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Panasonic HDC-HS200 review



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Panasonic's HDC-HS300 is currently our favourite high-end camcorder. It boasts a heady combination of excellent image quality and comprehensive features for enthusiast videomakers. But it also costs over £800. Fortunately, the HDC-HS300 has a cheaper brother, the HDC-HS200. Costing under £700, what has been removed to keep the costs down?

One thing which hasn't changed at all is the imaging system. Like the HS300 and its sibling the TM300, the HS200 uses a trio of 1/4.1in CMOS sensors (which Panasonic calls 3MOS). Each one has a gross 3.05-megapixels. So there's more than enough resolution for Full HD video, and still images at 7.95-megapixels.

However, there are quite a few features missing compared to the HS300. The internal hard disk is just 80GB, rather than the 120GB in the HS300. This is still perfectly adequate, providing enough space for nearly eight hours of video even at the top quality setting. This operates at 17Mbits/sec with Full HD resolution, although there is no progressive option.

The most significant absence, however, is a lens ring, the inclusion of which makes the HS300 and TM300 such potent options for the enthusiast videomaker. Without this facility, the HS200 relies entirely on its touch-sensitive LCD panel for all manual adjustments, although the range of options is the same as the HS300's.

In auto mode, you can still call upon the AFAE mode, which was added with this generation of Panasonic camcorders. This is a single-touch system, similar to that pioneered by Sony over five years ago, but much more sophisticated. Enabling this mode and selecting a point in the screen sets this as the reference for focus and exposure. Not only that, the camcorder will track the reference point if it moves, or if you move the camcorder, ensuring that it is always in focus and exposed correctly.

Whether in auto or manual mode, the touchscreen provides speedy access to buttons for backlight compensation, intelligent contrast, macro mode and colour night view. Switch to manual via the button on the camera body and further options appear for configuring white balance, shutter, iris and focusing. The latter isn't that easy to use with just the touchscreen, although there is an assist function which magnifies the centre of the screen during focusing to provide a clearer view.

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October 11, 2009, 2:01 am

James - thank you for all the excellent reviews. The one you just posted on the Panasonic HDC-HS200 ends with a comment something to the effect that the less costly SD200 is identical save for the absence of any built-in memory. I had reached the same conclusion and am interested in buying, except that I also saw a Which review which completely slammed the audio performance. BTW Which said similarly negative things about the TM300. The Which comment seems so different from your and other reviews, I wonder if you saw it and could comment further on the audio performance of the SD200? Lastly, if I do buy it, what minimum spec of SDHC would you suggest? I would like at least 16GB, ideally 32GB, but have been told the latter "isn't good enough yet". And I am confused about class 4 or 6 etc. Many thanks.

Alistair Mackay

February 8, 2010, 7:44 pm


After reading your comment I would like to add that, having bought the HDC HS200 I have found the product very satisfactory. HOWEVER, what you mentioned about the Which report, which incidentally I havn't read, could be something to consider. I have found the sound capabilities to be very dissapointing...in particular the Wind Cut function in IA mode...it doesn't have any effect whatsoever. The wind noise in only a slight wind, and I really mean slight, is horrendous...to the point where you are not able to distinguish conversation. I am conversing with Panasonic at the moment to find out if my camcorder is faulty, ....really, it's that bad! Also when pinpointing somebody making a speech at approx 3 to 4 metres away it has difficulty in picking up clear audio.

Regards Alistair

Alistair Mackay

February 8, 2010, 8:58 pm

Hi again

Further to my comment above I have just tried to look up the Which Review for the Panasonic HDC HS200 and it appears that it does not exist! Naturally I am interested in any reviews that highlight the inadequacies of this camera so if anyone out there has some idea if the review still exists or even existed at a previous time I would be very much obliged to hear from them.

Regarsd Alistair Mackay

Peter Johnson

March 13, 2010, 3:50 pm

Used my HS300 (identical, audio wise) to record a comedy gig from the back of the room, and it picked up the performers much better than expected after reading these comments, even over a noisy audience. No wind noise indoors, obviously, so I cant speak for that.

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