Unlike virtually any camcorders which sit in a consumer range, the HDC-Z10000 offers balanced XLR audio inputs with 48V phantom power available. So you will be able to connect high-grade audio devices via this professional connection. There are two physical dials available to adjust levels - another essential feature for serious videomaking usage. If you don't want to use these, though, the built-in microphone array provides 5.1 surround sound, incorporating Panasonic's usual selection of zoom and noise cancellation functions.
Of course, none of this would be worth much if the Z10000 was mediocre at its core function - shooting 3D. Fortunately, it punches above its weight here. Images are sharp and colours vibrant, with a clear sense of depth. The convergence control lets you dictate which elements of the picture are in front of or behind the screen, giving you the option to create effects where objects "fly out of the screen". As expected, low light performance in 3D mode is no worse than in 2D mode, which is to say very good, with detail and colour maintained well even at quite poor levels of illumination.
Here is a montage of examples we threw together with the only mainstream consumer editing app we currently know of which can handle AVCHD 2.0 3D footage, CyberLink PowerDirector 10 Ultra:
As this footage is on YouTube, you aren't seeing the full quality that viewing on a 3D HDTV would provide, but at least you can get a general idea of the effectiveness of the 3D depth.
The HDC-Z10000 has a couple of notable niggles - the touch-operated shutter speed control and laggy zoom ring being at the forefront. It will also seem massively expensive when JVC's Everio GS-TD1 costs half as much and Panasonic's more consumer-focused devices even less. But it should be seen in the light of full professional 3D models costing £7-8,000. These offer bigger sensors for even better image quality, and extra professional studio features like genlock and HD-SDI digital video output. But independent filmmakers on a budget or students will find this camera provides capabilities never before available at this price. So whilst we remain skeptical about 3D in general, Panasonic's HDC-Z10000 has taken away the cost barrier for shooting in the format, and that's a real game changer.