Panasonic AG-UX180 Professional 4K Camcorder
Dual SD card slots handle recording duties.
Regardless of which record mode you’re in—
dual, cascade/relay, or recording 4K on one card
and HD on the other—this camera has you covered. There are eight user-assignable buttons
for about 44 different camera functions. Some
of the most used—OIS, LCD/EVF, WFM, Zebra,
and Rec Check—are pre-assigned, but you can
change them if you want.
For instance, the viewfinder has an eye sensor, so do you really need a button to tell it to
send the image to the eyepiece? I was hoping
that the camcorder could display an image to
me on the eyepiece and to the person in front
of the camcorder using the LCD screen flipped
around so they could see, but no such luck. This
button could easily be used for other purposes.
The UX180 features a built-in waveform monitor and vectorscope, which you can use separately or have both meters on-screen (Figure
2). This is a huge feature for properly assessing
an image. Waveform and vectorscopes provide
a clinical way of assessing the image without requiring you to calibrate the monitor. The information they convey doesn’t change if you have
glare on the screen, or tired eyes after 8 hours
The audio controls include the ability to select between either of the internal, forward-facing microphones, or either of the XLR inputs
on the body of the camcorder. One is placed
up front for easy connection to a higher-quality
shotgun mic if you desire. The other is placed
at the rear of the camcorder for easy connection to house sound at line level if you want.
Either input can be internal mic, external XLR,
or external XLR with phantom power, set to mic
or line level. Interestingly, you can even set both
left and right channels to either one of the external inputs. So if you have one line-level input, you
can feed it to both channels in the camcorder.
This means you don’t have to worry about summing it to mono later in post. Alternatively, you
can “protect” the audio by setting one channel
12–20dB lower than the other, so that if there’s a
loud sound that clips the main channel, the second channel will record it without distortion.
In the menu system you’ll find additional audio controls for turning the auto gain control
off and adjusting the wind filter, as well as specific level settings for mic and line inputs. If you
don’t know to look for these, you might be put
off by the auto gain. As always, read the manual
and go through the menus to make the camera
One feature camcorders commonly include
that DSLR shooters constantly have to work
around is integrated ND filters. The UX180 features clear, 1/4, 1/16, and 1/64 filters. This helps
keep the aperture low when shooting outside
in bright sun, and that low aperture is what’s
going to give you the shallower DoF that you
picked the larger sensor for in the first place.
At full wide, the lens delivers a f/2.8, and at
full telephoto it’s 4. 5—not too shabby considering the incredible reach of a 20x optical lens.
Moreover, it starts pretty wide, the equivalent
of a 24mm lens on a 35mm camera. This equals
my wide 12–35 f/2.8 zoom lens for Micro 4/3.
The Panasonic also starts at f/2.8, but instead
of being a 3x lens like my DSLR lens, the UX180
offers the convenience of a 20x optical reach,
with a servo zoom that can be remotely operated outside the camcorder with zoom and focus controls, if you choose.
The battery compartment is deeply set and
the included four-cell VBR59 battery sits well
inside the cavity. Considerably larger batteries
such as the VBR118 and VBR89 could offer all-day power without protruding from the camera.
Moreover, the batteries have an integrated battery level check. With the push of a button, one to
four LEDs light up, showing how full the battery
is. The included charger is a table-top model with
vectorscope, or both