressive.

    Cheers,

    Bill
    http://hybridcamerarevolution.blogspot.com

  2. 2 zaphodone
    November 30, 2011 at 1:17 pm

    At last reason prevails, there is a lot of stuff out there from non-professionals so thanks for un-muddying the waters. I have a GH2 and an EX1 but I do not access to this level of test equipment anymore and so value people like yourselves who post from a professional and knowledgeable base.
    Greatly appreciated.
    Thanks
    http://www.wowiezowie.co.uk
    (must update one day……5 years out of date and links do not work!)

  3. 3 Richard
    December 1, 2011 at 11:11 am

    Out of interest, did you consider the FS100? It’s very similar in price to the AF101.

  4. 4 marvelsfilm
    December 9, 2011 at 3:27 pm

    Hi Richard.

    Here in northern Europe, the FS100 is still 1000 euros more expensive than the AF101. But i’m almost confident the FS100 has a better sensor!

    Martin

  5. May 31, 2012 at 4:43 am

    Hey great blog post. I have not shot on the AF100…. I am a GH2 owner… mostly because I am cheap. My rig looks like something from a science fiction movie. But I do like the image. I just dont like all the other stuff I need to make it work.

    You can see pics of the rig here. http://www.crossbowfilms.net/102/

  6. 6 Alan Esse
    July 13, 2012 at 8:28 pm

    I went through the same fear and trepidation. Then the camera arrived and without tweaking produced beautiful low-noise sharp images. I was shooting a parade (strictly because it was there) on a bright summer day. Tweaking controls really is necessary, but this thing is a beauty, especially at the price and with my collection of nikkor primes.

  7. January 9, 2013 at 3:23 pm

    I’ve always wondered ‘who these experts’ are and what makes them so knowledgeable – 1/3 don’t know how to use the camera & settings properly, another 1/3 have never used it, etc…
    I’ve used the Panasonic HVX200 with a Letus 35mm Extreme adapter with Zeiss Primes and I love the images, but I am ready for a new camera that can produce the same look.


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