You don’t get any direct control over shutter or iris, though. Also, all of these settings can only be found in the full menu, which is accessed using the menu button on the side and the joystick on the rear. So they’re not quick to get to, and the joystick otherwise performs no function, which is a missed opportunity when it could have been used to provide a quick menu for some of the most frequently used settings.
The WA2 has plenty to offer digital photographers, too. It’s not going to replace a dedicated compact, but mostly for ergonomic reasons. The gun format doesn’t feel quite right for taking stills. Again, though, most pocket Internet camcorders don’t offer stills shooting at all, so the WA2 already has an advantage here. You can control ISO from 50 to 1600, switch between centre, spot, and multi-point metering, and toggle between spot and 9-point autofocus. There are 14Mpixel and 3Mpixel burst modes, plus 2- and 10-second self timer options.
There’s also a panoramic mode, which takes multiple images as you sweep the camera vertically or horizontally, then stitches them together to create a single wide or tall image. However, it’s a little finicky about sweeping speed so can take a few goes to get right.
Continuing our comparison with pocket Internet camcorders, the HX-WA2 competes very well on image quality, as well. In particular, alongside good detail and colour, it copes well with contrasting brightness levels, neither blowing out highlights nor losing detail in shadows, which is a common issue with cheap camcorders. Low light performance is more of a mixed bag. Although brightness and colour are reasonably well maintained as illumination drops, there is some grain visible. This is still good for a camcorder at this price, but only marginally better than pocket Internet models.
At a little over £200, Panasonic’s HX-WA2 isn’t as budget conscious as pocket Internet camcorders costing £100 or less. It doesn’t quite have the immediate single-function appeal of Flip-style camcorders, either. But if you do fancy a go-anywhere pocket-friendly shooter, and are willing to pay a little extra for quite a lot more features, this is a capable camcorder for the money.
Score in detail
Image Quality 7