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Panasonic HDC-HS300 review



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Every other manufacturer has thrown in its lot, joined the crowd, and now uses a single, large CMOS sensor for high-end HD camcorder models. But Panasonic has continued its backing for the traditional, three-sensor approach to image quality. The HDC-SD100 and HS100 may have heralded an unexpected move from CCD to CMOS for Panasonic, but they still sported a trio. The HDC-HS300, our first taste of Panasonic's 2009 range announced at CES, sticks with the tripartite approach, too. But this time each one is bigger and of a higher resolution.

The previous generation of Panasonic 3MOS models used 1/6in sensors, each with less than the full pixel resolution required for Full HD. But the HS300 integrates three 1/4.1in CMOS sensors and each one has 3.05-megapixels. When shooting video, a letterbox of 2.05-megapixels within this is used, but still images get to use up to 7.95-megapixels.

So, on paper at least, the HS300 promises more detailed video and digital photography than any consumer Panasonic camcorder ever before. With a bit of interpolation, still images can be snapped at up to 3,984 x 2,656 pixels, although only when the camcorder is in photo mode. Otherwise, the upper limit is 3,840 x 2,160 pixels if you want to shoot video at the same time.

However, although the sensor system has had a major overhaul, the electronics behind it have remained essentially the same. Whereas Canon has updated its latest models such as the HF11 to support the top H.264 Main-Profile Level 4.1, which allows a 24Mbits/sec data rate, Panasonic has stuck with Level 4.0. This means the top data rate on offer is 17Mbits/sec, although we haven't been able to see much difference in quality between the two with consumer camcorders.

Since this is a Panasonic HDC-HSxxx camcorder, the HS300 uses a hard disk for recording. The capacity has been doubled over the HS100, from 60GB to 120GB, so now you can pack in 15 hours of footage even at the top quality setting. There's an SDHC card slot, too, and files can span between HDD and flash memory without having to stop the camcorder in between.

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February 7, 2009, 6:20 pm

And again a Panasonic recommendation... what a surprise!


February 7, 2009, 8:26 pm

@Singularity - crazy huh, anyone would think it makes consistently good products ;)


February 7, 2009, 8:31 pm

Singularity, here we go again...


February 7, 2009, 8:50 pm

Maybe a disaffected (former) Panasonic employee...?


February 8, 2009, 12:04 am

I never used to like Panasonic products in the past but it seems they are bringing more and more quality products nowadays. I recently purchased their most recent camera the G1, and I never leave the house without it now! Awesome camera!

This camcorder sure looks tasty but it sure is pricey too, bought one of the first Sony HD camcorders when we were in Hong Kong 2 years ago and we're very happy with it. Had the Panasonic camcorder been less expensive, we would have probably upgraded.

James Morris

February 8, 2009, 1:02 am

@Singularity Honestly, get a grip man. I'm a freelance journalist, and TrustedReviews lets me say exactly what I think of the products I review! Up until I saw this camcorder, I've been recommending Canon's HF100 as the HD best buy. It still is, in terms of value. But for sheer quality and features this new Panasonic will be hard to top.


February 8, 2009, 1:09 am

Singularity - I'm not sure what you have against TR. They are as objective a review site as I have found. Yes, they give good reviews to Panasonic products - when they're good products. Equally good reviews are given to equally good products by any other brand.

"Impartial" is not the same as "Agrees with you" or "Pleases everyone". Impressions of product quality, from design to performance, can never be completely objective. I will oten disagree with aspects of the reviews here, but they are never so far removed from reality that I suspect it's simply fanboyism or advertisers' money talking - which is what sets TR apart from many of the sites and magazines out there.

If you can convince us why the HS-300 is not worth it's rating, then please do. Similarly, if you can provide some proof of the TR/Panasonic/Apple conspiracy, then please do so... otherwise I will continue to assume that TR can be trusted - after all, they haven't stopped you from repeatedly posting your insinuations.

Isaac Sarayiah

February 8, 2009, 5:11 pm

This should be compared to Canon's new and upcoming models when they are released (meant to be in April) to get a proper comparison.


February 8, 2009, 7:20 pm

Have to say considering my own experiences with Panasonics recent products that I in no way find TR's reviews even the slightest bit bias, purchased one of their 32" LCD TV's and one of their HDD recorders a few months ago and it has been fantastic - great picture/sound quality, easy to use (my dad managed to record something, which he has never been able to do - he couldn't even figure a VCR out) and solid build quality, as the remotes are still working after more then their fair share of drops. I also recently bought one of their digital camera's and found the same quality and ease of use.

Anthony 2

February 8, 2009, 9:48 pm

@James Morris

Thanks for the review. This one sounds like a keeper, but I'm interested in how you match this up against the Canon HF S100 (Rel. 04/09). I know it's not out yet, but based on (a) the released specs and (b) your experience with the HF100, I think an educated guess is possible. Also wondering if you care for any of the Samsung cams?



James Morris

February 9, 2009, 3:37 am

@Isaac Sarayiah and @Anthony: Canon's HF S10 and S100 sound amazing too. But I will really have to see them in the flesh to know if the image quality from a single 1/2.6in CMOS is better than three 1/4in ones. The most recent Samsung I've looked at, the VP-HMX20 (http://www.trustedreviews.com/... was excellent. So Samsung's forthcoming models could be contenders too. 2009 is definitely going to be a great year for camcorders!

Anthony 2

February 9, 2009, 4:28 am

Thanks, James. I'll definitely be holding off until early summer so I look forward to seeing your reviews on the aforementioned models (in comparison). Personally, I think one big sensor is probably superior to three smallish ones, but I suppose it's all in the execution. Cheers.

Martin Briley

February 9, 2009, 2:05 pm

What's missing here? Oh, one of the first things you need to know about a camcorder:


If it's not progressive, it's crap. Seriously.

James Morris

February 9, 2009, 5:25 pm

@Martin Briley I'd suggest getting your reading glasses out. I clearly state that one of my criticisms of this camcorder is that the progressive shooting mode is bundled in with the xvYCC colour - have a look at http://www.trustedreviews.com/... again.

And, seriously, although I prefer progressive shooting myself, there are many professionals in the broadcasting industry who will explain to you how research has shown that interlaced is more pleasant for viewers when fast motion is involved. Unless of course your camcorder can produce 50 progressive frames per second rather than 50 interlaced fields, which no consumer camcorder can just yet (Sanyo's Xacti VPC-HD2000 does 60p though).


February 9, 2009, 9:34 pm

So I calculated the difference in the sensors between this and the canon hf s10, and I think its 37%. So do you think this will be significant for the Depth of field? I am really interested in producing cinematic effects and I care a lot about the depth of field. Thanx

James Morris

February 9, 2009, 10:58 pm

I suspect it will be 37% significant... ;^>

Facetiousness aside, it is a fairly straight-line formula between sensor size and Depth of Field, so in this case the S10 will be able to produce tighter focus.

Anthony 2

February 10, 2009, 11:45 pm

Canon just dropped the MSRP's on their 2009 lineup. S100 for $1100 in March - get your review on!

James Morris

February 11, 2009, 3:36 pm

I can assure you that the S100 will be featured here the Saturday after Canon sends me one to test!


February 14, 2009, 11:45 am

@James. Hey fantastic review as usual! I think im sold with HS300.

Out of curiosity, how do you judge the quality of the video when you review? Do you look at the pixel count then watch the video taken on an HD screen? I havent bought a camcorder in 8 years so HD camcorder is a new to me. Thanks again.

john 23

February 17, 2009, 2:33 am

Hello James, great review. I've signed up on the back of it. Does this camera record sound very well at high volumes? I'm looking for something to put footage together from club nights and I need something that can cope with very very loud levels of music, Techno, House, Dubstep...that kind of thing. Hope you can help!

James Morris

February 20, 2009, 4:06 am

Thanks for the kind words, guys. I usually assess video quality using a HDTV, digitally connected over HDMI if at all possible. I also import footage into editing software and grab some example frames for closer pixel examination. The video I use for assessment is shot in the best conditions I can find, and also a variety of indoor lighting setups (real world, not studio).

I'm not sure how the HS300 would handle high levels of sound, but it does have 5.1 surround sound recording, and you can adjust levels. So you could lower the levels until there is no distortion.

Trevor 1

February 27, 2009, 10:36 pm

James,I've really appreciated your Camcorder reviews as I've been considering buying an HD model but having decided that the Panasonic TM300 was ideal for me, I came across the following review of it's bigger brother. http://www.infosyncworld.com/r... Can you comment more on the video quality of these machines? Thanks.

James Morris

March 1, 2009, 3:53 am

@Trevor The sample shots are conclusively bad in that review. But my sample didn't exhibit those low-light issues at all. There is grain in low light, but it's fine, monochromatic and not that intrusive - similar to Canon's recent models. Previous Panasonic models I've tested were much worse. The colour saturation I saw was also much better, and the ghostly sheen overlaying low light shots in those samples wasn't visible. So I wonder if they had a faulty sample, a misaligned lens, or there is a significant difference in the firmware of US and European models.


March 1, 2009, 4:42 am

Oh, I hope they had a faulty model, because I had really high hopes for that model... Maybe I will wait to see for the HFS10 and the Samsung HMX-H106 which has wider lens.


March 1, 2009, 7:10 am


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