Review Price £947.99
Panasonic's flagship camcorder of 2012, the Panasonic HC-X900, was so good we awarded it 10/10, thanks to its combination of enthusiast features and great image quality. But, will its follow up, the Panasonic HC-X920 fair so well? We got hands on to find out.
Panasonic HC-X920 - Design
Video cameras have seriously shrunk in recent years but to ensure good image quality you can only go so far. As such the X920 is relatively large for a modern camcorder with dimensions of 67 x 72 x 150mm. But it's still a comfortable handful, and in fact its size makes it easier to handle properly than many smaller alternatives. Plus, at 417g, it's hardly what you'd call heavy and is in fact 8g lighter than its predecessor - now there's an acheivement.
Beyond this slight change there are few discernible physical differences between the X900 and X920, which given the X900 was a 10/10 camera is a pretty good sign - it's a classic camcorder shape for a reason.
A couple of key things that set this camera apart from most other consumer level models are the lens ring and viewfinder. The former is a knurled aluminimum ring that sits around the front edge of the lens and allows the user to control settings by rotating it, which is very convenient if you're using a manual shooting mode. Meanwhile the electronic viewfinder (EVF) pulls out from the back of the camcorder and allows you to frame your shot without distractions from either reflections on the main screen or the world around you.
Panasonic HC-X920 - Features
The two main reasons for a lot of this camera's bulk are its wide-angle, high-aperture lens and its use of three large sensors; one each for red, green and blue. Both of these elements should ensure this camera has excellent image quality, particularly at low light levels. In fact, the X920 has now upgraded to back-side illuminated sensors which boost light sensitivity by around 20%, making for even better picture quality.
The large aperture, f/1.5, lens also has benefits the style of your shooting with it producing that desirable out of focus background effect called bokeh. This effect won't be quite as pronounced as on an SLR, as the sensor and lens size is even greater on those cameras, but it will be better than most consumer camcorders.
Where you miss out with this fast lens is in zoom range, with this model only sporting a 12x zoom. This compares to 21x and 50x on the lower spec V720 and V520 respectively. Instead, what you can do is use Panasonic's 'intelligent zoom' feature which uses the excess pixels on the sensors (each sensor has 12.76megapixels, which is far more than the 2megapixels needed for Full HD video) to do a form of digital zoom. However, rather than a conventional digital zoom that simply stretches the existing pixels, intelligent zoom merely reduces the oversampling of pixels until it's only using exactly enough for Full HD. So while low-light image quality will be reduced slightly, you'll still get a true Full HD resolution.
Still images can also be captured with options for up to 20megapixel resolution shots, which should make this a pretty capable camera too.
Furthering the pursuit of high image-quality is the inclusion of Panasonic's class leading optical image stabilisation system which it calls Hybrid OIS. This 5-axis system compensates very well for high frequency camera shake such as from your wobbling hand as well as lower frequency disturbances like the bob from walking.
Joining all this high-quality image making components are plenty of enthuiast extras too. There are microphone and headphone jacks for using external mics and checking the sound levels while recording. Up top is a 5.1 surround sound microphone array, and on the side is a mount for external accessories such as lights and microphones.
There's also a touchscreen for controlling much of the camcorder's functions, and in our short time with it we found it responsive and easy to use.
The key new addition for this video camera, though, is its inbuilt Wi-Fi which not only lets you stream your footage to another device for safe keeping but also allows you to control the camera using Panasonic's new app which is available on both iOS and Android devices. We gave this a go and it proved surprisingly quick both at controlling the camera's functions at at relaying the image back to the tablet we were using for testing.
Sadly, though, you do miss out on inbuilt NFC for quickly and easily setting these functions up. We asked Panasonic why this is and it appears it is simply a case of the X920 having been developed before the idea of NFC really taking off had set in.
The Panasonic X920 isn't a revolution in camcorder design but its solid feature set should still stand it in good stead for being one of the best high-end camcorders of this year.
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