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Old November 3rd, 2011, 03:38 PM   #1
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Anyone laid hands on the new AC-130 yet?

Just got an email from B&H today, saying they have the new Panny AG AC-130 in stock!

I have been excited about this camera for a while now, and I am itching to hit the "place order" button!
But, since I am actually considering buying 2 of them (for shooting weddings), I thought I'd try to get some feedback from the real world first. It may be too soon to ask this since this camera is just now hitting stores, but I look forward to feedback and input from anyone who's used it. No specific questions really, just general feedback - performance, handling, ergonomics, etc.

Anyone?
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Old November 4th, 2011, 08:28 PM   #2
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Re: Anyone laid hands on the new AC-130 yet?

Picked mine up today from a local shop. I've only just begun to test it out. Here are a few thoughts:

It's beefy. More on par with an EX1 than the HMC150. It's heavier, but also quite comfortable as its large enough so you can "snuggle" it between your shoulder and chin.

The materials feel much more solid than the last-gen cameras; not much metal, but the plastic seems thicker and more robust.

There are LOTS of buttons! :) However, they are all right where I would expect them coming from HMC150s and the AF100, so that's nice for Panasonic shooters.

The handgrip is quite ergonomic, but actually seems rather thin - i have narrow hands and it fits me very comfortably, but if you have some manos gigantes, perhaps try before you buy.

Custom variable white balance! yay! You can adjust white balance by 100K increments manually using the function dial.

Dual card slots and three rings on the lens for focus, zoom and iris - the autofocus works well and when you change settings on Gain, white balance, etc, the camera gradually switches over to the new value.

The LCD is fantastic - it almost looks TOO good. Peaking, detail and a focus bar help get things sharp.

Turns on in about 3 seconds, comes with a new 5800mAH battery that is actually smaller than the older, 5400mAH batteries. The older batteries also work just fine.

I kind of miss the "Tupperware" lens cover from the HMC150....

It looks really cool.

There are 3 USER buttons. Now we can use Digital Zoom and Dynamic Range Stretch in 1080p24 in addition to 1080i, for what it's worth.

So now for the important part, image quality! Now I can't say much yet, as I'm still tweaking presets, and learning how to properly expose the image, but I shot a few minutes of footage and here are some thoughts:
The standard image is pretty darn clean, but not completely free of noise. Don't get me wrong, it's really, really good - on par w/ an EX1, but I wouldn't call it a "new class" or sensor. Shadows are where it is most visible, I'm experimenting with custom presets to see how I can enhance the picture.
With so much press about "cinema cameras" and their gigantic sensors and corresponding image quality, it's easy to unfairly judge 1/3" video cameras. The AC-130 will never be an Epic or Alexa, you will never shoot films by candlelight, and you will never get razor thin focus. From my time with it, however, it seems to do a really nice job capturing images with speed, flexibility and quality. THAT BEING SAID, I did a really quick, unscientific comparison of the AC130 with my 7D and 30mm lens (ISO 800). The photos are attached, and image quality wise, it seems pretty close... Just a few things on the table under a quartz desk lamp.
The LCD may display things a little more saturated than how they look in Final Cut
Airplane shot is before and after a quick grade in FCPX. Seems to clean up real nice! One thing I learned from this is that you don't want to take out too much of the color from the Cine-Like D picture profile (I went to -6 out of -7), as the images start to break down a bit if a huge change in saturation is necessary in post. What you would expect w/ AVCHD

After a day with it, it really seems like a great camera for the price, and will work great for "run-and-gun" situations and productions where I'm not able to take the time to set up a more elaborate camera package. Looking forward to testing it out more this weekend for fun, and with some clients next week.

I'm sure much of what I said above, is unclear, subjective, and perhaps flat out wrong, but these are my first thoughts, I hope for more to follow. I'm free all tomorrow, so if anyone has any questions, you may be able to light a fire under my butt and get me out to shoot some tests!

I made a custom preset based on what I thought looked good on a monitor, but I'm very interested in hearing what others are doing with the presets on the 130/160/250 cams. I find that a proper setup make all the difference.
Attached Thumbnails
Anyone laid hands on the new AC-130 yet?-1.jpg   Anyone laid hands on the new AC-130 yet?-1_orig.jpg  

Anyone laid hands on the new AC-130 yet?-custom.jpg   Anyone laid hands on the new AC-130 yet?-7d.jpg  

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Old November 4th, 2011, 09:11 PM   #3
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Re: Anyone laid hands on the new AC-130 yet?

Hi Nate

I have been following the AC130 with a lot of interest. We only have the 160 at present for $4.5K and I don't really need the extra features, but the 130 is coming soon!!!

What I would really like to know is would it be adaptable as a semi-shoulder mount camera?? You are talking about "snuggling it between your chin and shoulder" I'm currently using 2 x HMC82's and the only downside is the tiny 1/4" chips!!! I'm so used to a shoulder mount camera and don't want to have to use a camera cradled in just my hands!! At weddings we do a lot of handheld and it looks like the EVF on the 130 is much the same as the 150 ...the 80's has the LCD in the EVF so you get a HUGE EVF and brilliant to use....when you are snuggling are you using the LCD ??? If that OK for handheld or do you think that one would still need a frame and shoulder pad???? The one thing I really like about the EX3 from Sony is the fact it has an EVF on the side and you can shoot "from the shoulder" but I have been a Panny addict since they brought out the M series VHS cameras way back in the 80's!!!!!

Thanks for any input

Chris
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Old November 4th, 2011, 09:30 PM   #4
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Re: Anyone laid hands on the new AC-130 yet?

Chris, I've noticed in a lot of your posts you aren't a fan of the small VF on the small form factor cameras. Honestly neither am I but I'm going to throw something out here that may make a difference for you if you're thinking about going to them for the bigger chips.
As you know I am a big fan of the DVMultirig and use it a lot especially at receptions. HOWEVER, I did something to my back last weekend, nothing serious but enough to keep me from using the multirig as my back is rather painful. So for the rest of the year I'm going back to my old standby, the monopod. With the QR plate on it, I simply attach my wireless receiver to my belt, use a 4 foot XLR cable from the receiver to the camera, I still have my camera equipped as normal and I still use the LCD for framing and focus. Of course I'm still using the great old PD170s but I have used an EX1 and an HMC150 using the same technique and frankly use the same technique when on the Multirig.
The point I'm getting to is that the LCDS on the newer cams are quite good and work well for focusing and from what I have been hearing about both the 160 and the 130 the LCDS are fantastic and it is easy to focus accurately.
I'm wating until the 1st quarter of next year but I think the 130 will be my next A cam with perhaps a couple of preowned 150s as my B and C cameras.
I'm just sayin'.
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Old November 4th, 2011, 11:11 PM   #5
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Re: Anyone laid hands on the new AC-130 yet?

Chris, attached is me "snuggling." :)

The camera has a very flat back, and is fairly substantial in size, it almost works like a shoulder stock on a rifle. The eyepiece extends back far enough to connect with my cheek. As you an see, I'm using the LCD panel.

The camera has a host of new features that have really made it far easier to focus using the LCD, a major step up from the 150. Here they are:

Higher-quality LCD. This actually looks really good, MUCH better than the coarse resolution of the HVX/HPX/HMC lines from the last couple of years. Color is quite accurate and detail is high. Same as the AF100 panel.

EVF Detail - sharpens the image to make critical focus easier

Focus Assist - marks the in-focus portions of the image as peaking in red. Works even better with EVF detail.

Focus Bar - this small bar is at the bottom of the LCD, and gets longer as the image moves into focus


With all 4 of these enhancements working together, not to mention the very solid autofocus, focusing has been quite effective so far.

Last week I shot some ENG, and some of the local stations were using EX1s on simple shoulder mounts with V-Mount batteries as a counterbalance. I don't see why the new Panny cameras wouldn't also work just fine - the entire bottom of the cam is flat, so no strange angles to get in the way of mounting.
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Anyone laid hands on the new AC-130 yet?-p1010760.jpg  
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Old November 5th, 2011, 08:54 PM   #6
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Re: Anyone laid hands on the new AC-130 yet?

Thanks Guys

Brilliant!! In fact I don't think that a rig is needed at at but if I do need one I would probably just build one myself anyway from aluminium. Yeah Don, I think your upgrade is probably long overdue too and with the volume of weddings you do, just the saving in MiniDV tape would pay for the camera. I was staggered how much I was paying over 12 months for tapes in total.

Nate I really think that is quite practical so one wouldn't really need to use the EVF at all!! If the LCD is good then that's good enough for me..... maybe bright outdoors might be an issue but a simple hood would solve that!!

Now I have to see when they are available here...probably I will be looking at the time purchase time at Don but I would rather go for two 130's instead of a 130 and a used 150 .... Gosh Don your weddings would pay for a pair pretty quickly!!

Thanks again for sharing

Chris
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Old November 8th, 2011, 01:02 AM   #7
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Re: Anyone laid hands on the new AC-130 yet?

Mine should be here by Friday.
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Old November 8th, 2011, 06:55 AM   #8
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Re: Anyone laid hands on the new AC-130 yet?

Hi Guys

Small but silly question..does the AC-130 have "full auto" ?? I put my cams into full auto during standby times at wedding receptions as quite often I will get "shoot this quickly" ..With the cams in full auto I can grab any camera, snap on the power switch and record....if I had to fiddle with exposure and focus the event might be already over so I start every clip in full auto THEN switch to manual if it's needed or there is time!!!

Chris
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Old November 9th, 2011, 09:23 AM   #9
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Re: Anyone laid hands on the new AC-130 yet?

Has anyone moved from the Canon XH-A1 to the AG-AC130 and if so what do you miss and prefer?
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Old November 9th, 2011, 11:02 AM   #10
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Re: Anyone laid hands on the new AC-130 yet?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris Harding View Post
Small but silly question..does the AC-130 have "full auto"?
Chris
Yes it does have a dedicated switch to go into "AUTO" mode. That mode is comprised of 4 individual settings that you can turn on or off depending on your preference. They include Auto Iris, Auto Gain Control limit, Auto White Balance and Auto Focus.


As far as the XH-A1 goes, the AC-130 is incredibly similar. I had an XH-A1 a few years ago before switching to the HMC150; I missed the 20x lens on the Canon, the lens-barrel iris control ring, and the LCD. With the new Panasonic cam, I feel like all those features have returned and even improved. Moving from Canon HDV to Panny AVCCAM you'd feel right at home. Better quality images from the newer AC-130, but the 'look' of the Canon may be just a bit more pleasing right out of the box. However, it's easy to tweak picture profiles and correct in post.
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Old November 9th, 2011, 06:34 PM   #11
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Re: Anyone laid hands on the new AC-130 yet?

Thanks Nate!!

It certainly seems like a logical replacement for my HMC80's ! I could certainly do with 1/3" chips instead of 1/4"....from the look of things I would think that adding a simple rail to the buttom of the cam with a shoulder pad at one end and then my ENG spring support rod that I use under the front of my current cameras to take some weight off the lens will also work nicely.

Now I need to wait patiently until we get them in stock over this side of the pond!!

Chris
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Old November 9th, 2011, 08:01 PM   #12
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Re: Anyone laid hands on the new AC-130 yet?

Hi Guys,

I just want to correct the impression given here that the EVF is the same as in the HMC.

This is definitely not the case, and as an old fellow who has to wear glasses to see the LCD, the new EVF is the main reason I bought the AC130. It is the first 'run and gun' cam to have an EVF that lets you 'nail' the focus. (it is the same one from the AF100).

Here are the specs from the Panasonic brochure, it has more pixels than the LCD.

High-Quality Color Viewfinder and LCD
The AG-AC160/AC130's color EVF uses a 11.43 mm (0.45 inches),
approximately 1,226,000 dot-equivalent (852 x 480 x 3 [RGB]) LCOS
(liquid crystal on silicon) display panel. It delivers bright, detailed,
high-resolution images and a high response speed.
The AG-AC160/AC130's LCD monitor has a 87.63 mm (3.45 inches),
approximately 921,000-dot (1920 x 480) high-resolution panel.

I did a wedding last week with it, and I have nailed focus 99% of the whole wedding, I am wrapped.

Besides the assists mentioned already, the "focus select area" or face detect tool I found to be extremely accurate for reception guest-comment run and gun stuff. You can see the face detect area jump from one face to another as you pan around the tables and when you get home, the whole 120 guests were in focus. (and I used the focus and iris setting, so they were mostly all well exposed too)!

For the run and gun stuff, the assists on this camera have me really excited, so it looks like the HMC 150 is retired from weddings now, (Too hard to nail focus with EVF and not sharp enough), just as I retired my EX1's several years ago (bad ergonomics and poor EVF).

Here are several samples of the camera coping in a difficult lighting reception.

Cheers,

Vaughan
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Anyone laid hands on the new AC-130 yet?-still1107_00000.bmp   Anyone laid hands on the new AC-130 yet?-still1107_00001.bmp  

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Old November 10th, 2011, 06:44 PM   #13
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Re: Anyone laid hands on the new AC-130 yet?

OK. JUST GOT BACK.

Wanted to share my first commercial shoot w/ the AC130. Really simple little setup at a cabin in the woods for a local environmental outreach group - 15 second spot for movie theaters, so only like 2 lines of monologue. Used the AC130 with natural light and a bounce card and got some nice looking stand-up interview footy. It's REALLY sharp! Screen grabs below original and corrected with some simple curves and saturation in Final Cut X.

I used Scene File 1, just default Panasonic, daylight white balance, @ 0db. Very impressed so far.
Attached Thumbnails
Anyone laid hands on the new AC-130 yet?-elc_ac130.jpg   Anyone laid hands on the new AC-130 yet?-elc_ac130_corrected.jpg  

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