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

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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.

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.

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.

Trusted Score

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Score in detail

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

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