HDR and 4K for Panasonic camcorders

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News from CES 2015

Two significant feature additions have been unveiled within Panasonic’s latest range of consumer camcorders at CES 2015 – but there’s one major subtraction and a couple of catches.

The HC-WX970, HC-VX870 and HC-V770 all boast “HDR” – High Dynamic Range – within video mode, which is a way of packing a greater range of dark and light parts of an image into the footage.

The WX and VX-badged models also get 4K video recording and a 20x Leica Dicomar optical zoom lens. Media is SDXC/HC. One catch is that the HDR mode does not work when filming 4K, we hear.

The WX model also builds on last year’s model’s (HC-W850) “twin lens” feature, a gimmick really, that enables you to film yourself while you’re filming something else. Selfies gone mad, in other words.

Similarly and slightly more intriguingly, all models also feature a “Wireless Twin Camera” function, which enables you to use a WiFi-connected smartphone or tablet as a second camera, so you can remotely record from two angles at the same time, saved as ‘Picture-in-Picture’ videos.

Unfortunately, the new flagships have removed the excellent lens control ring leaving only a tiny and rather more awkward thumbwheel dial for making any manual control adjustments, which is a serious drawback for an enthusiast’s camcorder. Shame!

As before, the cams feature a Level Shot which tries to level out your lopsided footage as well as 5-axis image stabilisation (the stabilisation on Panasonic’s old HC-X920 camcorder was excellent so this should be at least as good)

Panasonic WX970 Camcorder
Panasonic WX970 Camcorder

Specs on the camcorders are:

For the WX970 and VX870,  a single 1/2.3″ BSI MOS sensor and an f1.8 to f3.6 lens with 30.8-626mm equivalent 35mm field of view in 4K mode, with a rather poorer 37.0 – 752 mm in HD.

4K video (resolution of 3840 x 2160) is shot at 25p up to 72Mbps in mp4 format. There’s also a 50Mbps mp4 format for HD video at 50p. A headphone and microphone jack are included and there’s that control thumbwheel for manual adjustments.

For the V770 which is HD only, a 1/2.3″ sensor is also used albeit with fewer (presumably larger) pixels so it may actually be better in low light than the others. The lens is 20x f1.8-f3.6 with a field of view from 29.5 – 612 mm in 35mm equivalent terms.

Panasonic VX870 Camcorder
Panasonic VX870 Camcorder

Oddly, Panasonic UK’s specifications list is as shooting 4K when it doesn’t (cut and paste error, anyone?!). The key feature of this camcorder must be its slow motion recording at 100fps with 200 using an interpolation (aka electronic guesswork) function.

So on the one hand, well done to Panasonic for releasing what we hope will be two inexpensive 4K camcorders. Shame they’re only 25p and immensely irritating that they don’t include the very usable control ring of the x920. We’ll probably try to get one to test out nonetheless.

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