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Review: Panasonic AG-UX180 4K Professional Camcorder

With its 1" sensor, 20x optical zoom, and extensive array of image controls, Panasonic's AG-UX180 strikes a balance well-suited to the prosumer camera market.

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 your own.

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 two battery bays, surprisingly convenient for multi-battery charging. When batteries charge, the LEDs on the batteries blink. Well done.

If you want to attach things, the UX180 has you covered here as well, with both 1/4-20 with anti-rotation pin hole, and 3/8" screw holes on the bottom of the camcorder. There are also two 1/4-20 and 3/8" holes on the top handle. There’s a cold shoe over the camera’s lens, a 67mm threaded ring on the lens for filters, screw holes to mount the shotgun mic holder, as well as holders to dress the cables and little loops for the camera’s carry strap.

In other words, despite the fact that camcorders are already designed to include so many things you’d have to add on to a DSLR to be able to run-and-gun in the field, the UX180 makes it easy to accessorize and add on still more gear, like wireless mics, external LCD monitors, and so on.

Ports

The Panasonic UX180 has plenty of ports, including SDI, HDMI, and AV video outs (Figure 3, below), but it can output video from only one port at a time (Figure 4, below Figure 3). By contrast, the JVC GY-LS300 I reviewed in 2015 can feed video to viewfinder, LCD, SDI, and HDMI simultaneously for maximum flexibility.

Figure 3. The UX180 has plenty of ports…

Figure 4. …but you can output video using only one at a time. 

The UX180 does offer full-size HDMI, as well as BNC jacks for 3G HD-SDI out and TC I/O. I was hoping to find that the TC could possibly be used for Genlock in a multi-camera shoot, but I could find no confirmation of that capability. The camera has a headphone and power port under a small door. Under the big door housing the BNC jacks, you’ll find an AV port, as well as separate ports for focus/iris, and zoom/record. This is handy for putting two controllers on two handles of a tripod and using the camera in a studio configuration. That’s where Genlock would come in handy.

The UX180 has a USB 3.0 port on the back next to the HDMI so you can connect it directly to a computer, like an external card reader, to dump your footage. There’s also a USB 3.0 port on top that enables you to connect an external HDD or USB stick to dump your footage directly from the camcorder without needing a computer in between (much like an Android phone). You cannot use external media devices with a capacity of below 32GB or a capacity above 2TB on the UX180.

You can also use this USB 3.0 port with an approved Wi-Fi dongle and the Wireless Remote Control app from Panasonic to enable extensive remote control of the camera without a cable. This feature is iOS only. It seems you can get an image preview only if you have the camcorder recording the 8Mbps format. This is unlike the Panasonic Image App that gives an image preview with 4K recording on Panasonic’s DSLRs.

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