My quest for an amazing video camera is over.

Discussion in 'Open Discussion' started by Shield, Oct 24, 2011.

  1. Shield

    Shield Mu-43 Regular

    Jul 11, 2011
    Worthington Ohio
    After re-reading this, this story really isn't that interesting. But alas, I have no one else to tell my story to. :)

    I shoot quite a bit of video which is what brought me into the micro four thirds world. Hated not having shallow DOF options with regular camcorders, and didn't care for many things on DSLR's that shoot video (bad audio, aliasing, moire, no continuous autofocus) so I bought a GH2.
    Loved the GH2 for video at first, but certain things about it drove me crazy. I could never get the colors exactly right no matter how I adjust the white balance and I tried every "film mode" under the sun. I always hated that in manual video mode I couldn't adjust ISO during the recording - heaven forbid I film from one lighting area to another. Also, I always thought the Oly cameras took better jpgs and even my wife's GF2's pictures looked better. Who wants to mess around in Lightroom all day? I used to have Canon cameras and they do take far superior pictures for people like me who are the worst photographers.

    Tried hacking the GH2. I never saw any improvement in the picture quality, but I did see much larger files, blips in recordings at the beginning, camera no longer stable, recording files not spanning (i.e. stopping @ 4GB). So that was frustrating for me.

    I started looking at other cameras, and thank goodness Best Buy has a great return policy.

    Bought a Sony NEX5n. Fiddly menu, but nice looking video. I thought the micro four thirds pictures looked better, but of course it came with a slow 18-55mm lens (F/3.5-5.6 I believe). Took it outside on a normal fall day in Ohio. Camera overheated after about 6 minutes of video taking. Tried it again next day on a fully recharged battery. Lasted about 10 minutes and got the overheat warning again. Back to the store it went.

    Did some research and many people talk about how great the Sony HX9V is for video. Well there are no manual adjustments and it's horrid in anything but bright light.

    Looked at the regular camcorders again. Bought the Canon HF-G10. Very nice camera with a terrible menu system. People talk about how great it is in low light, but it can't hold a candle to any micro four thirds camera with a 20mm pancake, and it's not even close. I should have known better; the background blur was not pleasing in the rare circumstances where you could get this effect to work (i.e. zoomed way in on a subject). Plus the $1499 price tag was off-putting, even though I got Best Buy to knock a couple hundred bucks off.

    So on a whim I rented an AF-100. Wow! There is a white balance button! Hold it down and it's a black balance button too! There are ND filters so I can shoot wide open in the sunlight with nice shallow DOF! 2 memory card slots! Auto iris / Manual iris / ISO / focus assist that all work and can be adjusted while recording! Plus all my little GH2 lenses work! Holy crap this thing is expensive! What to do?

    So I sold some lenses and my two GH2 bodies, and yesterday I am now the proud owner of a lightly used mint condition AF-100. 14 hours on the clock. Got it in a deal where I traded my 2nd (and last) GH2 and got an Olympus four thirds F/2 14-35 lens. Yeah, that one. It's pretty beefy but is amazing.

    So the moral of this story is - I think I've found a winning video camera that should last for many years. For photos I prefer shooting with the GF2. Love the adjustable pop-up flash, the size, and the jpg output. Great combo with the 14mm pancake.

    I have the AF100 for video. It's the bees' knees. I cannot believe how much customization you can do with it. I can overcrank the video and record 60p @ 24p (basically it's a 2.5x slow motion) or undercrank for half speed (12fps) or many choices in between.
    For people who say the GH2 output is just like the AF100 - uhm, no. Go rent or buy one, you'll see.

    Also in the deal I picked up a Nikon 50mm F/1.4 and an adapter. All that's left now is to learn what the hell I'm doing, and read Barry Green's AF100 book.

    • Like Like x 8
  2. ~tc~

    ~tc~ Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Oct 22, 2010
    Houston, TX
    So, you went from $1000 cameras to a $4000 cam, and you're surprised how much better it is?
  3. Gerald

    Gerald Mu-43 Regular

    Sep 20, 2011
    Well there is a lot of debate whether the AF100 is worth the extra pennies, so I think it is good to hear this little hands-on report/comparison.

  4. Shield

    Shield Mu-43 Regular

    Jul 11, 2011
    Worthington Ohio
    The AF-100 just has so many tools that help you get everything right. I can monitor audio levels now. More importantly, the white balance and black balance can be set (and they're dead accurate IMO) without fiddling with the Kelvin scale adjustments. I can do it while shooting too which is key. Light changes all the time.

    There is exposure meters that tell me if I've got the exposure correct. Histograms, etc. It's making me a better videographer. Plus keep in mind the AF100 has been out for roughly a year now, and there are deals to be had on them. The one I picked up had 14 hours on it, all the original manuals, boxes and paperwork, an extra battery and was $3400. Now sure, I waited a few weeks to find that deal, but many can be found for under $4k. On ebay you can buy a brand spanking new one for $4k. Having futzed around with the GH2 and really spinning my wheels with the color / exposure, I'm finding myself actually slowly learning this craft. I'm just a guy who wants the best footage I can afford, and instead of wasting time trying 100 different Gh2 hacks with marginal results, I rented an AF-100 and fell in love with it. Is the Af100 perfect? Of course not. I miss the GH2 size and ETC mode, but when I watch the footage back I get that lump in my throat like - "Holy cow".
    I just can't believe all the time spent on increasing the bitrate on the GH2 when that's a small sample of its limitations. How about the fact that you're basically shooting blind when you hit the movie record button? The LCD isn't giving you a great deal of information that's accurate - not only does the color/WB drastically shift after you hit record, but I've found the histogram is way off depending on what "film mode" I'm in. Like nostalgic for example almost seems 1/2 f stop brighter than cinema, for example.

    I showed some of my footage to a guy at work that films weddings on the side, and he was genuinely impressed, and he shoots with Canon DSLR's. I would love to tell you I'm some film genius, but I'm worse than most and a horrible photographer - eventually after filming enough different scenarios even big dummies like me can slowly start to figure things out. Another friend that shoots amazing photos with his 7D always tells me how it's the glass and not the body. In the video world I really need a body that gives me as much information as possible as I'm frankly just not that smart and have 0 natural talent. It will always be a work in process for me, but it's fun learning and hearing people say - Wow, that looks amazing. After all, HD video is now nothing new and is pretty much in everyone's livingroom by now.

    I just see the AF100 as a tool I can use for the next several years if not a decade and still take amazing footage. It's solid state so I don't worry about a tape mechanism wearing out, and Panasonic from what I've read bends over backwards to accommodate any defects in their workmanship.

    People always talk about sensor size. For me, in the digital world, the micro four thirds size is perfect for 1080p video. Any smaller you have trouble with pleasing bokeh (if you can even get any shallow DOF); any larger you have aliasing/moire issues. So until tv's are 2k/4k or whatever the next higher resolution is, or large sensor camera makers figure out how to "downres" from their supersized sensors, I think I will be fine.

    You also may laugh - but it takes 2 megapixel stills that are just fine for posting on Internet forums! :biggrin:
  5. Shield

    Shield Mu-43 Regular

    Jul 11, 2011
    Worthington Ohio
    Follow up to the story. I am in the process of selling the AF-100 and have bought another GH2. Why?

    I got tired of hearing my wife say "You're not taking that big thing out with you again, are you?"
    She feels the AF-100 draws unnecessary attention, and I'm sure she's right.

    Ahh, marriage. :) :(
    • Like Like x 1
  6. Livnius

    Livnius Super Moderator

    Jul 7, 2011
    Melbourne. Australia
    Real Name:
    She's a top woman who has against the odds managed to talk some sense into you :wink:

    That was the easy part.....the hard part will be sitting and waiting and wondering what the heck Panasonic is planning for the GH3 :rofl: