Sunday, October 03, 2010

Panasonic's AG-AF100: A long answer to a short question

Panasonic showed a "70% complete" version of its new AG-AF100 Micro Four Thirds camcorder at DV Expo last week. The AG-AF100 will ship in late December at a price of $4,995 (U.S.). Dan Chung of DSLR News Shooter interviewed Panasonic's product manager for the camcorder, Jan Crittenden Livingston, and asked her why a DSLR user should switch to the AG-AF100. She went into a long rundown of all the features that the new camcorder has that a DSLR doesn't.

Having spent most of my career as a product manager, I sympathize with Jan's situation, but at the end of the day, the right answer is to focus on use cases rather than "speeds and feeds". If you're primarily a still photographer and want to capture a little bit of video as well, go with a DSLR. Any good DSLR from Panasonic, Canon, Nikon or Sony will do a far better job of shooting stills than the AG-AF100.

However, if your primary interest is shooting video, you'll have to add at least $1,000 of equipment to any DSLR in order to fix its inherent problems with video. You'll need to add a mounting system to make it handle more like a video camera, a viewfinder (either a magnifier/loupe attached to the LCD or a separate electronic viewfinder) and an external audio recorder. Even after that, you still won't get all the features that you'll get in a camcorder purpose-built for video, such as HD-SDI video out, timecode sync in/out and long record times on internal media (in the AG-AF100's case, up to 12 hours of continuous shooting on two 64GB SDXC cards).

If your primary interest is still photography or your budget is extremely strapped, buy a DSLR and the cheapest add-on hardware you can find, but if you can afford it, the AG-AF100 and future camcorders like it will be a better solution for full-time video use.
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