Panasonic HC-X1000

Score

Pros

  • Compact and light design
  • Excellent price
  • 60fps 4K shooting

Cons

  • Poor light performance
  • Limited dynamic range
  • Plasticky build quality
  • Small sensor

Key Features

  • Cinema 4K and Ultra HD at up to 60fps; 20x optical zoom lens

What is the Panasonic HC-X1000?

The Panasonic HC-X1000 is

Panasonic’s first 4K offering in the prosumer camcorder market. With

built-in ND filters, a 20x optical zoom and a host of very impressive 4K

frame rates and codecs, the HX-1000 is well priced at £2,559, more than

£1,000 less than the Sony AX1.

With a 4K 8-MP 1/2.3-inch BSI

sensor, this camcorder is a from a time before the 5D Mk II made depth of

field the norm, but with 50p and 60p at UHD (3,840 x 2,160) does Panasonic

have something else to offer a more traditional end of the market?

Panasonic HC-X1000 5

Panasonic HC-X1000: Specs and Features

The

first question you have to ask is who is this for? There is no doubt

that 60fps at UHD is a headline grabbing statistic that many

videographers would drool over. With, MP4, AVCHD and MOV codecs this

camera certainly is versatile, but it also has some clear limitations

that you need to understand before deciding whether to buy it.

Due no doubt to the somewhat small sensor, we found the HC-X1000 is hard pushed to get past nine

stops of dynamic range and despite the MP4 codec taking up to 200Mbps,

the image has little to no room for manipulation in post production.

This

confirms to us that the HC-X1000 was never intended to be used by

indie filmmakers, a fact Panasonic made clear in pitching the camera to

us. It feels the HC-X1000 is best suited to commercial contexts, such as

shooting weddings and events. So the real question is whether you

should switch to 4K for this kind of work and whether this is the camera

for the job.

Panasonic HC-X1000 4

It’s certainly doesn’t lack in features for the

task. As an ENG style camera the HC-X1000 comes with all the standard

buttons and switches you would expect from this traditional camera form.

White balance has an A and B preset, set to 3200k and 5600k, for

tungsten and daylight, allowing for quick switching in fast changing

environments. An auto and custom mode are also available.

The

lens is by far and away the outstanding feature. The 20x optical zoom is

more than enough for any typical videography scenario and the autofocus

is also usable — at no point did it rack to somewhere undesirable or

ruin a shot, though with little depth of field perhaps this is understandable.

The

image stabilisation is a 5-Axis hybrid system, using both software and

optical stabilisation and the results are fantastic. We managed to use

the telephoto end of the lens handheld with remarkably little shake.

Image stabilisation may sound concerning for purists, but for anyone who

is often off the tripod it will be an essential feature.

Panasonic HC-X1000 6

The

camera ships with two 64GB SD cards, which saves a nice amount of money

on purchase (around £150/£200). The notion of never missing a shot is

something Panasonic is keen on pushing with the two SD card slots and

the continuous recording mode, which allows for one card to be

constantly recording while the other shoots what you tell it to with the

REC button.

Another option is to shoot one after the other,

meaning that you never have to leave the camera and can capture action

continuously. This isn’t a ground-breaking feature, but on a camera at

the cheaper end of the market it’s a beneficial feature and will suit

those shooting sports and events coverage.

Histograms, zebras,

focus peaking and focus expand are all great features that make this

camera very usable on a day-to-day basis. Everything is easily

accessible in the buttons and menu system and follows a formula that has

been set out in traditional digital video camera for years. Again, not ground-breaking, but essential when it comes to being able to trust what you are looking at on a daily basis.

The

battery life is a very respectable six hours when shooting continuously

in 4K. This is essential when shooting a full day of interviews and

reduces the risk of having to change battery mid interview, or missing a

shot because of something as fundamental as battery. One spare battery

would be sufficient for a day of intense shooting and that is refreshing

to see. The 64GB SD cards that are provided will take 5 hours and 20

minutes of continuous 4K recording at 200Mbps and if you are shooting

back-to-back on the cards that means over 10 hours of record time.

The

built-in stereo microphone is sufficient and has a reasonable amount of

detail, enough for room microphone, safety or scratch track.

Panasonic HC-X1000 7

Panasonic HC-X1000: Design, Controls and Usability

One

major feature that will put off the ‘pro’ end of the market is the

camera doesn’t seem to have a fully manual exposure mode – despite

turning all physical controls to manual, the camera still adjusted

exposure automatically. This means either an almost completely flawed

camera for anyone serious about creating video, or an overly complicated

menu system that has buried an essential feature.

The camera

also has a built in ‘beep’ that sounds upon every button press in the

menu system and would be highly inappropriate for a wedding or

conference event. Yet again such an obvious flaw must be fixable in the

menu system, but after searching every submenu available, accompanied by

never ending beeps, we couldn’t find the setting to turn it off. It’s

hard to believe it’s not there somewhere, but if it is then it’s

needlessly hard to find.


 
When holding the Panasonic it feels

small, compact and neat — it weighs just 1.5kg. This helps make it very

portable, more so than the Sony AX1, but the trade-off is disappointing

build quality. The plastics feel very cheap and the buttons don’t have a

reassuring, quality feel.

The worst example of the so-so build

quality is the plastic door on the audio controls, which feels flimsy

and would catch easily when dropped into a bag. Of course, we expect

build quality to suffer at the cheaper end of the market, but saving

£1,000 with initial purchase may be a false economy when the plastic

doors snap off leaving parts exposed.

Panasonic HC-X1000 9

The touchscreen LCD is

functional and bright enough for shooting outdoors. Reflections still

cause problems on very sunny days and the touch screen isn’t as

responsive as it could be, but it is enough to get by.

Personally,

I find the addition of touchscreen to a video camera not ideal as

operating in gloves is a common occurrence, however on a camera of this

size using even the physical buttons can be a struggle. The viewfinder

is clear and is a nice feature that sets this camera apart from a

consumer grade camcorder.

Panasonic HC-X1000: Image Quality

So

far we’ve seen the X1000 has some obvious pros and cons, but the image

quality swings things against it somewhat. While 4K images are superbly

detailed as you would expect, this comes at the expense of too much

noise. Generally, the image is far too noisy and muddy to be

taken seriously — anything that isn’t shot in full daylight has a dull

quality that is surprising for what we expect to see with a 4K camera.

When

people think of 4K images they want sharpness and it feels as if

Panasonic has fallen into the same pitfalls as it did with the GH4. A

tendency to over sharpen causes unnecessary noise in the image and in

lower light this reduces clarity.

From our non-scientific tests,

the dynamic range comes in at a very ‘video’ nine stops. The blacks are

very muddy and don’t have any information when it comes to pushing them

in post-production. The same goes for highlights; they roll off very

fast and have a cheap quality that is expected from a more consumer

grade camera.

Overall, the image quality is potentially a major pitfall for

this camera depending on the kind of work you do. Although it is

sufficient for basic videography, at a time that a Blackmagic Pocket

Cinema Camera, with 12 stops of dynamic range and 12-bit colour depth,

can be purchased for £650, this camera is way behind prosumer needs.

Panasonic HC-X1000 2
Taking

your 4K footage into post-production also presents problems. The option

of 4K in post-production makes sense as the ability to crop images

without loss of pixels can help if you are stuck in the edit. But, put

simply, a sufficient editing system will cost as much as the camera

itself.

You’ll find managing the 4K files in an existing system

very difficult. From ingestion to edit, after effects linking and

export, we found everything was over twice as slow when compared to

editing 1080p footage. Unless you’re prepared to invest in new editing

equipment you’ll probably end up spending more time shooting in 1080p

than 4K, which rather defeats the point of the HC-X1000.

Panasonic HC-X1000
Should I buy the Panasonic HC-X1000?

While

the ambition to drive down the price 4K video shooting is admirable,

it’s hard to recommend the Panasonic HC-X1000 right now. Panasonic is

pitching this camera as a prosumer camcorder, but it’s really hard to

see why it is worth spending the money for the ability to shoot at 60fps

in 4K when it is coupled with very average image quality.

There’s no doubting this is a feature-packed camcorder. The lens, battery life and dual SD card slots are all excellent and it ticks many tempting boxes for videographers, but when push comes to shove it isn’t the camera we’d choose if you’re thinking of switching to 4K. 

Verdict

There are some promising elements in the X1000, but images really suffer in low light situations. It really needs a larger sensor to make the most of its other qualities.

Score

Score in detail

  • Design 7
  • Image Quality 5
  • Features 9
  • Value 8
  • Perfomance 8

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