Not everyone buying a premium camcorder fancies themselves as an amateur Spielberg. Some want the image quality, but don't plan on using the extra features. For those in this camp, Panasonic offers the HC-X800, which is essentially a cut-down version of the brilliant HC-X900. But has too much been removed to make the £100 price difference a worthwhile economy?
In a nutshell, all the enthusiast features are missing from the X800 compared to the X900. The most telling omission is the lens ring, which gives the X900 such great control over focus, shutter and iris. But also absent is the slot for the accessory shoe bracket, as well as the minijacks for an external microphone and headphones. So you will be stuck with the integrated stereo sound, as this camcorder also lacks the 5.1 surround sound of the X900. The missing secondary electronic viewfinder won't be such a loss to most users, but it's still something that could be useful in bright conditions.
The core specifications are identical to the X900, however. There are three 1/4.1in CMOS sensors, each with 3.05Mpixels, and each devoted to a different axis of the colour spectrum for better fidelity. A bit of interpolation is thrown in to bump up still images to 14.7Mpixels using all three sensors, providing a top resolution of 5,120 x 2,880. For recording, the X800 supports the recent AVCHD 2.0 standard, which extends the format up to Full HD at 50p and 28Mbits/sec. No memory is built in, and a 16GB card will give you about 75 minutes at the top data rate.
The standard optical zoom is 12x, but there's an Intelligent Zoom option that boosts this to 23x, using some of the spare sensor pixels so resolution isn't reduced. Image stabilisation comes in the form of Panasonic's excellent Hybrid OIS . This improves still further on previous incarnations to add yet another axis for even more powerful smoothing. We have found Hybrid OIS to be the most effective consumer-grade image stabilisation available, providing the smoothest handheld shooting whether at high telephoto or when shooting whilst walking or inside a moving vehicle. There's an OIS Lock function, as well. Holding down the onscreen button further accentuates the stabilisation, although not when performing camera moves.