Panasonic HC-W850 Review - Panasonic HC-W850: Performance and Verdict Review

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Panasonic HC-W850: Performance

The adjustment dial only comes into play in manual mode, which you can

select by pressing the dial inwards, or using the touch screen. This

enables manual focusing, white balance, shutter, and iris, but only for

the main lens. The aperture can be adjusted from F16 to F1.8, with up to

18dB of video gain on top of a fully open aperture. The shutter can be

varied from 1/50th to 1/8000th, whilst white balance options include sun

and cloud plus two indoor presets, as well as automatic and manual

modes.

Further

enhancing the HC-W850’s enthusiast credentials, it has microphone and

headphone minijacks available. There is no accessory shoe permanently

built-in, but a bundled add-on slots into the rear of the device,

providing a standard attachment for third-party peripherals. The

positioning could mean some peripherals make the zoom rocker and photo

button a little hard to reach, but the zoom at least has secondary

controls via the LCD.

Aside from the manual functions, there

is the fully automated Intelligent Auto setting, plus the slightly more

configurable Intelligent Auto Plus. The latter provides a simple

11-step exposure control and colour adjustment, whilst otherwise being

automatic. There are also special effects including a faux tilt-shift

called Miniature, 8mm Movie, Silent Movie and Time Lapse. The 11 scene

modes include the usual options, and there is also a slow motion option.

The

slow motion works differently to most camcorders with the feature. The

camcorder will switch over to a compatible mode, for example 28Mbits/sec

in MP4 format, and a SLOW button will appear on the touch screen. The

camcorder will record at regular speed until you press this button, when

it will switch to a higher frame rate and then record this to memory at

the regular frame rate, producing smooth slow motion. So you can have

slow motion sequences in the middle of regular-speed footage, which is a

nice capability, once you get the hang of it.

It’s

a sign of the times that the HC-W850’s WiFi features are relegated to

this point in the review.   Wireless functionality is becoming rather

ubiquitous in camcorders. However, Panasonic has a very comprehensive

implementation, with the facility to connect the camcorder to your

smartphone either directly or via an existing wireless network. You can

then control the camcorder remotely with your smartphone, use it as a

baby or home monitor, and configure it as a DLNA server so you can watch

videos on your smart TV wirelessly. You can also connect to USTREAM and

broadcast live directly to the Web.

Image quality is

similarly relegated to late in the review, because we have come to

expect the very best from Panasonic’s high-end camcorders. The picture

remains bright, saturated and noise free to satisfyingly low levels of

illumination. If you analyse frames very closely side-by-side, there are

some minor deficiencies compared to last year’s flagship

HC-X920, thanks to the latter’s three sensors with the same

specification individually as the HC-W850’s one. But the HC-W850 still

an excellent performer, and close to the best available in a consumer

camcorder.

Should I buy the Panasonic HC-W850?

The

Panasonic HC-W850 is certainly unique, and if you can find a use for the

secondary camera, or just want to record yourself whilst you record

others, there are no other competitors just yet. The secondary camera

may be a gimmick, but at least it has been well executed. On the other

hand, the £700 price means that you are paying £120 on top of the

otherwise similarly specified Panasonic HC-V750 for the second lens. It’s not a

huge premium, but still an unnecessary expense if you never do want to

watch yourself watching others.

Verdict

The

Panasonic HC-W850’s secondary lens is novel and mostly well executed, and W850 is everything we’ve come to expect from a top-end Panasonic camcorder. That means you won’t be disappointed, though it’s worth considering the V750 if you don’t fancy the extra camera feature.

Score


Score in detail

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