New Panasonic AG-AC160A & AG-AC130A Camcorders Announced at NAB

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A pair of updates to existing camcorders put Panasonic’s AG-AC130A and AG-AC160A on a slightly higher plane than their predecessors. This month Panasonic is expected to make available these two improved models, which both feature an expanded focus assist function and a one-push “turbo” auto focus function.

These are somewhat workmanlike updates, but extremely useful ones. For establishing focus, whether in auto or manual operation, any help is welcome. These three-CMOS, AVCHD-recording camcorders are, after all, very much workhorses as far as handheld professional HD camcorders go. They have wide-angle-to-telephoto 22x zoom lenses built in, with manual rings. They’re versatile, lightweight, relatively affordable, and up to snuff for most pro video projects—even many broadcast assignments. But for the AC160A, there’s a somewhat more blockbuster feature that Panasonic has added.

New for the AC160A only is true 1080p60 recording mode, which for many videographers could seal the deal for that model. The ability to shoot 60p and play back at 24 fps makes it possible for the shooter to capture super-smooth slow-motion footage at a 2.5x rate. This is a feature that many slightly higher-end camcorders offer, and that many such camcorders do not. (The new AC160A also offers 50p recording.)

This new format also entails the inclusion of a new AVCHD shooting mode: PS, with a maximum rate of 28 Mb/s, takes the top spot formerly held by the PH format (24 Mb/s max). That lighter compression in PS mode should pay dividends in the post-production suite, giving editors and effects artists clips that withstand more processing than lower bit-rate formats might allow.

Good news also for current owners of either the earlier AG-AC130 or the AG-AC160—these improvements will be available as a hardware upgrade from a Panasonic Authorized Service Center for a $300 charge. And even better, AC160 owners can perform a free software upgrade themselves to add the 60p/50p recording formats.

New buyers of the AC160A and AC130A get all the new functionality out of the box, of course. Though similar to its sibling, the AC160A offers some significant features that the AC130A does not have. Besides the aforementioned 1080p60/50 shooting modes, the camcorder also features variable frame rate recording, HD-SDI outputs, Linear PCM audio recording, and “WorldCam” capability (50/60 Hz switchable operation).

  AG-AC160A AG-AC130A
Imaging Device 3x 1/3-type progressive 2.2 Mp CMOS; prism color separation  3x 1/3-type progressive 2.2 Mp CMOS; prism color separation 
Lens 22x motorized zoom; 3.9-86 mm (28-616 mm / 35 mm equivalent) 22x motorized zoom; 3.9-86 mm (28-616 mm / 35 mm equivalent)
Aperture f/1.6-3.2 f/1.6-3.2
Elements/Groups 18 elements in 12 groups 18 elements in 12 groups
Filter Diameter 72 mm 72 mm
Minimum Illumination 0.4 lux (f/1.6, gain +30 dB, shutter speed 1/30 second) 0.4 lux (f/1.6, gain +30 dB, shutter speed 1/30 second)
Signal System NTSC / PAL  NTSC
Built-in Filters ND filter: OFF, 1/4, 1/16, 1/64 ND filter: OFF, 1/4, 1/16, 1/64
LCD Monitor 3.45" (87.63mm) color LCD monitor with approx. 921K dots (16:9) 3.45" (87.63mm) color LCD monitor with approx. 921K dots (16:9)
Viewfinder 0.45" (11.43mm) color LCD with approx. 1226K dots (16:9) 0.45" (11.43mm) color LCD  with approx. 1226K dots (16:9)Scan Matching 
Memory Card Slot 2x SD/SDHC/SDXC slots 2x SD/SDHC/SDXC slots
Frame Rates 24, 30, 60 fps 24, 30, 60 fps 
Variable Frame Rates 1080/24p, 1080/30p: 2, 6, 9, 12, 15, 18, 20, 21, 22, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 30, 32, 34, 36, 40, 44, 48, 54, 60 fps; 1080/25p: 2, 6, 9, 12, 15, 18, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 30, 32, 34, 37, 42, 45, 48, 50 fps No
Gain Selection 0/+3/+6/+9/+12/+15/+18/+24/+30 dB (+24 dB, +30 dB: USER button S.GAIN only) 0/+3/+6/+9/+12/+15/+18/+24/+30 dB (+24 dB, +30 dB: USER button S.GAIN only)
Maximum Recording Time With 2x 64 GB SDXC cards: Approx. 12 hours in PH; 48 hours in HE mode; 8.5 hours in DV mode With 2x 64 GB SDXC cards: Approx. 12 hours in PH; 48 hours in HE mode; 8.5 hours in DV mode
Video Formats PS mode: 1080/59.94p, 1080/50p; PH mode: 1080/59.94i, 1080/50i, 1080/29.97p, 1080/25p, 1080/23.98pN, 720/59.94p, 720/50p, 720/29.97p, 720/25p, 720/23.98pN; PM mode: 720/59.94p, 720/50p; HA/HE mode: 1080/59.94i, 1080/50i; DV mode: 576/50i, 576/25p, 480/59.94i, 480/29.97p, 480/23.98p PH mode: 1080/59.94i, 1080/50i, 1080/29.97p, 1080/25p, 1080/23.98pN, 720/59.94p, 720/50p, 720/29.97p, 720/25p, 720/23.98pN; PM mode: 720/59.94p, 720/50p; HA/HE mode: 1080/59.94i, 1080/50i; DV mode: 576/50i, 576/25p, 480/59.94i, 480/29.97p, 480/23.98p
Sampling Frequency 4:2:0 (AVCHD); 4:1:1 (DV) 4:2:0 (AVCHD); 4:1:1 (DV)
Video Compression MPEG-4 AVC/H.264 (AVCHD); DV (DV) MPEG-4 AVC/H.264 (AVCHD); DV (DV)
Video Bit Rates (Average) PS Mode: Approx. 25 Mb/s (VBR); PH mode: Approx. 21 Mb/s (VBR); PM mode: Approx. 8 Mb/s (VBR); HA mode: Approx. 17 Mb/s (VBR); HE mode: Approx. 6 Mb/s (VBR) PH mode: Approx. 21 Mb/s (VBR); PM mode: Approx. 8 Mb/s (VBR); HA mode: Approx. 17 Mb/s (VBR); HE mode: Approx. 6 Mb/s (VBR)
Interval Recording 1 sec / 10 sec / 30 sec / 1 min / 2 min interval, maximum 168 hours (1 week) recording (PH 1080/24p mode is fixed) 1 sec / 10 sec / 30 sec / 1 min / 2 min interval, maximum 168 hours (1 week) recording (PH 1080/24p mode is fixed)
Audio Signal Dolby Digital 2-channel and 48 kHz/16-bit, Linear PCM 2-channel (switchable in PH mode of AVCHD); Dolby Digital 2-channel (PM/HA/HE modes of AVCHD); 48 kHz/16-bit, Linear PCM 2-channel (DV) Dolby Digital 2-channel (AVCHD); 48 kHz/16-bit, Linear PCM 2-channel (DV) 
Audio Bit Rates PH mode: 384 kb/s; PM/HA/HE mode: 256 kb/s  PH mode: 384 kb/s; PM/HA/HE mode: 256 kb/s 
Speaker 1x 20mm diameter 1x 20mm diameter
Video Outputs SDI: 1x BNC, 0.8 V [p-p], 75 Ω, HD/SD switchable; HDMI: 1x HDMI Type A, VIERA Link not supported; Composite Video: 1x Pin jack, 1.0 V [p-p], 75 Ω HDMI: 1x HDMI Type A, VIERA Link not supported; Composite Video: 1x Pin jack, 1.0 V [p-p], 75 Ω
Audio Inputs 2x XLR 3-pin (input 1, input 2); Line/Mic/+48V switchable; Line: 0 dBu; Mic: -40 dBu / -50 dBu / -60 dBu switching via menu; Built-in Mic In supports stereo microphones 2x XLR 3-pin (input 1, input 2); Line/Mic/+48V switchable; Line: 0 dBu; Mic: -40 dBu / -50 dBu / -60 dBu switching via menu; Built-in Mic In supports stereo microphones
Audio Outputs 2x pin jack (channel 1 / channel 2), 316mV, 600 ohm output; 1x 3.5mm diameter stereo mini jack for headphones; Via HDMI: 2-channel (linear PCM) & 5.1-channel (Dolby Digital) 2x pin jack (channel 1 / channel 2), 316mV, 600 ohm output; 1x 3.5mm diameter stereo mini jack for headphones; Via HDMI: 2-channel (linear PCM) & 5.1-channel (Dolby Digital)
Other I/O Connections Time Code Preset In/Out: Via Composite Video Out dual-purpose (In: 1V [p-p] to 4V [p-p], 10 k-ohm; Time Code Out: Low-impedance, 2.0±0.5V [p-p]); Camera Remote: 1x 2.5mm diameter super mini jack (zoom, recording), 1x 3.5mm diameter mini jack (focus, iris); Index Remote: 1x 2.5mm diameter super mini jack; IEEE 1394: 1x 6-pin, DV output only; USB 2.0 (Device): 1x Type Mini B, USB 2.0 Time Code Preset In/Out: Via Composite Video Out dual-purpose (In: 1V [p-p] to 4V [p-p], 10 k-ohm; Time Code Out: Low-impedance, 2.0±0.5V [p-p]); Camera Remote: 1x 2.5mm diameter super mini jack (zoom, recording), 1x 3.5mm diameter mini jack (focus, iris); Index Remote: 1x 2.5mm diameter super mini jack; IEEE 1394: 1x 6-pin, DV output only; USB 2.0 (Device): 1x Type Mini B, USB 2.0
Power Requirements 7.2V DC via battery; 7.3V DC via AC adapter 7.2V DC via battery; 7.3V DC via AC adapter
Power Consumption 11.8W when recording 11.6W when recording
Operating Temperature 0 to 40 °C (32 to 104 °F) 0 to 40 °C (32 to 104 °F)
Operating Humidity 10-80% (no condensation) 10-80% (no condensation)
Dimensions (WxHxD) 7 x 7.69 x 17.25" (18 x 19.5 x 43.8 cm) excluding protrusions 7 x 7.69 x 17.25" (18 x 19.5 x 43.8 cm) excluding protrusions
Weight Approx. 5.3 lb (2.4 kg) excluding battery and accessories Approx. 5.3 lb (2.4 kg) excluding battery and accessories