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AVCHD for pro applications: AG-AC160, AC130 and other AVCCAM gear.


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Old March 22nd, 2012, 11:25 AM   #1
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Pulling the trigger on an AG-AC160

I've been researching cameras for nearly a month.. looking at lots of options. I was interested in the Sony NX70 for a while, but the negative reviews made me back off from that. I also took a serious look at the DSLR Video solutions, but some of the work I'm doing or planning to do is more run and gun so a bulky setup is not a good option.

I will be using the camera to shoot instructional videos in outdoor gardening settings, as well as some outdoor interest pieces. I also shoot some sports video of local tennis matches as a hobby, and provide videos to the local college tennis teams. And, I've shot a dozen or more wedding videos in the past for friends (non professional). I use Adobe Premier Pro CS5.5. for NLE, so I'm pretty well setup for post production work (MacPro 8 core).

Originally I was looking at sub $3K for the camera.. but when I looked at all the options, I found that the camera I'd be most satisfied with all around was north or $4K. The Panasonic AG-AC160 seems to have what I'm looking for.. I found a new one for just under $4K.. free shipping.

I'm looking for more feedback/comments on it. I did not find a lot of threads related to that camera, so I'm wondering how many people are using it? It's a fairly new camera, so maybe there are not that many users just yet?

The other cameras I've looked at, that are less money, are the Canon XF100 and the NX7U. I think only the XF100 is a serious contender now.

Some of the things I like about the AC160:
- 22x zoom
- SD cards (versus CF)
- Manual controls
- 3 sensors
- new firmware to give 1080p 60fps (supposedly)
- Variable frame rate recording (this might be a neat feature, but I could honestly live without it.)
- Time lapse or interval recording (this is one I really want)

Any feedback would be appreciated.

Cheers,

Ed
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Old March 22nd, 2012, 11:52 AM   #2
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Re: Pulling the trigger on an AG-AC160

I don't have that camera. But piling on your reasons FOR getting the camera.... from my experience, depending on what you have now, I think you will be glad for and enjoy that it has a 3 ring lens vs the 1 ring of the others. Another feature you may enjoy is the SDI out. It's handy when you want to add a field monitor or if you need an external record capability. Thirdly, the 3 position ND filter gives you more precision in your outdoor shooting. Plenty of times I would have liked that.

You didn't mention XLR audio but that's an important feature to have for the type of work you do... especially the corporate and instructional stuff.

Lastly, the overcranking will be handy for some coachable slow-mo footage for tennis.
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Old March 23rd, 2012, 06:20 AM   #3
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Re: Pulling the trigger on an AG-AC160

I've had my Panasonic AC130 (baby brother of the AC160) for about 6 weeks now. Here are my initial impressions:

Pros:
Superb images
Lots of manual controls - I love having all those knobs & switches [grin]

Cons:
OIS is not as good as I had hoped at full zoom. I made a YouTube video of this: StabilizationTest - Panasonic AC-130 vs TM700 - YouTube
Vignetting at full zoom and F5.6 to full open. Another YouTube video: Panasonic AC130 Vignetting Part II - YouTube

Comments:
There's lots of discussion about auto focus problems with these cameras. While not as snappy as I would have liked, I've not seen it as a problem.

Hope this helps,
...Jerry
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Old March 23rd, 2012, 10:08 AM   #4
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Re: Pulling the trigger on an AG-AC160

So I was a little scared to use my new AC130s to videotape a skating show using auto-focus. Not sure how anyone would want, or even could, use manual focus for an event like this. Especially with a single skater skating fast!

You will see two samples below. The first one is a sample video. It starts with a complete performance from one skater with the main camera perspective (no sound). After that there are a few clips that you can see the auto-focus not working very good. The second is a preview video for the skating show.

My overall thoughts:
- Overall I am "Satisfied" with the auto-focus for this event (I had low expectations to begin with)
- The auto-focus was not as good as last year when we used Canon XH-A1, but not much worse
- Besides auto-focus, everything else was great using the AC130 for an event like this
- Love my new scene file picture profile, love the color. Let me know if you would like the details


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Old March 23rd, 2012, 01:12 PM   #5
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Re: Pulling the trigger on an AG-AC160

Thanks for the video posts. I see some focus hunting toward the end of the first video.

I have to say that I'd still go with manual focus on this type of shot, due to the background changing so much, and near-field objects entering the focus area on occasion. You could perhaps use focus assist to help make it faster, and insure that the skater is in focus not the background.

Another thought would be to use the focus square, and make sure the square is centered on the skater. That might be difficult if you drift off, but if the focus speed is slow enough, it might work well.

I have my order in for an AC160, so I've committed to it now.
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Old March 23rd, 2012, 01:17 PM   #6
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Re: Pulling the trigger on an AG-AC160

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jerry Amende View Post
Comments:
There's lots of discussion about auto focus problems with these cameras. While not as snappy as I would have liked, I've not seen it as a problem.

Hope this helps,
...Jerry
So far the focus issues I've seen (with video) show scenes with various possible focal points, and the camera hunts for the best point. I'm not sure what people are expecting the camera to do.. read their mind? Make an AI choice? There are ways to direct the focus to a particular area, which is one of the things you get with a higher end camera, choices and options. Also, the manual focus would work just fine in several of the vimeo videos I've seen that highlight focus issues.

I don't have experience with a range of cameras, so I don't know what the expectation is/would be, or if other cameras would perform better in the same situations. That would be the real test...

Alas, I've committed to the AC160.. It's all over but the crying (over $$$) now..
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Old March 24th, 2012, 03:51 AM   #7
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Re: Pulling the trigger on an AG-AC160

You said you found one NEW for UNDER 4k? Was it a private sale or is this a retailer? Prices I saw for that cam were around $4700 last I checked.
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Old March 24th, 2012, 10:10 AM   #8
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Re: Pulling the trigger on an AG-AC160

Quote:
Originally Posted by Josh Bass View Post
You said you found one NEW for UNDER 4k? Was it a private sale or is this a retailer? Prices I saw for that cam were around $4700 last I checked.
BH has it listed for $4700, but when you put it in the cart, its $4200. I found it at Ryther camera listed for $3999. I actually ordered it, with the free shipping. They told me it would be shipped in about a week, and take 7-10 days, i.e. upwards of 3 weeks. So I upgraded the shipping, then they said that would be an extra $159. What? then, they said for just a couple hundred they would 'upgrade the camera' to the latest 2012 version (?), add in the Manufacturers 3year warranty, and a higher capacity battery... and they would throw in UV filter.. all for $4300. I fell for that.

Later that night, I thought about it, and something didn't feel right. The Panasonic warranty is 3 years period, according to their website. They were not giving me another battery just a supposedly "upgraded one", that didn't make sense either. A UV filter... like $16. And, they shipping 'upgrade' was a week. Sounded like UPS ground. I decided that BH was probably the best 'deal', since their reputation is quite good, they have a great return policy, and reasonable, no B-S shipping.

Ryther's $3999, after the BS and "handling charges" was $4300.
BH is $4200, with no BS shipping of 40-80, throw in the UV filter, and your about the same... but, you have a much better return policy, and no hassles.

Final thing. When I called the next morning, about 12 hours after I ordered, Ryther complained that they would have to pay the 3% fee to Amex if they voided the transaction. I'm thinking, no way, that's total B.S. Also, they guy was really rude, pushy, and downright obnoxious. I got Amex on the phone, and had the Amex guy TELL him that no, there is no transaction fee for a voided transaction, finally the guy relented. He literally wanted me to pay him the transaction fee for canceling the order. Turns out it had not even been charged, it was total B.S.

The moral to this story, some times the cheapest deal isn't a good deal after all..
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Old March 24th, 2012, 10:22 AM   #9
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Re: Pulling the trigger on an AG-AC160

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ed Henderson View Post
Final thing. When I called the next morning, about 12 hours after I ordered, Ryther complained that they would have to pay the 3% fee to Amex if they voided the transaction. I'm thinking, no way, that's total B.S. Also, they guy was really rude, pushy, and downright obnoxious. I got Amex on the phone, and had the Amex guy TELL him that no, there is no transaction fee for a voided transaction, finally the guy relented. He literally wanted me to pay him the transaction fee for canceling the order. Turns out it had not even been charged, it was total B.S.

The moral to this story, some times the cheapest deal isn't a good deal after all..
Total scam! If you have not order it yet give Josh at VSA a call. Most of the time he beats B & H pretty good and they are Authorized Dealer. They did a huge buy-in on the AC130 and AC160s so I am not sure of the price now. But give them a call at 1800-888-2140 to check, ask for Josh. There return policy is not the best but for the price they are hard to beat.
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Old March 24th, 2012, 03:55 PM   #10
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Re: Pulling the trigger on an AG-AC160

Damn, that's what I was afraid of. If gambling is allowed on this site, I'll place bets Hurd will pop in any moment and say you should always buy from a DVinfo sponsor cause they're super legit, and he'll probably tell you never to mention a non-sponsor by name lest you be severely spanked.

What you've described is a very common practice, from what I understand. . .advertise at some way low price, then drive it up to or past retail. "oh, you wanted the viewfinder and lens? Sigh. Well, okay, but that's another $1500."

When I got my XL1s a long time ago I got it from a place that did something similar but not as grevious. . .pushy sales guy got me into a 4 year mack warranty for another $400 driving the price up from the advertised $3400 or so up to $3800-ish. still not bad, but oh well.

And I was thinking I might actually be able to get this cam. I'll probably buy my friend's used HPX170. Or nothing. Ever.
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Old March 24th, 2012, 10:23 PM   #11
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Re: Pulling the trigger on an AG-AC160

As a general rule most cameras sold thru legitmate stores, be it brick or click, are pretty much the same price. If you see the camera at B&H for XX dollars then for the most part everyone else will be at that price as well. Some might be $100 less or $100 more but all will be close. You must be wary of the stores that offer the same camera for a ridiculously low price because they will do everything they can to "get you".
One reason why the sponsors here at DVi are sponsors. They've been around a long time, they've been veted out and if you look, you find they are all within a small towel as far as pricing.
Don't fall for the low price gimmick. It'll always come back to bite you.
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Old March 25th, 2012, 09:38 AM   #12
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Re: Pulling the trigger on an AG-AC160

Hi Ed

For some weird and wonderful reason I was locked out of the forum for 2 weeks!! No idea why but it just wouldn't load on my browser...then all was well again!!

I have two AC-130's and they are really neat cameras!!

A couple of issues :

Firstly it's a brute to handhold and really uncomfortable if you do long handheld shots so I have a simple DIY rail under mine with a little offset shoulder pad at the end and use the LCD as a viewfinder. Outdoors the LCD was useless and with the cam on my shoulder the EVF was just too far back so I have dropped a little loupe onto the LCD and it works really great and i have a HUGE EVF too (My last cams were HMC80's so I got used to the big EVF's) It's a worthwhile mod to do if you have to handhold!!

Secondly the default scene file if worse than useless!! It looks good on the LCD cos the LCD colour is boosted way up but the end result will be a wishy washy image with no wow factor at all. What I have done is reduced my LCD colour setting to "-3" and made up a few scene files using the F3 setting and then two more with kind thanks from Jeffery!!! Makes a HUGE difference!!!

What I really do like is in a run 'n gun situation you can zap the cams into full auto and the focus and iris still work !! I let the auto do it's job and then use the rings to tweak!!

Chris
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Old March 25th, 2012, 11:48 AM   #13
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Re: Pulling the trigger on an AG-AC160

Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris Harding View Post
Hi Ed

For some weird and wonderful reason I was locked out of the forum for 2 weeks!! No idea why but it just wouldn't load on my browser...then all was well again!!

Chris
I was wondering what happened to you. Things were very quite without you. ;-)
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Old March 25th, 2012, 03:54 PM   #14
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Re: Pulling the trigger on an AG-AC160

So you're saying the cam is not the awesomest thing since sliced bread? I hoped it would be.

What did OP mean about vignetting from "5.6 to wide open"?
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Old March 25th, 2012, 07:38 PM   #15
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Re: Pulling the trigger on an AG-AC160

Hi Don

No idea why but I have a feeling that it was something to do with the IP address I was on from my provider that the DVInfo server didn't like...the main website came up but clicking on the forum did absolutely nothing..no errors no warnings...BUT my wife's puter also couldn't access the forum and we are on the same network..so that was the issue I guess.

Hi Josh

Yes, I think they are great cameras..I bought two didn't I???? They do have a few issues...personally I haven't experienced any vignetting at all ...but I seldom need to shoot at 22X zoom ...more often than not I go maybe 3X or 4X maximum!!! I DO like the very wide lens...it;s way better than my old cameras!! So far, great results and nothing that cannot be worked around or solved. I'm just adding my personal thoughts about the cameras be they good or bad and some may not affect others and some may!!

Chris
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