For the last couple of years, Panasonic's top-end camcorders have garnered a number of our top accolades, including Best Camcorder for the HDC-TM900 in our 2011 annual awards. So we were very keen to get our hands on a new premium Panasonic, particularly as this generation has been marked by a switch in the model naming system. So is the HC-X900 really a big step over its predecessor?
In some ways the answer is actually no. There isn't a monumental shift in core technology or design here. The HC-X900 ostensibly uses a very similar trio of 1/4.1in CMOS sensors with 3.05Mpixels each as the HDC-TM900, although the green sensor incorporates pixel shift technology to enhance its resolution. Video is recorded to SDXC card only, as there is no internal memory included. You will need the HC-X900M if you want that. The single card slot will make total capacity less than models offering twin slots, such as Canon's LEGRIA HF G10, but having up to 64GB available in SDXC form will be enough for most situations.
Another feature which hasn't changed is the level of manual control. Like all of Panasonic's last few premium generations, the X900 offers a lens ring that provides rapid access to the most oft-used manual settings. In auto mode, the ring merely offers an alternative, but slower and more precise, zoom control. However, a quick press of the button nearby switches the camera to manual mode, and cycles functions through manual focus, shutter speed, iris and white balance.
This makes all these settings extremely easy and intuitive to access. It's possible to adjust focus very accurately using the ring, and rack focusing is therefore also possible. Shutter speed can be adjusted from 1/50th to 1/8000th (although 1/25th is available with Auto Slow Shuter enabled), iris settings range from F16 to F1.5 with up to 18dB of video gain available on top of a fully open aperture, and the usual array of white balance presets (two indoor, two outdoor) are provided alongside auto and manual modes.