View Full Version : AF100 or FS100... Decisions, decisions!

Jason Allen
05-10-2011, 09:09 AM
Sorry in advance for the long post - I'm just throwing it all out there!

I just finished up a short film on the Sony NEX-VG10 (using Zoom H4N for audio), and while I LOVED shooting with the large sensor and SLR lenses on a small form factor camcorder, the dual system sound presented a TON of workflow slowdowns in postproduction, and I feel like I'm back to square one with the DSLR conundrum - a camera that delivers 100% the picture quality that I want, but can't do the other HALF of video right - sound.

Also, while it was great shooting at 1080p, I wish that we had native 24p and 60p overcranking available for some sequences. Being stuck at 30p was a bit limiting for this type of project.

I'm looking at getting a higher end large sensor, interchangable lens camera to solve these issues. It's great that as cinematographers and videographers we have the AF100 and FS100 available as options for our kit for under $5k. That said, there really hasn't been a side-by-side feature listing that I've found yet. Since there's a ton of info out there on both, I've compiled my own Pros/Cons list for both on the issues that matter most to me.

Pros for both over what I've got with the VG10 + H4N solution:
-single system audio/video
-XLR audio input direct to the camera
-Manual audio gain control independent by channel (my H4n sets both XLR inputs to the same REC level)
-Cheap SD recording media that I own 96GB of already (P2 has yet to fail me at work, but man, those 32GB and 64GB cards cost a ton!)
-video purpose-built sensors, not recycled sensors from SLRs (reducing Moire/Aliasing, increasing light sensitivity)
-high resolution, reasonably reliable color output on-camera monitoring
-relatively compact, and built to camcorder form factor
-great footage
-widely available manufacturer batteries at reasonable prices
-widely available aftermarket batteries for cheap
-ridiculously long shooting times on a single battery
-2.5x overcranking capable at 1080p/24p (60fps recorded, played back within a 24p wrapper)

-Waveform monitor, better exposure monitoring on camera
-built in ND filters
-wider selection of autofocus-capable lenses (not that big of an advantage for ME, but for others, perhaps)

-Smaller sensor size results in very few wide-angle lens solutions other than the pricey, relatively slow aperture, focus-by-wire 7-14mm µ4/3 lens (I love the optics from the few times I've handled my friend's copy on his GH2, but I hate the focus-by-wire part, and there's no way I'd pay almost $1000 for a focus by wire consumer lens)
-1080p @ 60fps is possible for overcranking, but it's recorded without sound like the 720p/ 60fps in 24p on my HVX200
-eyepiece and handle are always attached, which is not ideal for those times you want to film discreetly

-higher base light sensitivity - great for low light work, which I do a lot of!
-Larger sensor size results in a multitude of inexpensive, mechanical focus capable, ultrawide angle lens solutions, like my existing Tokina 12-24mm f/4 and 11-16mm f/2.8
-Sensor is the spiffy sensor from the out-of-my-price-range PMW-F3, and from what I've seen, it has much of the same "mojo" (color palette look/feel)
-Very modular, concealable/convertible eyepiece/LCD. It can be big, or it can shrink.
-Native 1080p/60p recording - with sound!

-higher base light sensitivity - for shooting outdoors, I'm going to need tons of ND, which brings me to:
-no built in ND filters (I'm OK with this, as I already own a 2, 4, and 8 stop 4x4" ND filter set, and plan on using a mattebox for filter-necessary shoots)
-odd ergonomics - I'm short (5'8"), so for eye-level standing-up stuff I'm pretty much going to HAVE to use an external eyepiece like the Zacuto EVF or a confidence monitor.
-More odd ergonomics - I see no way to adjust audio levels comfortably while filming eye-level, standing up stuff, or to access the audio controls at all while using the eyepiece anytime.
-very few AF lenses available currently, and all of them are consumer lenses (I own the 16mm f/2.8 pancake and the 18-200mm f/3.5-6.3 - both are nice glass in good-to-OK light, but the variable speed/hard-to-replicate-accurate-focus-when-pulling focus by wire thing PISSES ME OFF TO NO END).
-no waveform monitor on-camera like the AF100 (I grew to love that feature on the HMC40 and HPX170) - that I know of... did I miss that on the specs?

Right now, I'm reallllllly leaning towards the Sony FS100 - I already own E-mount lenses for that system, and the adapters for my Nikon lenses, and ultrawide angle optics... but the ergonomics and the exposure monitoring concern me for the Sony, and the no-audio-when-overcranking swayed me away from the AF100.

My target audience for these cameras are a few of my mid-to-high budget commercial video clients, and film festivals/local screenings of short film and documentary projects. I'm confident that both can meet or exceed a professionally acceptable image quality straight out of the camera (i.e. without an external HDMI 4:2:2 codec recorder).

Anyone else looking at these two cameras right now? Which way are you guys leaning and why?

05-10-2011, 09:57 AM
I will stay mostly out of the camera debate, except to say that the low-light performance of the FS kills it for me because I am shooting a film that is 50% night scenes. I also think the image quality is worth the extra hassle, but I understand why others would think differently.

However, I DO think it's worth mentioning that on-camera sound is usually not stellar. It is serviceable - and useful for documentary filmmaking - but the quality will just not be there. I'm glad to have the XLR jacks for convenience and reference sound, but there's no way I'd do all the sound for the film using the camera's onboard jacks and level controls. Your mileage may vary. Again, it's a hassle vs. quality issue...

Rick Burnett
05-10-2011, 10:25 AM
Well I have an AF100 and I put money down on a FS100 for two reasons, size and low light performance. The AF100 is a great camera and I've really enjoyed using it on a few shoots I've done, it's just the size I am not a huge fan of more than anything. You can remove the handle and the grip on the AF100 as well. I agree with Philip Bloom that both the AF100 and FS100 are not that great to use handheld (although I am using his judgement on the FS100 having not touched one myself). I just don't like the ergonomics of either and use my AF100 on a shoulder rig.

The ND filters on the AF100 are REALLY nice and will be hard for me to give up. Also, the AF100 does not have a 1:1 focusing mode, only focus in red, and I am not a huge fan of that. The FS100 has 2:1 focus zoom from what I read. Also, while it does not have a waveform (which is REALLY nice on the AF100), it does have a histogram. I can live with that. The rest of the exposure tools on the AF100 I found weren't helpful to me. Not when you have the waveform.

Now as far as crop factors, I can say it really isn't as big an issue as people make it. Having shot on the 7D since it came out and then the AF100, I never found that my wide lenses weren't wide enough. I use the Tokina 11-16 and Canon 10-22. So that is not actually one of my selling points. However, the larger sensor does have better low light performance, and that is a selling point.

Birger is releasing an electronic mount for both the AF100 and FS100 so you'll be able to use EOS lenses on both cameras. A Nikon mount is in the works as well they have said.

05-10-2011, 10:40 AM
I think the Sony FS100 would be my choice of the two. I know I'm still waiting to see what Canon has up it's sleeve before I make a move on the "next generation" large sensor camera stuff though.

I also don't get the dual system sound problems in post. I'm not criticizing or saying that people are not having problems, but it's just been my experience with Pluraleyes it is so easy to sync up audio and multiple cameras in post that i don't even worry about it anymore. I also love the fact that all cameras are recording usable wild sound while my audio guy is focused on nailing the hero sound. I also love that i'm not tethered to him anymore and he's recording 24bit 96k through super sweet Oade modded mic pre's.

05-10-2011, 10:41 AM
I think the “which camera” question is really only something you can answer.

On the pro's and cons, one person's pain is another person's joy.
I rather like the “small” form factor and lack of ND's won't cause me much of an issue.
I love my EX-1 but I hate - HATE -noise so based on that alone I know which one I'd pick.

In the end you make your choices and you pays your moneys.
After that,
Never Look Back.

05-10-2011, 11:46 AM
Well you already have Sony lenses. I'd take better lowlight than built in nd filters.

Jason Allen
05-10-2011, 12:08 PM
@yoyodyne and imag: I should clarify that I'm not having problems with syncing sound in post (that's the easiest part!), it's just that on some projects, with MANY takes, it becomes quickly frustrating to identify matching video clips & audio files. On my recent short film, our sound guy did a very poor job of logging in the field, as did our producer, and it would just be worlds easier to take a line-level in from the sound guy's field mixer directly to the camera next time, even as "I could use it in a pinch" Plan-B audio. The main sound that I'm concerned with capturing is dialogue for documentary work, so onboard XLR inputs generally meet (exceed?) my needs.

@Rick - I really like the wide end of the spectrum for some shots, and even at 11mm on the Tokina 11-16, the AF100's µ4/3 sensor didn't quite have the perspective I was looking for... if I go with the AF100, I'd almost certainly want to have a 7-14mm in my bag until something comparable with mechanical focus (not focus-by-wire) was released.

Cool news about the Birger mount for Nikon! I didn't pay them much attention b/c I don't own any Canon SLR equipment, but it'd be awesome to have electronic follow focus capabilities with my Nikon glass! I'm going to start keeping my ear to the ground on that one.

I didn't realize that the FS100 had a histogram on the monitor - that's pretty handy (not quite a waveform monitor, but darn close for my needs!), so thanks for the heads up on that! I also wasn't aware of the 2:1 focus zoom... awesome!

Cool stuff in here so far, and I'm still leaning towards the FS100. I think my main concern at this point is just the ergonomics of the camera while shooting...

Rick Burnett
05-10-2011, 12:29 PM
Yeah, me being 6'4", the LCD on top is PERFECT for me. Although given I plan to undersling the FS100 on my CPM FilmTools Sidewinder shoulder mount rig, I'll be using my DP6 from smallHD to monitor up at eye level. The biggest problem with being 6'4" is that, most of the shooting I need to do is typically eye level or just below, and being taller then almost everyone on set, I'm constantly shooting from the knees.

I've also have a few contacts with rapid prototyping equipment so my first order of business is going to be a new handle, I *like* the grip on my 7D. I'd like to take the camera style grip and develop something that works for video. The video camera method of holding cameras like the AF100, HVX, and on and on just NEVER has felt good to me. It is uncomfortable to my hands.

Also, I am thinking of a handle with a horizontal slider so I can move it to the center of gravity on the side to help with holding.

I think if you are considering hand holding the FS100, from what I have heard, it's just not great feeling. I have one of these which I might bolt on to see how it feels:


Without the top part, and I also put BMX grips on the bars as well. I think even as a start, this will be better than the default grip.

As for perspective, you are correct that with the AF100, even with the same subject framing, the background isn't as wide. I think the FS100 is a little bigger than my 7D so it's even going to be different again :)

Jason Allen
05-10-2011, 01:09 PM
Yeah, the perspective thing is a big one for me... I really, reallly, REALLLLLLY need to go wide sometimes to get into tight spaces. For example, here's a framegrab from the short film that I just wrapped using the Sony NEX-VG10 + Tokina 11-16mm @ 11mm f/2.8:
http://a2.sphotos.ak.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ak-snc6/221795_762867131327_33601616_37803704_2637881_n.jp g

I don't shoot off of sticks much unless I'm on a shoulder mount or Steadicam (I've got a Steadicam Flyer), so handheld ergonomics isn't as much a concern... it's the placement of the "elephant trunk" eyepiece right overtop of audio controls.

90% of the time this won't be a problem for me with the documentary stuff (since the subjects will be seated), or for film fest entries like the screenie above... but the fact that there's no easy way to view the LCD from a lower angle (ala tilting the LCD down on my HVX200) I fear will become a pain the butt for anything I need to film at or above eye level for my 5'8" height... lol

Rick Burnett
05-10-2011, 01:26 PM
One nice thing I like is even with the LCD down, the audio gain controls are accessible. I use the ones on the AF100 without looking at them either, I am just looking at the meters on the screen.

Also, after using an external LCD, even on the AF100 I just don't use the built in LCD or EVF myself for anything but waveform viewing. I'd consider maybe a 3rd party EVF/LVD system like the DP4 or Zacuto which can do both and put them ANYWHERE you need them.

And I totally understand where you are coming from with that shot. I use wide a lot from below on fight scenes as the perspective distortion is fun to work with.

05-10-2011, 01:31 PM
Regarding your cons with the FS100

Looks like a good monitor would solve most of your problems

The new VideoLogic 6" Wp is what you want. You can (at least) see Sound levels, got a vectorscope and more useful stuff like an excellent focus in red function that solves your focus/AF lens problem.

Filming at eye level is - by the way - done very seldom by pro DPs - usually you have shoulder level or waist level (with some exceptions).


Rick Burnett
05-10-2011, 01:36 PM
The FS100 also has focus in color as well built in. Not sure how much of the data goes out the HDMI when you use the FS100 though, no one has commented on that. With the AF100, you do not get focus in red out of the HDMI/SDI in any way I can see.

Jason Allen
05-10-2011, 01:50 PM
@Postmaster: Thanks for the response, but I couldn't find information on that monitor - is that the correct manufacturer name?

05-10-2011, 02:05 PM
To me the AF100 is just spot on and works great when I shoot. Really only two things could be better and that's the sensor and lack of 10-bit recording. But I have to get the F3 to get these features.

05-10-2011, 02:11 PM
@Postmaster: Thanks for the response, but I couldn't find information on that monitor - is that the correct manufacturer name?

Ahh, sorry, I meant TVLogic

Here is a ton of information: http://www.dvxuser.com/V6/showthread.php?236022-TV-Logic-VFM-056-5.6-quot-HD-LCD-Monitor-Group-Buy&highlight=

05-10-2011, 04:18 PM
Jason, I know how you feel - and I'm shorter than you! I also shoot with the VG10. It's capable of making great pictures (moire and aliasing aside), but the audio is horrendous. The FS100 or AF100 are worth the extra cost right there. I'm intrigued by the form of the FS100. You have to admit, we've never seen any video camera look like that. I'm eager to try one out, see how it handholds.
Since I have the e-mount lens and an a-mount adapter, I am leaning towards the FS100 (some day, no rush).

Rick, I am surprised you think the AF100 is big. I've held them and they seem really compact and light to me. They make my XF305 feel fat and heavy. I don't even want to talk about my old HPX500. And the FS100 is even smaller? Heaven!

Rick Burnett
05-10-2011, 04:27 PM
Haha, well compared to ME most cameras are small these days. I find the FS100 has some elements of the EPIC design myself. Not as modular, but still, I really do want to try that side drive when it comes out to record a backup of footage. That's really cool and not often mentioned by people.

For me, what one must understand is I started doing film with the D90, then the 7D. I also had a HV30 and an HFS11 which are also very small. The only thing I've done notably is with the 7D, and was what I used when buying a bunch of support equipment. I find the AF100 on the blackbird stabilizer is just too much. The height of the viewfinder gets in the way on my underslung shoulder rig. I really wish I could take the viewfinder off. And also, with the 7D, it is common for me to place the 7D on the end of a monopod and use it really high up as a simple jib arm, or near the floor with a wide lens tracking people. With the AF100, this just does not work well. However, I recognize I have a shooting style that is different, but I really enjoy it and my results are pretty good. This is why I want a smaller body. It's one of the things I've loved about the EPIC body as well.