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Panasonic HDC-HS200 - Panasonic HDC-HS200

By James Morris


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The HS200 incorporates Panasonic's Intelligent Auto system, which can be toggled using a discrete switch on the top left-side of the body. This detects conditions and sets the camcorder accordingly, and the possible modes are now quite extensive. In general shooting, Intelligent Contrast is turned on to bring out details in highlights and shadows. If human subjects are found within the frame, the camcorder will switch to portrait mode and turn on its face detection system, using any faces detected as reference for focus and exposure. There's an outdoor option, which prevents expanses of sky being overexposed, and macro mode will be invoked when the subject matter is very close. There are also four different modes for low illumination, including spotlight, low light, night portrait and night scenery, although the latter only functions in still image mode.

There's a healthy array of 10 manual scene modes to choose from, too, including all the usual suspects such as sports, portrait, low light, beach and snow. The white balance options include auto and manual modes, plus two presets each for indoor and outdoor conditions - cloudy, sunny, incandescent and fluorescent lighting. The shutter can be varied from 1/50th to 1/8000th, and the aperture from F1.8 to F16. The shutter and iris can be configured independently, as with most Panasonic camcorders. You can also add up to 18dB of video gain on top of a fully open aperture.

The HS200 is missing a few other features compared to its higher end siblings. It still incorporates the cross-shaped microphone array, allowing it to record 5.1-channel surround sound, but there's no accessory shoe for attaching a higher-quality microphone or video light. The HS200 also lacks minijacks for an external microphone or headphones. So this is no camcorder for the enthusiast videomaker.

However, since it has the same optics and sensors as the HS300 and TM300, the HS200 unsurprisingly provides similar image quality, and that is to say some of the best video from any consumer-grade camcorder. Colours are vibrant, although not as saturated as with Sony camcorders. With the high-resolution CMOS sensors, the level of detail is also very high. Although the need to use the touchscreen for adjusting manual settings precludes really precise picture control, in auto mode the HS200 manages well, and with AFAE mode to hand you can bias focus and exposure as required. For the average user, this is perfectly sufficient.

Just like the HS300 and TM300, it's the low light performance that singles the HS200 out. Colour is maintained down to very low levels of illumination, and remains quite faithful. There is little hint of grain, with areas of shadow showing detail and nuance. Overall, results are as good as any other consumer-grade camcorder on the market, with the exception of Canon's LEGRIA HF S10, and even here it's marginal. The HS200 will pick up usable footage in most environments.

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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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