Awards

  • Recommended by TR

Summary

Pros

  • Shoots 4K at 25fps
  • Waterproof and dustproof
  • WiFi control via iOS and Android apps

Cons

  • Fixed lens
  • Wide field of view causes image distortion

Review Price £379.99

Key Features: 1/2.3-inch BSI CMOS with 12.76Mpixels; Two-piece design with small camera unit; Up to 200fps slow mo at 800x480 pixels; 4K video at 3,840 x 2,160 to 72Mbits/sec MP4; 1.5-inch LCD with 115,200 pixels; Head-mounting kit included; Built-in WiFi

Manufacturer: Panasonic

Panasonic claims it’s the first wearable 4K camcorder

It’s hard to go anywhere in tech right now without 4K being mentioned. Panasonic is keener than most with its upcoming AX900 TVs and GH4 camera putting 4K display and recording front and centre. And then we have the HX-A500, a new wearable action camera that Panasonic claims is the first such camera to record 4K video. This claim depends on how you define wearable (is a GoPro wearable?), but the A500 is definitely smaller than a GoPro Hero 3, which makes it a potentially interesting option for keen action videographers.


Panasonic HX-A5000: Design

The A500 is effectively two parts. There’s the camera with built-in microphone, which is a flash light style camera that clips easily to various accessories; then there’s the recording unit that’s connected via a cable.

The idea, then, is you stow the recording unit in a pocket while the camera is fastened to a helmet, headset or some other appendage.



This design could prove a tad irritating if locating the recording unit isn’t easy — skiers will have no problem feeding the wire under a jacket, but the chunky wire could prove an unnecessary distraction if you don’t have something bulky to wear over the top.

Being an action cam, it’s to be expected that it’s waterproof (up to three metres for 30 minutes) and dust-proof. There’s also a screen, albeit a rather basic 1.5-inch one. It should be enough to confirm what the camera is seeing, but that’s about it. There’s a smattering of controls as well, with a large recording button right in the middle. This should be easy to use when using gloves, but we’re less certain of the smaller controls.

Panasonic HX-A500: Features

There are a few givens I can tick off straight away, such as the fact Wi-Fi and NFC are included and you can live broadcast from the HX-A500 to UStream via Wi-Fi. This puts the HX-A500 firmly in the sights of the GoPros of this world.

Panasonic has also devoted a considerable amount of time to the various slow motion modes. 4K video is recorded at 25fps, which obviously isn't at all slow motion; neither particularly is the 50fps recording in 1080p. Switch down to 720p, however - a common enough resolution for online video - and you can shoot at 100 fps. Even more extreme is the ability to record at 200 frames per second at a resolution 800 x 480, which is clearly sub-HD but still arguably usable for YouTube.



Image stabilisation is built-in to try and keep videos steady, and there’s a tilt compensation mode as well that adjusts automatically if the camera thinks what you’re shooting has gone a little off-kilter.

Perhaps one of the most interesting benefits, however, is what the 4K resolution could allow when editing. Even if you only broadcast in 1080p or less, recording in 4K lets you tune out more camera shake and jerkiness by cropping into the frame and compensating for any movement.

This could prove the secret weapon for anyone serious about producing quality action video, as shooting in 4K provides greater flexibility even when not producing a 4K video at the end.


Panasonic HX-A5000: Release Date and Price

Sadly, Panasonic has provided no clear indications about when the the HX-A500 will go on sale, or for how much, but Panasonic has told us it will have this information soon.


First Impressions

Panasonic has something quite interesting in the HX-A500. I’m not totally sold on the two unit design yet — it’s something you really need to try to see if it works. It might be a smart move, or it might cause as many problems as it solves. I also have some reservations about the small controls, which I think will be a pain to use with gloves on.

If it shoots stunning 4K footage, however, then any such issues will be a lot easier to forgive.

Scores In Detail

Design
9/10
Features
8/10
Image Quality
9/10
Perfomance
9/10
Value
8/10
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