Until now, DV camcorders have recorded 29.97-frames-per-second (fps) video to tape (whether in progressive 30p or interlaced 60i capture mode). While recording in 30p gave video a filmlike look, it still didn’t impress most filmmakers enough to make them trade in their film cameras.
Panasonic aims to change that with the AG-DVX100, a full-featured, three-chip MiniDV camcorder that really ups the ante. This camcorder can shoot in two 24-fps progressive modes. If you shoot using the first mode, 24p Advanced, you can use programs such as Apple’s Cinema Tools with Final Cut Pro to take your footage from camera to computer to film, bypassing the 3:2 pull-down process. The camera’s second mode, 24p, performs a reverse 3:2 pull-down from within the camera, bumping the frame rate to 29.97 so you can view your footage on a television. The results are truly phenomenal.
The AG-DVX100 produces jaw-droppingly rich, warm, filmlike imagery with beautiful color saturation, so it’s too bad that it doesn’t have still-image capabilities. Its deep custom presets allow users to tweak just about any picture setting imaginable, including color temperature, gamma, and skin tone.
The AG-DVX100 has two XLR jacks built into its side, with easy-to-reach manual gain controls. However, the camera’s joysticklike control makes menu navigation a little difficult. While its 10x zoom is relatively weak, the camcorder has a wider-angle lens than its competitors, allowing you to squeeze about 20 percent more picture information into a shot than Canon’s GL2 or Sony’s PD150, which are similar to the AG-DVX100.
You’ll also find a generous 3.5-inch LCD, but its color accuracy is disappointing. You can manually adjust the color of the LCD, but if you quickly switch environments (say, going from a bright room to a dark one), you may need to compare the LCD screen again to a properly calibrated production monitor. Additionally, the camera’s autoiris is slow to respond when moving from a brightly lit scene to a dark one, and we saw some color noise when shooting in extremely low light.
The AG-DVX100 is also not immune to video artifacts; watch out for moiré patterns and stair-stepping effects that occur around horizontal and diagonal lines.
Macworld’s Buying Advice
With the Panasonic AG-DVX100, a fast Mac, and software — such as Apple’s Cinema Tools — that supports 24p Advanced mode, you have a production facility at your fingertips, at a fraction of the cost of film, processing, and renting time on a flatbed editor.