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DVD-RAM will be the least compatible of all, but it has one major advantage – the discs don’t need to be finalised, so you can pop them in and out as required. However, whichever format you use, you’ll still only be able to fit 18 minutes of video per disc side in XP mode, 37 minutes in SP, and 75 minutes in LP. Most of the time, you’ll want to use XP, because the lesser settings are a waste of this camcorder’s excellent optics.
On the top XP quality setting, the D300 was as solid a performer as we would have hoped. Video quality was on par with a DV camcorder of similar specification, such as the NV-GS250. In daylight or well-lit interior conditions, colours were very faithfully reproduced with a wide range of hues resolved and a very sharp picture, although not as vivid as with Panasonic’s top-of-the-range three-CCD models.
The results weren’t quite so impressive in less clement lighting conditions. Although the image was still fairly sharp, colour saturation was only passable, and there was some noticeable grain. This noise only increased as the level of illumination decreased. While we would have expected better low-light performance from a three-CCD camcorder, this is one area where the 1/6in sensors can’t keep up with larger units, which have a greater area for light absorption. Still, low light has been an area where we’ve seen single-chip DVD camcorders particularly fall down, and the D300 is still a cut above these. It’s just not so far ahead here as it is in better lighting.
The D300’s still image performance won’t tempt you to leave your Canon EOS 350D behind when you go on holiday, either. We found the extra interpolation only partially successful, with a slightly fuzzier picture than we’d expect from a 3Mpixel image. But it was still impressive for a camcorder. The quality was certainly good enough for printing, allowing you to take the odd impromptu snap for more than just email or Web.
Panasonic has clearly attempted to apply the same strategy to the DVD camcorder which has been such a success for it in the DV world – namely, bringing three-CCD technology down to a much lower price point. Just as this has brought new levels of image quality to affordable DV camcorders, it looks like it could be just as successful for the DVD market. The VDR-D300 is capable of truly excellent video quality. In fact, we’d say it’s the best we’ve seen in any DVD camcorder yet. While you do pay a premium for the DVD recording format, that’s true of every DVD camcorder, even single-chip models. So while this is a pricey bit of kit, if you fancy the idea of shooting video straight to disc, Panasonic’s VDR-D300 should be top of your list.
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