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‘3MOS System Pro’ sensor (for 2D & 3D), Hybrid Optical Image Stabilisation+ (OIS+), 12x optical zoom, F1.5 Leica Dicomar Lens, Crystal Engine Pro II, Auto-stereoscopic 3.5” LCD display.
The Panasonic HC-X900 has an incredibly tough act to follow in that it is the 2012 successor to the much loved and recommended HDC-TM900 which was widely touted amongst reviewers to be the very best in its class. Although the HC-X900 hails a change in Panasonic’s model numbering system, the changes made in both design and features are not as dramatic; and this is a good thing. As with many of the most popular of today’s electronics manufacturers, Panasonic have opted to improve, modernise and upgrade what are already industry standards, rather than try and reinvent them.
Being Panasonic’s current flagship model, you would expect an eclectic array of high-end features to be present, and you won’t be disappointed. The HC-X900 employs Panasonic’s brand new ‘3MOS System Pro’ sensor for sharper 2D and 3D video capture along with features such as image stabilisation, anti-flare and surround sound. The result is a very professional and accomplished product, and whether you are shooting a home movie or 3D experiment, the HC-X900 will not fall short.
Visually, little has changed in the HC-X900 over its predecessor: it remains compact, stylish and functional. True photographers/ film makers will revel in Panasonics continuing attention to their inclusion of fundamental manual controls via the control ring, which alters the iris, focus, shutter speed and white balance. There is also an adapter included which slots into the side of the camcorder to create a standard cold-shoe along with an inbuilt six channel mic, external mic socket and mini-headphone jack. Other connectivity needs are also catered for by a mini HDMI interface, 2.0 Hi-Speed USB port and Multi AV socket.
The HC-X900 is a pleasure to shoot with having good weight distribution and easily accessible controls (all major ones being within reach of your fingers). The subject can be viewed via either the fold-out resistive touch screen which addresses the issue of over sensitive capacitive models we have become used to. Another pleasing inclusion by Panasonic is the rear electronic viewfinder which serves to please enthusiasts and act as an alternative to the screen should the sun be particularly glaring.
As mentioned, the real ‘jewel in the crown’ of this particular camcorder is Panasonic’s ‘3MOS System Pro’ which features three individual sensors for green, red and blue light along with new ‘Plus pixel shifting’ technology and ‘Crystal Engine Pro II’ chip for quad-HD resolution image processing. These innovations serve to reduce visual noise whilst improving colour contrasts and accuracy of detail. Panasonic are so confident in the results that they claim a 40% reduction in noise compared with previous models. The results are exemplary in all but the lowest of light conditions where a little noise does creep in and colours lose sharpness. It is worth adding at this point, however, that you will not find better results with any camcorder in this price bracket with these features.
A further addition on last year’s model is Panasonic’s ‘Hybrid Optical Image Stabilisation+’ (OIS+) system. This improves on the old version by adding ‘roll direction hand shake’ (the motion created when shooting & walking at the same time) to the existing multi-directional stabilisation system. Again, the results are good and we found will eliminate the necessity for software-based stabilisation after your shoot in the majority of cases.
Whilst the HC-X900 is not a dedicated 3D camcorder (and as such you cannot expect the same level of performance as a designated 3D model) it can shoot admirably in 3D thanks to the optional VW-CLT2 lens converter with 1.5x zoom (not included). This model now also has AVCHD 2.0 support which enables the use of the entire frame for 3D recording as opposed to the side by side pictures of prior models which had 50% less resolution. 3D projects can be watched or previewed on the flip-out LCD display which is Stereoscopic (like a Nintendo 3DS) thus eliminating the need to don those aggravating 3D spectacles.
The menu interface displayed via the LCD display has had a slight overhaul to facilitate improved ease of use. The left hand side of the display features a vertical tab which has shortcuts to popular functions and is customisable to your preferences. This enables increased user-friendliness and saves time when you need to capture those fleeting moments in a hurry.
As to be expected with the majority of upper-end camera/ camcorder equipment manufacturers the ‘necessities’ of the HC-X900 are absolutely top notch. Amongst the most important of these would be the lens which is an F1.5, 29.8mm Leica ‘Dicomar’ lens with ‘Nano Surface Coating’ technology which boasts quality assurance by German photography masters Leica AG (those familiar with the company will know that they are nothing short of the ‘Rolls Royce’ of photography equipment manufacturers and set the industry standard). A ‘Nano’ Surface Coating is applied to the lens surface in order to form a ‘nano-level’, microstructure film with an ultra-low refractive index resulting in a dramatic reduction in the reflection of incident light. This produces significantly reduced ghosting and flare to provide crisp, clear image rendering and outstanding result overall.
Other features you would expect are also present with the HC-X900 including a 12x optical zoom which can increase to 23x due to Panasonic’s ‘Intelligent Zoom’ which employs ‘Super Resolution Technology’, allowing high magnification telephoto shots beyond the optical zoom range whilst maintaining HD image quality. There is also Time Lapse recording (excellent for those budding documentary makers out there) and Intelligent Auto Face recognition to ensure the subjects of your movie remain just that. Another useful feature is the ‘Advanced Highlight Playback’ function which (as the name would suggest) saves the film maker time by allowing the immediate playback of specific segments. These are determined either automatically by the HC-X900 with its ‘Intelligent Index’ System or manually by the user. An ingenious addition is the ability to use this feature in conjunction with the Auto Face recognition as it can detect and playback scenes with specific characters based on their appearances as registered in the Face Recognition Function.
One minor gripe we have with the HC-X900 is Panasonic’s decision to omit internal storage entirely in favour of an SD card slot. Internal memory is offered with this specification but at a higher price in the HC-X900m. Whilst a little cheeky on Panasonic’s part, you could hardly call this a deal breaker with such an excellent product on offer.
The Panasonic HC-X900 is an excellent all-rounder. Everything that has been updated has been improved upon and the addition of Panasonic’s latest sensor and image stabilisation technologies make this a strong contender in a saturated market place. The addition of improved 3D capabilities with excellent connectivity and top of the range hardware put the HC-X900 right up there with the very best camcorders of its class available today. If you are in the market for new camcorder you really will not find anything better with these features in the sub £1000 price range.
Great looking design and easy to use range of features with brilliant zoom although the lens adapter has to be bought separately to shoot in 3D and there is no headphone jack.
Camcorders are tricky devices nowadays. Ever since smartphones became such popular and effective photography tools it’s increasingly difficult to choose a camcorder that warrants the expense. It’s true that camcorders still offer far superior quality to smartphones, but they aren’t as portable so it’s essential that manufacturers come up with a few features that mobiles can’t match to entice home video enthusiasts to part with their hard earned cash. Long-time camcorder expert Panasonic has kept the market trends in mind with its new mid-range offering the HC-V700, giving it an attractive, compact design and a range of features that really stand out from the crowd. You get an incredible 46x zoom that works in tandem with the ‘Crystal Engine PRO’ image processor to give quality results that have to be seen to be believed. Everything’s incredibly easy to use for beginners thanks to Panasonic’s genius ‘iA’ automatic feature, or experienced enthusiasts can tweak to their hearts content with the full range of manual controls. The HC-V700 isn’t Panasonic’s cheapest model nor is it the priciest, instead it sits right in the middle of the range as a fairly priced intermediate model that should please those who want an easy ‘point and shoot’ experience, as well as more advanced users preferring a more custom set up.
The first thing that’s obvious about the HC-V700 is how much care and attention Panasonic has put into giving it an appealing design and we think they’ve succeeded with great aplomb. It’s a stunning camcorder that looks incredibly professional. Panasonic has opted to go with an angular design giving the HC-V700 an edgy look that differentiates it from the competition. The HC-V700 comes in a black and gun-metal grey finish that looks ultra-modern and lends the camcorder a premium appearance. Both colours used are matte in appearance, avoiding the messy fingerprints that gather on shiny surfaces and adding welcome grip to the device all over.
Considering the HC-V700 is a mid-sized camcorder it’s actually very portable. That’s not to say it can rival true compact or pocket camcorders like Sony’s Bloggie series, but it’s a comfortable size nonetheless. Dimensions of 55 mm (width) x 69 mm (height) x 119.5 mm (depth) show that the HC-V700 is a very manageable size that comfortably slips into a bag. With a weight of just 270 grams, only around 100 grams more than some pocket camcorders, you won’t feel overburdened should you choose to carry the HC-V700 on a shoulder strap either. This relatively light weight also makes it incredibly easy to hold for extended periods without feeling the usual fatigue in your arm often associated with larger camcorders.
Another incredibly pleasing aspect of the design is the great job that’s been done with the quality of the HC-V700’s construction. Despite its light weight the build quality feels heavy-duty with a combination of brushed metal and tough plastic used all over. The HC-V700 feels like it’s built to last and up to the job in any conditions.
The front of the camcorder is dominated by the HC-V700’s 28 mm wide-angle lens, which works in conjunction with an enormous single 1/2.33 sensor (instead of 3 smaller sensors). An excellent 3 inch LCD display pops out from the left hand side of the HC-V700 to allow you to review footage that you’ve just shot whilst out and about. It’s a brilliant bit of kit given that there’s no viewfinder, providing easy viewing of content in any light setting, as well as making it really easy to line up shots.
The HC-V700’s controls are all responsive and easy to use. The zoom control and record buttons are located on the side of the camera, whilst playback and interface navigation controls are found alongside the viewing display. Another great aspect of the viewing display is that it features touch screen technology to allow easy touch controls like zooming by tapping the screen. The HC-V700 also has fairly decent connectivity options with component sockets as well as HDMI to connect to an HD TV or external monitor. There’s also a USB port for simple data transfer and an SD card reader for storage purposes. Interestingly Panasonic has included a connection for an external microphone, but there’s no standard headphone jack which is a slightly puzzling omission.
Whilst it’s incredibly attractive on the outside, it’s what lies beneath the surface that makes the Panasonic HC-V700 stand out from the competition. To being with, there is the amazing ‘iA’ automatic mode, which automatically optimises variables like white balance and focus so that you don’t have to, allowing you to concentrate on your footage. This innovative feature is a godsend for anyone wanting to make home video easy and achieve great results by simply ‘pointing and shooting’. There’s no reason for more experienced camcorder users to turn away though, as the HC-V700 also has a full range of manual controls for those who would rather customise their settings.
Secondly, as already mentioned Panasonic has opted to use a single sensor in the HC-V700, but what we haven’t told you is that it boasts an impressive 15.3 megapixels. This results in extremely pleasing video recorded in full 1080p at a reasonably fast frame rate. Colour is reproduced authentically and all images were exceptionally detailed. Best of all, Panasonic’s claim that the HC-V700 works well in ‘any situation’ appears to be well founded as it achieves almost equally high quality recordings regardless of lighting. All-round there’s a lot to be pleased with in terms of the quality of recordings, although stills, whilst adequate, don’t quite have the same sharpness as video footage.
There’s no built-in memory, but that’s no bad thing as it contributes to the camcorder’s portably light weight. Instead you’ll find a card reader that supports various (SD/SDHC/SDXC) formats of memory card up to 64 GB. This is actually an advantage over integrated memory as memory cards are easy to carry and allow the HC-V700 endless expandable storage space.
One gripe is that the HC-V700 can’t film in 3D out of the box. If you want to film in 3D you have to buy Panasonic’s 3D conversion lens separately. It’s a shame that there isn’t integrated 3D as it’s unquestionably the direction that the market’s moving in, but we don’t think it’s a deal breaker though as the HC-V700 is an excellent performer overall.
A couple of other features worth noting are the amazing automatic image stabiliser and intelligent zoom capability. Most camcorders that only use a solitary large sensor have to sacrifice on zoom capabilities, but not so with the HC-V700. Panasonic has given the HC-V700 its Crystal Engine Pro image processor which allows a whooping 46x zoom. Optical zoom only extends to 21x, with the remainder up to 46x controlled by the intelligent zoom feature. Whilst the best results are achieved with the 21x optical, it’s still amazing what great quality can be produced beyond that. We were amazed by how good the quality right up to the full 46x actually is. We can’t talk about the zoom without mentioning Panasonic’s outstanding image stabiliser which helps makes the zoomed results so good. Because the camcorder’s so light it’s prone to shake a fair bit, especially in high-wind. With the automatic image stabiliser movement is reduced to almost nil, making shots unbelievably steady and action footage incredibly smooth. This is perfect for recording fast-paced events like sports, with content running as smoothly as could be with wonderful detail.
If you’re in the market for an intermediate level camcorder that is a brilliant all-rounder and is decently priced for the sum of its parts, the Panasonic HC-V700 is well worth considering. Video recordings look great in full 1080p high definition and it’s easy to review content that you’ve recorded with the excellent built-in viewing display. Controlling the HC-V700’s a breeze with clearly marked buttons as well as touchscreen controls via the display. You can easily watch your content on an HD TV using the provided HDMI port and storage is catered for by removable memory cards, so it’s easily expandable. Great features like the impressive 46x zoom and automatic image stabiliser add to the appeal of the HC-V700 too. Panasonic’s automatic iA mode makes it simple enough for users of any level, whilst there are also manual controls for more experienced users. It’s a shame that 3D filming can only be added as an extra expense, but at least the option is available should you decide you need it at a later date. We think that the HC-V700 is one of the best mid-range camcorders around and it’s a great choice for anyone wanting a camcorder that’s easy to ‘point and shoot’ with high quality results.
Phenomenal 3D recording, great build quality & attractive design, compact, easy to use, good value for money as a 3D camcorder but still photos aren’t its forte and there is no touch screen.
Home video enthusiasts have had a tougher time than ever over the last couple of years when it comes to finding an affordable camcorder. Since the decline of the popular Flip-cam the market has been crying out for a manufacturer to step up and fill the void with a well priced portable camcorder. Finally electronics giant Sony has taken on the challenge with the latest offering from its range of ‘Bloggie’ compact camcorders, the Bloggie 3D Mobile HD Snap Camera. From first impressions it looks stunning and is rich in features for such a small device. As well as being able to take stills and capture full high definition video, the Bloggie 3D can also capture high definition 3D video. Best of all, you don’t even need to wear 3D glasses to watch back over your recordings in 3D on the Bloggie 3D’s specially designed display. Most importantly, Sony has made the Bloggie 3D accessible to everyone with an attractively affordable price-tag that you wouldn’t normally get a 3D camcorder for.
Sony has obviously put a lot of thought into designing the Bloggie 3D as it’s one of the best looking compact camcorders on the market. It’s a sleek device with smooth lines and rounded edges, and comes in either a minimalist matte black or shinier silver finish.
One of the most important aspects of the Bloggie 3D’s design is its portability and Sony has come up trumps in this department. Dimensions of 55 mm (width) x 108 mm (height) x 17.3 mm (depth) make the Bloggie 3D incredibly compact and easy to carry in your pocket. With a weight of just 120 grams it’s very light too which is surprising given how solid the Bloggie 3D feels in the hand. Sensibly, Sony has used robust plastic all over for durability and the front of the device is covered in a rubberized texture to make it easier to grip.
The front of the Bloggie 3D is dominated by its 2.4 inch high-definition viewing display. This is another brilliant design aspect that allows straight-forward access to review videos or stills that you have just taken. What’s really incredible about the display though is its ability to playback 3D videos without requiring you to wear 3D glasses. This isn’t only good as it means you won’t get weird looks when pulling out your 3D glasses in public, but the quality of the 3D playback on the display is amazing too (more on this in features). The back of the Bloggie 3D houses two Sony f-2.8-f4.1 autofocus lenses that work together to produce the 3D effect. Other than the lenses and an LED for lighting in poor conditions, the back of the Bloggie 3D is entirely plain, letting the device’s premium appearance speak for itself.
Controlling the Bloggie 3D is incredibly easy thanks to clearly marked buttons alongside the display and on the side of the camcorder. There’s a directional pad to navigate the built-in interface and an unmissable red-button to activate recording. We slightly lamented the lack of a touch-screen given that you can find one on several other pocket camcorders, but it’s not a showstopper at this price. On the side of the device you’ll find one of its most ingenious features in the built-in USB connector. A full USB plug folds out conveniently from the side of the Bloggie 3D to allow you to transfer data to a compatible device wherever you are without the need to carry a separate cable with you. Users with older video equipment are out of luck though as there’s only an HDMI socket to output content to a compatible HD TV or external monitor. There’s also a connection thread for a tripod, if you ever have a need for it.
For such a small camcorder the Bloggie 3D is a really impressive bit of kit that Sony has loaded with great features. The keen eyed amongst you may already have noticed that we didn’t refer to a card slot when detailing the Bloggie 3D’s design and that’s because it doesn’t really need one. Sony has given the Bloggie 3D a generous 8 GB of internal storage. This may not sound like a lot, but it’s actually plenty of space to keep around 4 hours of HD video at 720p, or around 80 minutes of top-end 3D content. Fun is the name of the game with the Bloggie 3D and the internal storage should provide plenty of scope for holiday snaps and home videos.
Equally, when using the Bloggie 3D intensively with its highest settings the battery should run for around 75 minutes, just short of the storage allowance. This is decent performance for a pocket camcorder and it’s unlikely you’ll be recording solidly for that length of time in any event. The great thing is that even if you do need to recharge whilst out and about, it’s always possible if a computer’s nearby thanks to the in-built USB plug. The only complaint that we have is that the battery is built-in, meaning that should you ever have a problem with the Bloggie 3D you’ll have to send the whole thing off to the manufacturer for repair.
The headline feature of the Bloggie 3D is undoubtedly its 3D recording capabilities. The camera’s full 5 megapixels are toned down to 2 megapixels for the 3D mode, but the effects are impressive nonetheless. The quality of the 3D recordings are exceptionally good for a portable device with very little crossover or image ghosting. For best results watch material back over an HD TV to let the 3D effect really come into its own and jump out at you. As previously mentioned you can also playback 3D content directly on the Bloggie 3D’s viewing screen. The quality of playback is expectedly not as good here as when streamed to an HD TV, but it’s still a neat trick all the same. Much like with the Nintendo 3DS portable console, you have to view the screen from the right angle to make the 3D effect apparent, but once you do get comfortable with finding the sweet-spot for 3D viewing you will be very pleased with the results.
Recording in 2D yields excellent results too with the Bloggie 3D’s full 5 megapixels coming into play. We were pleased with the accuracy of colours and lack of noise in 2D video captures, but stills were less impressive. Whilst the video recording is straight out of the top-draw, stills are more comparable with those we’re used to from a decent smartphone camera which is slightly disappointing.
If you’re in the market for a pocket camcorder with the very latest technology the Sony Bloggie 3D is the obvious choice. It’s a great looking device that’s compact, as well as lightweight and can comfortably be carried in your pocket at any time. Sony has recognised that 3D is the future and as such the Bloggie 3D’s main party-trick is outstanding high definition 3D recording. It’s easy to watch back what you’ve just filmed in 3D thanks to the viewing display and you don’t even need to put on 3D glasses. Naturally you can record in 2D too, with the Bloggie 3D’s full 5 megapixels at your disposal. We didn’t think stills were its strongest point, but video is what this pocket camcorder’s really all about anyway. We think that it’s arguably the best portable camcorder about right now.
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