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Recording on-board versus using an external recorder with the Panasonic AF-100
January 29, 2011
6:03 pm
Julie K.

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September 5, 2010
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I am planning on buying the new AF-100 and have been reading conflicting reports about recording to the SD cards on-board, or recording to an external recorder.


Which one is better? Is there a difference at all?





January 29, 2011
7:30 pm
Los Angeles

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Hey Julie,


This is a hot topic at the moment, and unfortunately a topic that is often fraught with emotion and opinion when the science in fact speaks for itself.


The AF-100 is a great camera, but as you mentioned, it does record to SD (HC) cards. That in and of itself is not a problem. The question is, what CODEC does it use to record to. The answer is AVCHD.


The AF-100 records at 24Mbp/s at 8 bits, 4:2:0, with a GOP structure.  So naturally, the image is highly compressed before being layed off onto your trusty SD Card. Does the compression do a good job? YES. For how small the file size is, and how small the data rate is, it produces quite remarkable results, but the truth is that it is highly compressed.


If you use an external recorder, you can record an uncompressed signal onto an AJA Ki-Pro (for example) and record in ProResHQ at 4:2:2 color space. The only issue however, is that you will not be able to take advantage of the full 10bit bit-depth that ProRes HQ offers, as the HD-SDI output on the camera is limited to 8 bits. 

So when you read articles about people saying the output looks almost as good as the native record, keep in mind that they are both limited to 8 bit recording. If you could output 10bit uncompressed through the HD-SDI ports (like with the P2 Varicams), my gut tells me there would be quite a noticeable difference between the 8bit 4:2:0 Long GOP record, and the possible 10 bit Intra Frame 4:2:2 ProRes HQ.





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