Panasonic AG-AC160 Users Group (and AG-AC130, too)

The AC160 is it really worth $2000 more than the Sony NX70?

Steven Stryker

Steven Stryker

You know a fool and his money.... These two cameras are the fence I am stuck on.
It will be used for my own educational videos (green screen), events, motor sports (motorcycle)
and short film and doc (attempts). They both do 1080 60p which will provide the slow motion along with work done in post. Record on SD, big enough screen, zoom over 10X.

Both have full manual control but one has 3 rings...something I have never had.
This will be my first "real" camcorder so I want to do it right.
I am leaning heavy on the AC160a side, but Any insight you can give would be Great!


Greg Fulcher

Greg Fulcher

Hey Steven,

I balanced on the same fence you are on for many months leading up to the purchase of my AC160... While I didn't consider the NX70 specifically, I did consider other models from Sony, Panasonic, Canon and JVC. The form factor was important for me, and yes, Sony make a nice "feeling" camera that exceeds its price point, the switchgear and touch-screen centric operation scared me away. I like as direct-access as possible to all of the key functions of any camera I use.

This is where the AC160 prevailed. At first blush, I was maybe a little surprised at how it felt in my hand -- light-weight, consider its size. After realizing the bulk of the camera was made from magnesium alloy, I felt better. Ready my first impressions post here:

I have used the Variable Frame Rate recording mode and it's absolutely wonderful: here is my first "test" with it:

The other key differentiator with the AC130/160 over all the other options in my price range was the lens. Check out the zoom capabilities:

Even the 2X Digital zoom doesn't suck. It's honestly the first time I have EVER used digital zoom professionally. It truly does come in handy from time to time. 10x? not so much. This is where the NX70 worries me: they advertise a 120x digital zoom. Really?

And, once you have three rings on the lens, you'll never go back. The zoom ring is great, and not just a servo controller. It actually *mechanically* controls the optics. As an aside: if you get this camera, you'll be perplexed that even while in manual focus, the camera will try to fine-tune for you. There is a setting you need to turn off in the menu to disable this annoying 'feature'. Focus Assist works great, too (highlights edges in red on the LCD) - especially useful in bright ambient situations.

Since purchase last November, I have shot inside and out, broad daylight and night. Corporate gigs, cars, city streets, dogs, kids, moon/sun rises, features, documentary-style... I haven't had a single regret, except for lens interchangeability (but that wasn't in the budget).

Where are you located? Maybe a rental house has one of each for you to try out? That's the best way to make your decision. I got mine right when it hit the market, so it was a bit of a blind date...

Hope this is helpful!

Cheers, from San Francisco!

Greg Fulcher

Greg Fulcher

Hey again -- sorry, forgot to address your initial question: is it worth 2k more?

Well, that's a tough one to answer for you. When I looked into cameras costing 2k less or more, it seemed the law of diminishing return applied, up to where lens interchangeability became a player.

The downfall with many cameras, in my opinion, is audio connectivity. No XLR, no thanks. The NX70 has XLR input, so that's a good thing.

Do you NEED a huge zoom lens? Panasonic has the market here.
Do you NEED SDI output? If not, maybe the AC130 is adequate.
Do you NEED Variable Frame Recording?

Note, I'm differentiating between "need" and "want" ;-)

I've been thrilled also with the AVCHD workflow. Not a single issue importing into FCP 7, FCP X, and Avid MC6. I know people are using Premier, as well, but I don't have any experience there.

2K is a lot of scratch, when you come down to it. That could be spent on a nice microphone or two, lights, tripod... All of which go into the whole package. If you have all that already, that law of diminishing return may not be a factor...


Steven Stryker

Steven Stryker

Great post, Great samples to support your points!
I grew up with a Wine! Loved that dog! he lived 19 years too!
I checked all my shops and no one has one to look at or even rent. I contacted Panasonic to try for a demo...(have to see on that)
With what I am trying to get off the ground Zoom and slow motion will be top priority.
No need for SDI now. Will need a better tripod... need better/smoother one.

You have pushed the fence quite a bit my friend.
The sharpness of the dogs eyes while running was fantastic.
Thank You.

HVVideo - Holly View Video

HVVideo - Holly View Video Plus

Hi Steven, I just finished deciding between the Sony HXRNX70U and the Panasonic AG-AC160A. I also considered the Canon XF100 and Sony HXRNX5U.

I selected the Panasonic. This is my first professional camera stepping up from a Canon HV30.

I would agree with other posts that it all depends on what you want to do with the camera. These are both great cameras and as a friend from CERVideo told me, its really the guy behind the camera that makes the difference.

For me personally, I needed the 22x zoom lens for football along with a decent viewfinder. I had a 20x minimum requirement. I was very temped by the Sony and was going to hope the optical zoom would have worked.

In addition, the Canon XF100 digital zoom looked really good in a sample I found, but it does not have a good viewfinder. If money was no object, I might have selected the Canon XF300 which has a good viewfinder and 18x zoom lens.

However, I did not have great luck trying to edit a sample file from the Canon’s. The XF series records “broadcast quality” at an impressive 50Mbps 1920x1080 60p which really sounded great. I have a reasonably good editing workstation, but it had trouble with the 50Mbps file. Not totally unusable, but somewhat concerning. Also with Canon, you must use very high quality CF cards vs SD cards and I selected SD cards.

Another feature I was after is the Variable Frame Rates of the AG-AC160A along with all the manual controls being on the camera vs in a touch screen menu like the Sony.

I did do quite a bit of research before making my decision. I was not able to try out the cameras beforehand. I did personally know someone who has an AG-AC130 and did get to see it up close, but never got a chance to try it out for myself.

I just got the camera a few days ago, and I am very happy with my decision thus far. I took it out to shoot a football scrimmage just yesterday and am starting to learn how to handle the camera. In my first tests with the camera, I forgot to set the White Balance in manual mode, so the footage had a blueish tint. In auto mode, the footage looked great, but I am trying to learn how to use the camera in manual mode and control the exposure, etc.

The three rings you mention seem much better to me, now that I have used them, rather than just having one ring and a switch like the Sony.

The Sony NX70 seems to be a really good camera if you want to have a smaller, but still high quality camera, that’s also rain and dust proof.

The size of the Panasonic does make a quite statement when compared to the Sony. If a clien’t perception of your equipment means anything, the Panasonic might win on that count. The AG-AC160A is much lighter than it looks. It does work very well hand held, but I was not able to hold it entirely handheld for a whole football game because my hand got tired. Thankfully, my existing monopod worked fine.

As the title of the tread points out, the price difference between the two cameras is substantial. This was a very hard decision point for me. Another post mentioned using the price different to purchase accessories, and that is a really great point because now I find myself needing the following accessories: Case, Rain cover, Steadi Cam, Microphone, tripod. I also purchased a larger spare battery but you would do that with the Sony as well.

I did try to capture some of the information used in my research in my blog and maybe this information will help your decision.



New Camera Search:

Sample AC160 Clips:

Well, enjoy your camera search and I hope you are happy with your final selection.

Steven Stryker

Steven Stryker


Another great post! To me it seems like the 160 is the way to go. Kind of a " nothing to look back on" thing. Just started a re-fi on the house, so now I have to not spend for about 35 days!!!
The view finder was/is important since I am "older" now and have to use glasses for reading...
I am moving from windows to mac so learning FCPX and will be also learning the adobe side of things from a friend.

One request and a question for you Todd:
Loved the moon shot, could you do one with a slow pan to and from the moon for us?
When shooting 1080 60P (or 50p) is there sound ? I had read on some cameras that no sound is recorded when in 60p at 1080.


HVVideo - Holly View Video

HVVideo - Holly View Video Plus

Its been cloudy here of late, but am really wanting to do a time lapse with stars, so on the next clear night when I have a chance, I'll try one of the moon. That one video was of course, shot at 22x zoomed all the way.

There is no sound recorded when you use Variable Frame Rate for slow or quick motion (over, under crank). Otherwise, there is sound recorded.

Thus at 1080 60p there is sound for sure. The 160 also has better audio than the 130.

One note concerning Variable Frame Rate. You cannont shoot VFR at 60p. You must select 30p or 24p.

I used the viewfinder tonight to shoot some more football scrimmage and its working well for me. The only minor issue I have with it is that I like it to seem "closer" or magnified to my eye. One of the reviews pointed this out as a known trait of some Panasonic cameras. However, its working for me, no problem.

One more item I am noticing... I keep hitting the GAIN switch by mistake. This puts the camera in HIGH gain. Today, I did not notice I had hit the switch by mistake until I wondered how come my screen was so bright and yet it was almost dark out as we were playing under the lights.

I will be getting some more night time experience with the camera soon.


P.S. Check out this review for information on the viewfinder, etc.

Steven Stryker

Steven Stryker

Reading it now.
Funny, I had the same review saved on my mac at home. Just trying to find time to read it.
Can read while on conf. call.

HVVideo - Holly View Video

HVVideo - Holly View Video Plus

I was trying to shoot some stars tonight, but where I live, I can only get the brightest ones to show and then only if I zoom in about 1/4.

Guess I need a DSLR for this job.

I did find a good night time lapse video using the 160 here:

Randall Martin

Randall Martin

I''ve had the 160A for about a week. I need it for "low light," for interviewing groups in room (sometimes dim) light. Have been using PD170 which is terrific. I want to compare the 160, and this is what I read. Cameras to be side by side, filming a moving object in low light.. To this end, I am going to video dancing in pretty dim light and compare the PD170, the 160A, and a "cheapy," Canon HF M41, which actually does pretty well.

Automatic is easy, but I've not learned how to set the 160 yet for low light. And just what is meant by "low light." And the cameras "minimum light," viz., 0.4 lux.? Lux is the light necessary for a "minimal acceptable" image? And what is "minimally acceptable?" I like the 160 so far, but it has to do the job for me. Actually, I need two cameras and thought of the 130 as the second. But $$$$.

It's time some standard definitions of these terms be developed for dummies like me who spend money they don't have.

Help would very much be appreciated. Thanks.

Randall Martin

HVVideo - Holly View Video

HVVideo - Holly View Video Plus

I have just started to use the 160A in low light situations. Some under football lights that are not well lit at the end zone and some outside locker room scenes that are hardly lit at all. My stuff is run and gun event shooting where I don't have control of lighting situations. I just have to take what I can get.

I have learned that I need to set the gain up higher in low light situations. If you set the gain to 12db that should help under low light. Of couse, this will increase the graininess of the result, but its better than no shot at all.

Steven Stryker

Steven Stryker

That was nice! That one branch(in the moon) was bugging me though.

How do you like the footage shot at 50/60P then slowed down?
Have you done any FCPX 10% with optical flow stuff?

Slow motion is very important to what I am trying to get "off the ground"...

HVVideo - Holly View Video

HVVideo - Holly View Video Plus

I use a good bit of slow motion in football highlights. You can set the VFR of the 160 up to 60fps. You must shoot this at 1080 30p or 24p. You can use VFR with 60p. When you use the VFR, the result is very smooth slow motion produced right in the camera vs in post.

Last night, I shot a whole game in 1080 60p. If I want to slow down this footage, I must do this in post. Using Sony Vegas I get pretty decent slow motion and I have a clip of this posted. However, I have been told to try setting the shutter speed to twice what my frame rate is, but I have not tried this yet.

For really good slow motion in post processing, you may want to try Twixtor. Download a trial copy and check it out.

For the ultimate in slow motion, higher end cameras such as the Sony FS700 will do something like 960fps and the slow motion is jaw dropping. Check out the Copter kids video:

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