AF100 – Backlit Shots & Interviews

After doing some preliminary testing to get the basic feel of the Panasonic AF100, I put it through some more strenuous testing: real shoots.

One of the strengths of the 5D Mark II is its ability to capture beautiful shots under heavily backlit conditions. I was pleasantly surprised to see that – with a decent lens on the camera (in this case, the EOS 16-35 f/2.8), the AF100 performs beautifully. Color shift in the highlights seems to be more severe than the 5D, but with a little bit of color grading, I was quite pleased with the shots I captured on a golf course at “golden hour.” I was also delighted to see how smooth the 60p footage looks. It is gorgeous!

The only issue I ran into with backlit shots was that the EOS adapter for the AF100 does add a fair bit of vignetting (especially at wide angles), and this can translate into fairly severe banding in the sky, as in this exterior shot. The best solution I could come up with was to simply blow out the affected part of the sky in the color grade. Also note that, in this shot, I really should have adjusted the white balance in the camera. However, despite the shot being significantly too blue, it easily color graded to a lovely, warm tone.

The next setup called for bread & butter shots: sit-down interviews. While it was a pleasure to be able to plug a microphone directly into the camera, as opposed to hassling with dual-system sound, I must say that I was a little nonplussed to see how skintones were rendered by the AF100. With the Skintone Detail level set to the factory default of “off,” and the other detail options set to “0,” skintones did indeed seem to have zero detail. Even at 60 IRE – nowhere near overexposure – the subjects’ skin has a plastic, color-shifted, very video-ish look that (at least to my eye) looks far inferior to the smooth tones I’ve gotten used to from the 5D.

When color grading the interview clips, I verified that the skintones were not overexposed, they just looked that way because of how they were rendered by the camera. I’ll be doing some testing with the Skintone Detail function to see if I can ameliorate this issue. During the color grade, I found myself pulling the midtones farther down than I wanted to, because it seemed as though any skintones over about 70 IRE were starting to look clipped and overexposed. Also, the AF100 seemed to render skin as noticeably pink, so I compensated (perhaps a little too much) by pulling them towards orange.

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