The quick menu that can be called up on the edge of the screen also makes many of the most frequently used functions readily available. You can call upon manual focusing and manual white balance, as well as two indoor plus two outdoor white balance presets. The shutter can be adjusted from 1/50th to 1/8,000th, and the iris from F16 to F1.8, with up to 18dB of video gain available on top of a fully open aperture. As with virtually all of Panasonic's camcorders, shutter and iris can be adjusted independently. Without the lens ring, the manual settings aren't as easy to access as with the HC-X920, but they are equally comprehensive.
However, if your videomaking intentions are a bit more serious, you do still get an accessory shoe. This isn't built in, but a bracket slides into the rear of the camcorder body to add this when required. The accessory shoe is standard-sized, so you can fit a variety of third-party lighting, audio and other accessories. However, whilst there is a minijack for an external microphone, there isn't one for headphones, and the AV output doesn't double up this function. On the a more positive note, Panasonic has upgraded the audio from stereo to 5.1 surround, the same as the HC-X920, with the enhanced wind noise cancellation this includes. So the single sensor and lack of lens ring are the main losses compared to the top-end model.
One area where the HC-V720 has significantly been enhanced over the previous model is with the addition of WiFi functionality. This is the same as was added to the HC-X920, so includes features that overlap what both JVC and Canon have to offer in their implementations. You can use the WiFi features through an existing wireless network, or you can call upon some of them by configuring the HC-V720 as an access point itself, although you won't have Internet access this way. With either of these modes, you can connect to the camcorder using a mobile app, which is available for Apple's iOS and Google Android devices. Unlike the HC-X920, the HC-V720 supports NFC, so you can configure your WiFi connection using this system on a compatible Android phone.
You can use the mobile app to remotely control the camcorder, including the zoom level and recording quality, as well as toggling record and viewing the camcorder memory contents. In Home Security mode, you can use the camcorder to monitor your dwelling remotely. There are features which don't use the app too. The HC-V720 can act as a wireless DLNA server, which we had no trouble connecting to on a Samsung Smart TV. It's also possible to broadcast video live over the Internet via USTREAM, although you will need to have set up a USTREAM account and one on Lumix Club via the Web to enable this.
We didn't spot any significant differences in video performance between the HC-V720 and its predecessor. There is a very minimal improvement in detail. But the HC-V700 already produced extremely good video for its price. In optimal lighting, there's not much to differentiate the new model from Panasonic's range-topping HC-X920 option. The image has bags of detail and very faithful colour. There is also a mild improvement in low light abilities, with the HC-V720 able to pick up colour and detail without grain in slightly less illumination. But the difference is subtle.
The Panasonic HC-V720 may only have minor improvements in central areas, particularly image quality, but it does have enough additional features and enhancements to make it a worthy upgrade nevertheless. The additional image stabilisation options, 5.1 surround sound, and comprehensive WiFi features are all very welcome. With great performance and loads of features, this is a great mid-range camcorder.