Another area where the Panasonic V210 puts up a fight against the smartphone and compact camera competition is in its size. This camcorder weighs under 200g, and measures just 114mm along its longest edge. You could almost carry it in a large trouser pocket, but it would certainly fit unobtrusively in almost any bag. With a quoted 150 minutes battery life, it certainly fits the bill as a camcorder you keep with you just in case.
Despite its small size and portability, the Panasonic HC-V210 V210 still offers Panasonic's customary full complement of manual settings. The 2.7-inch LCD is not a touchscreen, however, so most settings are accessed via the D-panel and buttons on its edge, with just a few discrete buttons for toggling manual mode and switching image stabilisation on and off. If you don't want to leave most of this to the camcorder, the Intelligent Auto mode will detect conditions and attempt to set an appropriate scene mode, such as Low Light.
There are still some options available, even in this mode, accessible by hitting the Enter button on the LCD edge to call up the Quick Menu and then using the D-panel keys to make a selection. Backlight compensation can be found here, as well as tele macro, and the ability to enable onscreen grid lines and the Pre REC function, which buffers video so you don't miss a shot by pressing the record button too late.
If you do want to take a little more control, manual mode adds a few more pages to the Quick Menu. These include white balance options, with four presets alongside fully manual and auto. Manual focusing is available, although this is rather fiddly to control with the D panel. You can turn on the Intelligent Contrast mode, which brings out detail in shadows and highlights, as well as Colour Night View.
Most impressive for a camcorder this small and keenly priced is the ability to adjust iris and shutter independently in manual mode. The iris can be varied between F/16 and F/1.8, and then up to 18dB of video gain can be added on top. The shutter can be adjusted between 1/50th and 1/8000th. The shutter can also drop to 1/25th automatically in Low Light mode, but you can't select this manually.
In good lighting, the V210 shoots rich, detailed footage. The colours are vibrant and the picture sharp. Image stabilisation is not as powerful when shooting handheld as with the Panasonic HC-V520 and more premium models. But these have the best OIS currently available, and the V210's Power OIS is still good, with the Active Mode in particular smoothing out the slow undulation of walking rather well.
Low light performance is also pretty decent. However, while colours remain rich to pleasingly low levels of illumination, there is some grain visible. The noise is not particularly unsightly until you get below regular room lighting levels, though, so this camcorder still fulfils our usual criterion of being able to grab home events faithfully under artificial lights.
If you're looking for a sub-£200 budget camcorder, the Panasonic HC-V210 would fit the bill very nicely. It doesn't have the Wi-Fi capabilities of the Samsung HMX-QF30 or JVC's Everio GZ-EX515BEK, but it is cheaper than either. We would still suggest investigating these if you have a little more to spend, but the extra premium of the V210 over ulta-budget models such as JVC's Everio GZ-E15 is well worth it, with much better image quality and features.
The Panasonic HC-V210 provides decent image quality and a good level of manual features in a small, keenly priced package.