You wouldn’t expect a camcorder this size to offer much for the video enthusiast, and it doesn’t. There wouldn’t have been room for an accessory shoe without ruining the diminutive proportions – and the S7 would look ridiculous with an external microphone or light on top anyway. There aren’t any minijacks for headphones or microphones either. The battery is also kept internally, so you’re stuck with the 1000mAh unit supplied, which lasts about an hour between charges. But a screw fitting for a tripod is available on the bottom.
Surprisingly, Panasonic still includes its usual comprehensive range of manual settings. The iris can be varied from F16 to F1.8 (fully open), and then up to 18dB of gain added on the top in 3dB increments. The shutter can be varied entirely independently of the iris, from 1/25th to 1/8000th of a second. All of these functions are available from the cross-shaped array of buttons lurking beneath the LCD.
Panasonic has found its Pre-Rec function very popular, so that is available here too. It buffers a few seconds of video at all times, which are tacked onto the beginning of a shot. So even if you’re too late hitting record, you should still get the event you wanted to capture. The Colour Night View, Soft Skin mode, Backlight compensation and White balance functions are also to be found in the same mini-menu system. Hitting the manual button once more turns on manual focusing, which again uses the cross of buttons, so isn’t that easy to use.
A trip to the full menu is required to enable one of the five Scene Modes, which include Sports, Portrait, Low light, Spotlight and Surf & snow. Wind cut and Zoom mic functions can also be turned on here, to help reduce wind noise and peg microphone directionality to the video zoom. What you don’t get is any of the more advanced features now appearing on Panasonic’s higher-end models, such as Intelligent Contrast and Face Recognition. But this is really the kind of camcorder most users will leave in Auto mode virtually all the time and whip out from a pocket for rapid, impromptu recordings.