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Panasonic HDC-HS300 - Panasonic HDC-HS300

By James Morris

Reviewed:

Summary

Our Score:

9

User Score:

Fortunately, Panasonic has added to the HS300 without taking away what made the SD100 and HS100 close to being the best HD camcorder releases of last year: its lens ring. This excellent addition to the previous generation made accessing the main manual settings a doddle. Aside from manual focusing, the lens ring can perform an array of other functions. However, flexibility has been reduced a little in the HS300. With the LCD open, the only alternative function is zooming. The other features become available when you use the electronic viewfinder.

This is because the HS300 now includes a touchscreen LCD, which offers a Function menu containing the main manual settings. The iris is now controlled from here, with settings from F16 to F1.8 available, and you can add up to 18dB of video gain on the top as well. The shutter control is also part of the touchscreen Function menu, providing options from 1/25th to 1/8000th. Similarly, white balance is now operated via the LCD.

The touchscreen has one particular reason for its existence, however, and this is the latest extension to Intelligent Auto. Sony has long offered touch control over focusing and exposure, and it's a very neat feature, allowing you simply to press the place in the frame you want focused or exposed correctly. But Panasonic has met Sony and raised the stakes. Coupled with face detection, the HS300 can track a moving subject. Simply click in the frame on the subject you want to track and a bounding box will move with it. This area will be the reference for automatic focusing and exposure. If you want to capture someone walking towards the camera, it's really quite effective.

However, the presence of the touchscreen LCD and the accompanying simplification of the lens ring functions isn't entirely a step forward. We would like to have seen the option to use the lens ring in the same way as with the SD100/HS100, if so desired. As before, the Digital Cinema mode combines 25p progressive shooting and xvYCC colour, and we would also have preferred these two as separate functions.

The HS300 includes the cross-shaped array of microphones included with its last few predecessors, so can record 5.1 surround sound natively and perform clever directional audio tricks. But there is also a full-sized standard accessory shoe on the top, a microphone minijack input on the side, and a headphone minijack for monitoring levels. So every enthusiast base has been covered.

Singularity

February 7, 2009, 6:20 pm

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

Gordon394

February 7, 2009, 8:26 pm

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

Ohmz

February 7, 2009, 8:31 pm

Singularity, here we go again...

smc8788

February 7, 2009, 8:50 pm

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

Wilfried

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.

MrGodfrey

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.

Gnormie

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?





Cheers,


Anthony

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:





INTERLACED or PROGRESSIVE?





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).

stav1606

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!

verysolidping

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.

stav1606

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.

stav1606

March 1, 2009, 7:10 am

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v...

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