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AG-AC160 firmware update 1.11, have you done it?

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Christopher Coffyn
AG-AC160 firmware update 1.11, have you done it?
on Feb 1, 2012 at 8:17:59 pm

Curious if anyone has updated to this firmware?


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J. c. Berger
Re: AG-AC160 firmware update 1.11, have you done it?
on Feb 5, 2012 at 5:36:46 pm

Where is the link for upgrade? And did it include any release notes?


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Christopher Coffyn
Re: AG-AC160 firmware update 1.11, have you done it?
on Feb 6, 2012 at 7:58:09 pm

You can sign up on the Panasonic website. It may have been when I registered the product, so it came by email. It's a bit confusing as it's titled, "P2 Asset Support System (PASS)" The email did not include any release notes, but maybe there is something on the site that I missed.

Here's what they sent me:

P2 Asset Support System (PASS) Information, February 1, 2012 / Issue 51
----------------------------------------------------------------------
[Update] AG-AC160 series Version 1.11
Stability of process in HE mode has been improved.
----------------------------------------------------------------------
Download
https://eww.pass.panasonic.co.jp/p2ui/ShowContentsDetail.do?screenId=UI_P2U...

Please visit below if you cannot open the above website:
https://eww.pass.panasonic.co.jp/pro-av/support/cs/csregistp2m/ep2main/soft...

-------------------------------------------------------------------------
This is distributed to PASS members.
To be removed from the mailing list, please change the subscription status
in your "Customer profile" at the PASS members site:
Log in: http://panasonic.biz/sav/pass_e
-------------------------------------------------------------------------


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Stephen Crye
Re: AG-AC160 firmware update 1.11, have you done it?
on Mar 22, 2012 at 11:59:29 pm

Hi Panny People!

I might be on this Cow forum a lot in the next few weeks.

My sad story - since November 2011, I have purchased and returned:
* Three different Sony HXR-NX70s (for image quality problems that included inconsistent focus and horrible coma/chromatic aberration, particularly at full zoom)

* a Sony HXR-NX5U ( for "soft" image problems at wide angle and CA/coma at all zoom levels, plus the screen was too small and dim) However, it was a quality camera and I did not "hate" it.
* A sony NEX-VG20H (did not need to test for more than 1 hour, this is not a pro camera, low-light performance from the kit 18-200mm lens was a joke and I hated the shallow depth of field)

There is nothing left in the Sony lineup for me to test. I will hate giving up on the Sony PMB utility. I also really loved the 1080 60p mode (28 Mbps) on the NX70 and the VG20.

So, I was intrigued to learn that the AC160 firmware update will enable 1080 60p. This would be really, really great. Does anyone know what the bit rate will be? 24 Mbps will not cut it ...

I plan to test an AC160 as soon as I get the refund for the VG20 I will be sending back tomorrow.

Some frame grabs from my nearly 6-months of testing pain can be viewed here: http://www.huecotanks.com/temp1 . Comments on how those images compare with the AC160 will be most welcome!

Thanks,

Steve

Win7 Pro X64 on Dell T3400, MultiTB SATA, 8GB RAM Vegas 10e (and 11) x64 DVDA 5.2(build 133) Sony HDR-CX550V


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Christopher Coffyn
Re: AG-AC160 firmware update 1.11, have you done it?
on Mar 23, 2012 at 3:39:06 pm

Hey Stephen,
Thanks for posting. I"ve been a Sony guy forever and had looked at all the various cameras shooting AVCHD at NAB last year. I really like the 160p, but have yet had time to really try it out on an actual shoot. I've been up to my ears trying to finishing lots of stuff already in the can.

I'm so sorry to hear about your issues. Our baby step into HD 5 years ago was with the Sony Z1U. I really didn't like HDV, but it worked best in our workflow back then. We had major issues with the back focus on this camera as did a friend of ours.

Anyway, all that to say I have not actually done the firmware update on the 160. Was not aware that the firmware update actually added any features, but I would think the bitrate, as it's still AVCHD, would all be the same. Sounds like you should look at the AVC Intra camcorders.


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Stephen Crye
Re: AG-AC160 firmware update 1.11, have you done it?
on Mar 23, 2012 at 5:31:28 pm

Hi;

This blurb from Panny sure seems to imply new features will be implemented:
http://pro-av.panasonic.net/en/sales_o/news_info/news111116/111116.html

From that link:


InterBEE, Chiba, Japan (November 16th, 2011) -- Panasonic corporation announced new firmware for its AVCCAM handheld camera recorder AG-AC160 will be available in spring 2012. The new firmware will allow AG-AC160 to record in full HD progressive formats complying with AVCHD progressive standard.

When new firmware is installed on AG-AC160, it can capture and record onto SD memory cards (SDXC/SDHC/SD)*1 in full HD progressive 1080/59.94p or 1080/50p format*2 complying with AVCHD progressive standard. LPCM audio recording is also available while its format is AVCHD progressive.

Panasonic corporation schedules to release new firmware on its web site “Service and Support” of http://pro-av.panasonic.net/en/ in spring 2012 to allow the customers download it for free. The customers can update AG-AC160 firmware with SD memory card.

*1: SDXC/SDHC/SD memory card Class 6 or higher is required.
*2: Output signals from HD SDI or HDMI terminals are converted to 1080/59.94i or 1080/50i. 1080/59.94p or 1080/50p signals can’t be output from the terminals.

Steve

Win7 Pro X64 on Dell T3400, MultiTB SATA, 8GB RAM Vegas 10e (and 11) x64 DVDA 5.2(build 133) Sony HDR-CX550V


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Christopher Coffyn
Re: AG-AC160 firmware update 1.11, have you done it?
on Mar 23, 2012 at 7:21:04 pm

Excellent, thanks Steve. The only bit I knew was what little was said in the spiel when I downloaded the 1.11 update. It's cool new features can be added like this.

I trust your next camcorder purchase will be a good one with no bugs.


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Christopher Coffyn
Re: AG-AC160 firmware update 1.11, have you done it?
on Mar 24, 2012 at 8:44:54 pm

I've been trying to do the firmware update for the last hour. Wow, the instructions are not correct from the Panasonic PDF document I downloaded.

Does anyone have any idea how to do this? I'm sure other Panasonic cameras must be similar.


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Christopher Coffyn
Re: AG-AC160 firmware update 1.11, have you done it?
on Mar 24, 2012 at 9:03:18 pm

OK, for those that google like a mad man and can't find the answer here it is.

To do the firmware update:
DO NOT go into the menu, as step 3 indicates on the Panasonic PDF.

After turning the camcorder on and in the camera mode hit all three buttons at the exact same time and hold your breath or make a funny face :) And the "UPDATE" selection will appear, the follow the rest of the instructions from Panasonic PDF. I had to try it a few times to get the selection exactly right.

The three buttons are the ones listed in the pdf, "Menu", Exec" and the "Stop" tilt lever in the down position. Happy updating!!


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Karl Gerhard
Re: AG-AC160 firmware update 1.11, have you done it?
on Apr 13, 2012 at 8:07:03 pm

The "3 button pressing at once" technique is a pain. Not sure if the instructions are clear. I interpreted it to mean that the update menu would pop up. It doesn't show up on my first menu screen that appears when using this method. I had to scroll down through the menu to find it.

Updated and now trying to figure out how to get to 1080/60P. That is not showing up as a selectable format in the menu so far.......

I demo'd a 160 back about 6 weeks ago and it did have the 1080/60p. It is nice!


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Christopher Coffyn
Re: AG-AC160 firmware update 1.11, have you done it?
on Apr 14, 2012 at 2:59:49 pm

I don't think this first update that I just did actually offers that. I looked as well and did not see it, so I'm wondering if it's actually coming soon or during NAB.


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Stephen Crye
Re: AG-AC160 firmware update 1.11, have you done it?
on Apr 15, 2012 at 1:54:43 am

Hi;

Several sources including Adam Wilt at Provideocoalition say that the 1.11 update is not the AVCHD 2.0 update that will enable full 1080 50/60p at ~ 28 Mbps. (check out the comments on his Jan 2012 review of the AC160 and HPX250)

Look for an announcement from Panasonic rep Jan Crittenden at NAB 2012 on Sunday, April 15. Hopefully she will be announcing the actual availability of the update, not just another Tease!

I'm speculating that the unit you demo'd was a brand-new one that had the firmware installed.

Steve

Win7 Pro X64 on Dell T3400, MultiTB SATA, 8GB RAM Vegas 10e (and 11) x64 DVDA 5.2(build 133) Sony HDR-CX550V


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Stephen Crye
Re: AG-AC160 firmware update 1.11, have you done it?
on Apr 15, 2012 at 4:36:22 pm

Here is the link to the live stream for the Panny press conference later today at NAB:
http://www.ustream.tv/panasonic

Steve

Win7 Pro X64 on Dell T3400, MultiTB SATA, 8GB RAM Vegas 10e (and 11) x64 DVDA 5.2(build 133) Sony HDR-CX550V


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Karl Gerhard
Re: AG-AC160 firmware update 1.11, have you done it?
on Apr 16, 2012 at 12:48:57 am

Any news of the possible NAB announcement for the 1080/60P update today? Missed the webcast & nothing new on the Panasonic website that I could find.

Thanks,

Karl Gerhard
Group Effort Pro


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Christopher Coffyn
Re: AG-AC160 firmware update 1.11, have you done it?
on Apr 16, 2012 at 2:15:43 pm

I'm at NAB, but have been in classes. Today, Monday, is of course the first "booth" day. I have lots of questions for the Panny gang, but it will have to wait till later in the convention. So someone else will likely know before me, but I"ll post if I hear anything.

Having switched from Sony cameras for most of my video career, I'm trying to get my head wrapped around the Panny way of doing things, specifically audio on the 160. The manual is just not detailed enough. We do love the camera though, even if some of my friends are shooting/experimenting w/DSLR.


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Stephen Crye
Re: AG-AC160 firmware update 1.11, have you done it?
on Apr 16, 2012 at 3:34:35 pm

HI;

Yesterday Panny announced some very interesting new features for the AC160:
http://www2.panasonic.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/prModelDetail?storeId=1...

From the above press release:

LAS VEGAS, NV (April 15, 2012) — Panasonic has announced the AG-AC160A and AG-AC130A, upgraded versions of its newest professional AVCCAM HD camcorders. Improved functionality in both camcorders includes expanded focus assist and “turbo speed” one-push auto focus function; the AC160A also incorporates acquisition in the 1080/60p and 1080/50p HD recording formats (in new PS mode).

In addition to conventional focus-in-red assist, the expanded focus assist enables the AC160A and AC130A to zoom in on the picture to check focus. The turbo-speed one-push auto focus capability ensures that the camcorders quickly attain focus. The addition of 1080/60p and 50p recording (maximum 28Mbps in PS mode) to the AC160A is of especial value to worldwide customers in broadcasting, sports and scientific analysis, where this mastering-quality format is rapidly proliferating.

The AG-AC160A and AG-AC130A will be available in May at suggested list prices of $5,095.00 and $4,195.00, respectively. Current AC160 and AC130 owners can purchase this suite of upgrades for $300.

The 60p/50p upgrade is free and can be performed by the customer. The turbo-speed one-push auto focus and expanded focus assist upgrades require a hardware change and this need to be done at a Panasonic Authorized Service Center.

The AC160A and AC130A incorporate high-sensitivity 1/3”, full-HD 2.2 megapixel 3-MOS imagers to capture native 1920 x 1080 resolution images, with a new, wider 22X HD zoom lens, the longest in its category. Key features include two SD Memory Card slots for relay or simultaneous recording, compatibility with Panasonic’s new SDHC full Class 10 UHS-1 (Ultra High Speed) Memory Cards, an enhanced viewfinder and LCD display, and DV recording. The higher-end AC160A also includes such top production features as variable frame rate recording in 1080p, Linear PCM audio, HD-SDI output, and switchability between 59.94Hz/50Hz.

I really don't want to wait until May, now debating if I ought to just get the AC160 now and pay for the Turbo Focus upgrade.

Steve

Win7 Pro X64 on Dell T3400, MultiTB SATA, 8GB RAM Vegas 10e (and 11) x64 DVDA 5.2(build 133) Sony HDR-CX550V


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Christopher Coffyn
Re: AG-AC160 firmware update 1.11, have you done it?
on Apr 17, 2012 at 2:31:07 pm

He Steve, excellent! Thanks for posting.

The question is, is the $300.00 upgrade worth it? I think I've figured a way to get a really good focus, even in low light, though I"m used to the zoom in focus from our previous Sony camera. So I did really like that. The auto quick focus sounds great, but I've never had that in a pro or prosumer camera. I know these things are getting better, but is that accurate enough and in lower light (which I often film in) to be usable. Time will tell, but anybody have a thought?

I'll update the firmware for sure though. Really nice that we can gain features this way and enhancements.


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Stephen Crye
Re: AG-AC160 firmware update 1.11, have you done it?
on Apr 17, 2012 at 4:57:46 pm

I ordered an AC160 (not the 160A) yesterday. B&H had a lower price that 2 weeks ago and I decided to go for it.

I'm leaning toward getting the $300.00 upgrade, but I'll have to see how the focus is. I really, really hate not having expanded focus.

So ... what is your focus secret?

BTW I called Panny pro support and they saw the press release but still have no idea when the AVCHD 2.0 firmware will be out! Kind of disturbing. The engineer promised to send me an email, will post an update here when I know more. This upgrade is critical for me, I won't buy any AVCHD 1.0 cam for any reason.

Steve

Win7 Pro X64 on Dell T3400, MultiTB SATA, 8GB RAM Vegas 10e (and 11) x64 DVDA 5.2(build 133) Sony HDR-CX550V


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Stephen Crye
Re: AG-AC160 firmware update 1.11, have you done it?
on Apr 17, 2012 at 5:42:31 pm

Panny Pro support just replied, the answer was a little terse:

"This upgrade will be available end of may. Keep watching our website.
http://pro-av.panasonic.net/en/index.html "

Seems like a long, long way away! I might have to return my AC160 before then and re-buy one later (perhaps an AC160A), end of May will be outside the B&H return window for this purchase. Can't risk any problems, if the upgrade has side effects, etc.

Nervous,

Steve

Win7 Pro X64 on Dell T3400, MultiTB SATA, 8GB RAM Vegas 10e (and 11) x64 DVDA 5.2(build 133) Sony HDR-CX550V


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Christopher Coffyn
Re: AG-AC160 firmware update 1.11, have you done it?
on Apr 18, 2012 at 2:40:42 pm

Once you get the camera and register it w/Panny you will be notified automatically when firmware updates are available. Not helpful to you now though.

Focus, OK, let me see what I can remember since I don't have the camera in front of me.I've only shot one short project on it and some b roll for another thus far.

Like you I"m sure, but I was always taught to zoom in focus on every shot, z-out... In doco work I've found that very impractical lots of times. Never did doco stuff in my early days. So in the 160p I keep the focus assist on, the classic highlights turn red when in focus, then, with that kept on, there is this other button, evf detail or something like that. It seems to look kind of like adding an unsharp mask in photoshop as the edges suddenly look super sharp AND in low light, where the red highlight thing doesn't usually work very well, it works great and I see the red highlights even in low light AND a crisper image when in focus. I know some would hate all that, but I'm pretty darn picky about my focus and composition and seeing all the readouts around the viewfinder. I've turned most of them on. There is a button on the side so you can quickly turn all that off, which i've used a lot thus far. Let me know if that's not clear. Sorry I"m kind tired after a late night at the Supermeet.


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Stephen Crye
Re: AG-AC160 firmware update 1.11, have you done it?
on Apr 18, 2012 at 4:58:15 pm

Thanks;

I appreciate the tips, but not sure if they would work for me. I've been burned using "peaking" before. (I'm simplifying here but you know what I mean). And the problem with "zoom in to focus and back off" won't work while you are rolling, only before you start, and then ONLY if the lens is parfocal or close - any back-focus problems will bite you.

That reminds me - every notice any back-focus problems with the AC160?

Last night, as I was on UPS watching the slow ground progress of my AC160, I had another worry. One thing many people complained about with the AC160 is the lack of magnification on the viewfinder eyepiece. What if the new AC160A has fixed that? In that case, I will be burned by buying the AC160 and paying the $300.00 for the TurboFocus upgrade.

Also fretting about the possibility that the AC160A might someday be eligible for some kind of an upgrade that just won't work on the original AC160, even after the $300 TurboFocus hardware upgrade.

If Only I Had a Crystal Ball and could predict the B&H discount on the AC160 once it is available!

Oh, well.

Here's a link to the new Brochure for the AC160A:
http://pro-av.panasonic.net/en/sales_o/broch_pdf/ag-ac160a.pdf

Steve

Win7 Pro X64 on Dell T3400, MultiTB SATA, 8GB RAM Vegas 10e (and 11) x64 DVDA 5.2(build 133) Sony HDR-CX550V


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Christopher Coffyn
Re: AG-AC160 firmware update 1.11, have you done it?
on Apr 21, 2012 at 5:02:50 am

Personally I would buy the latest version of the 160 if we had not jumped in when we did. BUT once I jump, I try not to look back, though it's tempting. Ultimately, as you know, it's all about telling a good story and I've seen some really bad stories shot on some very expensive cameras. I think you can tell some great stories Steve, on the camera you have ordered. Be encouraged.

I have not noticed any back focus issues. Our previous HD camcorder (Sony) had that issue, but it was easily fixed by Sony and we never had another problem with it.

I have not used a viewfinder in some years, mainly because our last few camcorders had much higher rez flip-out monitors.

So you've found the peaking function not reliable? On our previous camcorder it seemed to work well when I used it. This is good info, I think I need to do some more tests and see. Thanks again for posting!


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Stephen Crye
Re: AG-AC160 firmware update 1.11, have you done it?
on Apr 23, 2012 at 12:08:02 am

Thanks Chris!

Regarding peaking - I had problems with it on the Sony NX70. In particular, one day I was at the base of a 500' radio tower, shooting it against a blue sky. I had peaking on, and adjusted the focus in and out while watching the peaking highlights move up and down the length of the tower. My goal was to shoot the tower so that the top half all the way to the top was in sharp focus. Even though the peaking told me that my target zone of the tower was in focus, in post the shot was unusable. This was very annoying because I had paid $15.00 for a ride on the tramway to the top of the mountain!

I think the problem with peaking is that all it does it look for max contrast, and in this case, the bright red and white paint on the tower, combined with the high-contrast shadows of sun on the struts really fooled the system.

Other cases where peaking does not seem to work:
* Xmas lights at night
* Cat fur in full sunlight

There is really no substitute for expanded focus sometimes.

Steve

Win7 Pro X64 on Dell T3400, MultiTB SATA, 8GB RAM Vegas 10e (and 11) x64 DVDA 5.2(build 133) Sony HDR-CX550V


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Christopher Coffyn
Re: AG-AC160 firmware update 1.11, have you done it?
on Apr 24, 2012 at 3:30:28 am

Thanks Steve! I"m going to do a few more test.


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Stephen Crye
Re: AG-AC160 firmware update 1.11, have you done it?
on Apr 30, 2012 at 10:02:36 pm

Hi Chris;

FYI I sent the AC160 back. Not sure if it is polite to post my criticisms here. I'm still sad about it not working out. There is pretty much nothing left to try in the three-chipper ENG offerings until JVC releases the GY-HM600U in late October.

For now I'm slunk back to my cave to lick my wounds and try to get some solace by fiddling with Vegas 11.

Steve

Win7 Pro X64 on Dell T3400, MultiTB SATA, 8GB RAM, nVidia FX 570, Vegas 10e (and 11) x64 DVDA 5.2(build 133) Sony HDR-CX550V


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Christopher Coffyn
Re: AG-AC160 firmware update 1.11, have you done it?
on May 1, 2012 at 1:57:53 am

No worries Steve. I hope you find something that will scratch just the right creative and functional itches! All the best!


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Karl Gerhard
Re: AG-AC160 firmware update 1.11, have you done it?
on May 1, 2012 at 7:53:59 pm

Here is the update I just got from Matt of Audio-Video corp in VT.

Click on Software for AVCCAM Product

https://eww.pass.panasonic.co.jp/pro-av/support/cs/csregistp2m/ep2main/soft...

Click on AC160 is in the bottom

https://eww.pass.panasonic.co.jp/pro-av/support/cs/csregistp2m/ep2main/soft...

I'm downloading now and will update if any issues occur.

Karl Gerhard
Group Effort Pro


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Christopher Coffyn
Re: AG-AC160 firmware update 1.11, have you done it?
on May 2, 2012 at 3:22:34 am

Thanks Karl! When you register your 160 you will get notifications automatically from Panasonic. I did the update, but haven't tested anything yet.

My biggest question regarding washed out blacks and under saturated colours is actually at this link here: http://www.dvxuser.com/V6/showthread.php?281500-Black-levels-washed-out-and...


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Guy McLoughlin
AG-AC160 Issues ?
on May 2, 2012 at 3:05:38 pm

[Stephen Crye] "FYI I sent the AC160 back. Not sure if it is polite to post my criticisms here. I'm still sad about it not working out.

So what were the main drawbacks for you with the AC160 ?

Was it the red color-fringing that you mentioned earlier ?

Panasonic will never fix these issues if we don't make them aware of them.


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Stephen Crye
Re: AG-AC160 Issues ?
on May 3, 2012 at 9:40:19 pm

Hi Guy;

No, it was not the red thing, I was ready for that.

Are you sure it is OK to post my criticisms here? Don't want to annoy the truly fine Panny People here in this forum. If you think it is OK, I can post what I sent to Jan. Please let me know ...

One reason I don't want to bother this group is that it is possible I might end up buying the AC160A, in which case I will be on here a lot.

Steve

Win7 Pro X64 on Dell T3400, MultiTB SATA, 8GB RAM, nVidia FX 570, Vegas 10e (and 11) x64 DVDA 5.2(build 133) Sony HDR-CX550V


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Guy McLoughlin
Re: AG-AC160 Issues ?
on May 4, 2012 at 12:22:39 am

Hi Steve,

I believe in telling the whole truth about any piece of gear, warts'n'all, as I feel it would be a disservice to this group if you end up censoring your true opinions here.

For example, I currently shoot a lot with modified ("hacked" ) Panasonic GH2 cameras, which produce an excellent video image. They might not be as easy to use as an AF-100 camera, but I don't mind living with some small inconveniences to achieve great results with a low cost camera.

On the other hand, the GH2 camera takes absolutely horrible JPEG still photos ( the Panasonic JPEG engine is the weakest of the major brands ), and I was ready to stop using it for photos until I tried shooting raw photos and processing them with Adobe LightRoom. Shooting raw images, the GH2 is an OK still photo camera. At some point I will likely buy an Olympus OM-D camera to shoot stills with my Micro 4/3 lenses, as I still feel that Panasonic has a long way to go compared to Olympus.

I would only buy a Panasonic AF-100 camera if the price dropped to less than $3,000, as I feel that this camera desperately needs a sensor upgrade if it wants to compete with the Sony FS-100. I like the overall build of the AF-100, but the image quality just isn't there compared to the Sony FS cameras.

I am hoping that Panasonic steps up it's game and introduces a replacement for the AF-100, with a new sensor featuring better dynamic range, lower high ISO noise, and AVC-Intra internal recording. Otherwise I think my only route is to switch to the Sony FS cameras to stay competitive with the market.


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Stephen Crye
Re: AG-AC160 Issues ?
on May 4, 2012 at 3:36:04 am

Hi Guy;

Ok, here goes.

Again, please keep in mind that I wanted to love the AC160. I really, really did. My mission in life is not to buy cam after cam just to harpoon them ...

Here is the text description of the YouTube vid I just posted that shows some of the problems; following that is a link to the video.

I suggest watching it 720p or higher. No need to turn up the sound to hear the noise; if you can hear my voice at normal volume then you will be able to hear the zoom servo noise.

---------------
I bought a Panasonic AG-AC160 after months of research. I really wanted to like the cam. I was excited when it arrived.

But I sent it back after only a day of testing. This camera has some severe flaws that outweigh the other great features.

Before all the Panny apologists lay into me, let me state that I'm happy if you like yours. But, compared to other cameras I have owned or tested, it is unacceptable. No camera is perfect, but for close to $5K, I expect it to be a LOT better than my good old Sony HDR-CX550V.

Other cams to which I compared it included the Sony NX5U and the Sony HXR-NX70U.

The biggest problem with the AC160: the zoom servos are horribly loud, if any zoom speed other than a slow creep is used!

I had never heard anything like this. Conceivably the unit I had was faulty, but I don't think so.

The whine was so loud that it even came through on the recordings when using an external mic on a separate stand 6' away. This made the camera useless for any serious recordings of classical chamber music. It also really bugged me on ENG stuff - whirrr, whirrrrr with every zoom. I'm speculating this cam uses a gearmotor of some kind to drive the lens, where the Sony's I've used have a stepper motor. Puzzled but, just could not stand the whine.

The second biggest problem, one that I only noticed after I sent it back to B&H for a full refund (Love you B&H! The BEST camera shop in the world) was the HORRIBLE vignetting at full zoom. Again, the NX70 and NX5 do NOT have this problem!

The image quality was otherwise good, and the face detection worked well. I had no real problems with the auto-focus, although it was a bit slow at the long end in dim light. Also, I had no objections to the EVF - it could have a bit more magnification, but it is useable. It came with the Barry Green book.

Some things I might have lived with had the zoom been quiet and the vignetting not so horrible:

* The build quality is worse than I had anticipated, even having been warned. The rings felt a bit scratchy, not silky like the rings on a Sony NX5. The buttons are cheap and rattled at the slightest shake. The plastic housing felt thin; taps on the cam created a hollow sound that also came through on the recordings. The bottom plastic base, where the tripod attaches, in particular felt and sounded thin and cheap. I know Panny is supposedly trying to save mass, but it made me want to open up the case and line the housing with DynaMat to suppress the hollow sounds. In general it just felt cheap compared to what I have grown used to with Sonys.

* The handle zoom rocker is not vario. I knew about this before I bought it but it bugged me more than I thought it would.
* Instead of a lever-action dust cover for the lens, there is a misplace-able lens cap.
* The cooling fan noise is audible in quiet environments.
* I had problems with quick white-balance, i.e. when pointing it at a card. The joystick knob when set to one-push did not seem to work reliably. I'd prefer a dedicated one-push white balance button.
* The cam has more noise in low light than the NX5, but not a lot more.
* The manual focus-assist seemed annoying. I never did figure out how to leave the cam in Auto-everything mode and still have full manual focus. I'm sure there is a way, but Panny makes it hard to get to.
* The position of the LCD is not optimal - it needs to be up on the handle.

---------

And the link to the vid:







I wonder if the fact that I am not a pro who makes a living from video affects my judgement. Whereas pros might be willing to live with some flaws, perhaps because they expense their cams or because the company owns them, I just can't can't afford to do that. I had to save for over a year and then take out a loan to amass the $5K I want to spend on a better cam than my old and beat-up Sony HDR-CX550V. I just assumed that cams costing 3 to 4 times as much would have a lot better image and audio quality. Also, a big part of my rejections is the fact that the little CX550V is a truly great camera - I really lucked out when I bought it as my first 1080 camera.

In surveying the market, even if I were to spend $30K+, I don't see anything that meets my requirements. I need a light, compact camera - the AC160 is at the upper limit for mass and size. I need SDHC/SDXC (not expensive CF, P2 or SxS) media. I need a big, fast, zoomy lens. I need flat focus from corner to corner at all zoom levels, with no vignetting. I need a fixed, non-interchangeable lens and a small sensor so that I have deep depth of field. I need AVCHD 2.0 with 1080 60p. I need 1000 TV lines of resolution. I need a vario zoom rocker on the handle, and I vastly prefer a handle-mounted LCD. I need expanded focus. I need low, low coma and low chromatic aberration.

Each of the cameras I have tested since October 2011 (Sony NX5, NX70 and AC160) have come close but had one or two things wrong (different for each one!) that made them unacceptable. If it were not for the fabulous customer service from B&H I would be stuck with an NX70 - I only discovered the inconsistent edge focus problem after I had it for 6 weeks. B&H agreed to take it back, and in gratitude I am their customer for life.

Right now the only cam that might pass muster (that I have not already bought and rejected) is the JVC GY-HM600U - IF JVC gives it AVDHD 2.0 by the time it is out in October.

Steve

Win7 Pro X64 on Dell T3400, MultiTB SATA, 8GB RAM, nVidia FX 570, Vegas 10e (and 11) x64 DVDA 5.2(build 133) Sony HDR-CX550V


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Guy McLoughlin
Re: AG-AC160 Issues ?
on May 4, 2012 at 12:10:58 pm

Hi Steve,

I think you are going to have a very tough time finding any camera that meets all of your requirements, as there is no perfect camera.

I watched your video in 1080p mode, and everything you demo in your video looks normal to me. I own a Panasonic HMC-150 camera that I've used for the past 4 years, and overall I've been extremely happy with the results I've obtained with it.

As a professional I don't care if buttons rattle as long as they work reliably. The servo-noise you mention seems to be identical with every other Panasonic prosumer camera that I've used ( HVX-200, HPX-170, HMC-150 ), and has never been an issue with audio recording, but then I only use the built-in camera mics for reference. For proper audio recording you need different gear, placed off-camera, and positioned to obtain high quality sound. If I was going to shoot ENG style with the mic on the camera, then I would upgrade to a professional mic that is designed to reject camera noise ( like the Sanken CS-1 ), and I doubt that I would ever hear servo noise in my recordings.

I do agree with the flimsy-ness of the plastic base-plate, which I replaced with a solid aluminum base-plate on my HMC-150. Hopefully 3rd party companies will make aluminum plates for the AC-130 / AC-160 / HPX-250 line of cameras.

I also don't see much of a vignetting problem with the image in your video. Overall I think you are being way too picky with your assessment of this camera. There is no perfect piece of equipment, so it's up to the film-maker to master their gear, and learn how to work around any small issues that might pop up.

I suspect part of your problems might be from using the camera in auto-mode. Pretty much all professional cameras are horrible in auto-mode, which is why most pros do almost everything manually. ( autofocus can be handy if the light is good, and the subject is suitable for the AF mechanism )

Even learning how to properly set the image controls with pretty much any prosumer camera is going to take you the better part of a week, to get some idea of how you can modify the video image by changing a dozen or more image settings.

I haven't shot with a Sony HDR-CX550V, but if it's like other Canon/Panasonic/Sony consumer cameras that I've worked with, it has severe limitations when it comes to image quality, camera motion, audio quality, CODEC compression. Consumer cameras are a great deal for the price, you do get a lot of functionality for the price, but they are very limiting in the hands of a pro that is looking for manual controls for every feature.

If you are looking to produce higher quality videos, I honestly think that you are going to have to pick one camera, and learn how to produce the best quality image you can with it. This may take months, and require lots of little modifications to master all of the features.

Also, audio is a whole other ball of wax, that will take as much or more effort to master compared to mastering a professional camera.

Sorry to hear that no camera has worked out for you so far, but I do think you are going to have to bite the bullet at some point, pick a camera, and learn how to achieve the best quality result with it.

Good-luck.

- Guy


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Guy McLoughlin
Re: AG-AC160 Issues ?
on May 6, 2012 at 3:00:22 am

...Apparently Juice Designs will be making aluminum base-plates for the AC-130/AC-160/HPX-250 cameras. This is where I bought one for my HMC-150 camera. It's beautifully made.

Juice Designs Aluminum Base-plates


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