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Panasonic HC-V500 review

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Reviewed:

Summary

Our Score:

8

User Score:

Pros

  • Sophisticated optical image stabilisation
  • Lots of manual features
  • Decent image quality

Cons

  • No accessory shoe or audio minijacks
  • Not quite budget pricing

Key Features

  • 1/5.8in High Sensitivity CMOS with 1.5Mpixels
  • 42x zoom; 50x iZoom
  • Hybrid OIS+ optical image stabilisation
  • AVCHD Full HD at 1080/50p
  • SDXC-compatible SD memory slot
  • Manufacturer: Panasonic
  • Review Price: £292.20

Panasonic regularly graces the top of our Recommended list for premium camcorders, but its budget models haven't been quite so all conquering. They're good, but not usually priced as keenly as their competitors. The Panasonic HC-V500 arrives with a street price somewhere between £250 and £300, which on the face of it puts this model in the same category as predecessors. But this time it does have a few features that justify that extra cost and place it ahead of budget devices costing around £200.

The base specification is not particularly exciting. There's a small 1/5.8in CMOS with just 1.5Mpixels - not enough to match the resolution of the Full HD format it shoots. However, this is what Panasonic calls a High Sensitivity sensor, which essentially means it's a back-side illuminated CMOS, providing potential benefits when shooting in low light.

Footage can be grabbed at up to 1080p (Full HD with 50 progressive frames per second) with a bitrate of 28Mbits/sec, and there's a discrete button to enable this mode. Unlike the previous generation, the 50p mode doesn't switch to MP4 but still records an AVCHD MTS file. However, strangely the top non-50p recording mode runs at just 17Mbits/sec, not the 24Mbits/sec possible from the AVCHD format. Footage is recorded to SD memory card, with around 1.25 hours of footage fitting on a 16GB at the top 28Mbits/sec data rate.

However, where the V500 does place itself a cut above the budget level is in image stabilisation. Most camcorders costing around the £250 mark or less will rely on an electronic form of image stabilisation. But Panasonic has endowed the V500 with its latest Hybrid OIS system, which compensates for roll as well as movement in the X and Y axis. In Panasonic's higher-end camcorders, this is the most effective image stabilisation system currently on the market, and it's equally good in the V500.

The zoom factor is pretty commendable, too. The lens itself provides a 38x factor, but this translates to a 42x optical zoom. Panasonic has also enabled an iZoom, which boosts the factor to 50x. This presumably crops into the sensor slightly as with similar provisions elsewhere, rather than magnifying the image electronically as with digital zooms. However, this technique works best when the sensor has surplus pixels, and the V500's CMOS already lacks the native resolution for Full HD. So we're not convinced the iZoom is such a useful feature here, and the real 42x optical zoom is already sufficient on its own.

As this is a budget camcorder, it's no surprise that the V500 lacks enthusiast features like an accessory shoe or minijacks for headphones or an external microphone. There are also only discrete buttons for a few major options, like switching to manual from Intelligent Auto, enabling the image stabilisation system, and choosing the 1080/50p recording setting. But it does have more user-configurable settings than you would expect within the touch-screen menu. Even in Intelligent Auto (iA) mode, there's a full range of scene modes available, including all the usual suspects, although iA does a decent job of detecting conditions and selecting scene modes automatically.

Brian ONeill

June 18, 2012, 4:24 pm

I have a canon ixus 230is that shoots hd video.

I am curious is there any benefit to having a dedicated video camera like this over using the video function in a stills camera?

cliche

June 18, 2012, 9:17 pm

I've been wanting to know this for a while now. TR folks, please opine !

Ed

June 19, 2012, 12:44 am

Very much so, yes. Dedicated camcorders such as this one offer vastly greater optical zoom ranges (the key thing really), optical image stabilisation, easier handling for video shooting, smooth zooming, better audio recording. If you're doing anything more than just a few short clips, they're infinitely easier to use. That said, if you go to the really low end - the sort of cheaper camcorders referred to in this review - then the lack of manual controls and optical stabilisation and lower image quality may mean that for many casual users it's not worth the outlay (though you'll still get a much larger zoom range).

cliche

June 19, 2012, 7:56 pm

Thanks for that Ed. I feel better purchasing my Panasonic SD60 back in 2010 after reading this review http://www.trustedreviews.com/... just before my purchase

Geoffrey Brown

September 27, 2012, 9:50 am

One thing I am interested in knowing is that in the Panasonic FHD (Full High Definition = 1920x1080) lineup this camera is in the odd situation of having insufficient pixels to support 1080p. My understanding is that for 1080i you are supplying half the lines in each frame so only need 0.5 of FHD = 1.05 megapixels approx. Given this camera boasts FHD @ 1080p it would seem to have insufficient motion pixels for this. It needs 2.1 megapixels but really has 1.3 - 1.12 megapixels. Is this therefore FHD ? It would seem not to me.

Geoffrey.

Geoffrey Brown

September 27, 2012, 9:52 am

The review above in relation to the camera FHD capabilities appears to skirt around the issue of whether it is really FHD. The mention that the sensor has high sensitivity is really a separate matter to the native resolution and support for FHD.

Geoffrey.

Dave

December 23, 2012, 1:33 am

I just bought this camera to replace a larger network quality camera and I was SURPRISED with the picture quality.Simply amazing.I bumped it to 1080p right out of the box and definitely will be enjoying this camera for all my video needs.The stabilization of the picture is worth it alone.Take video while walking or running and it's smoooooth as silk.The 1080p HD videos from this camera are shown in 1080p on my 55 inch Samsung flat screen so defects will show at that size,but there are few,if any.This camera is priced too low for what you get and if you are smart you will grab one before they are gone.You can argue specs but it all comes down to the actual picture when viewed by the naked eye. Panasonic has hit a home run with this one.

Alistair Lumb

January 12, 2013, 9:39 am

Im just contemplating trading in my HV40 for this or similar hoping that time will have made image quality better or at least equal. Whats your take

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