The NV-GS500 follows Panasonic’s usual control system for its consumer camcorders. The majority of important settings are available by simply pressing the joystick and flicking through a few pages of options. In Auto mode, only backlight compensation, tele macro and soft skin modes are available. But flick the switch under the LCD panel into manual mode, and a wealth of extras appears. The aperture can be set between F1.6 and F16. You can also add gain from 0dB to 18dB on top, something few non-Panasonic consumer camcorders offer. The shutter can be varied from 1/50th to 1/8000th of a second, entirely independently of aperture and gain – another handy feature for the control freak. White balance options are more pedestrian, and include the usual manual and auto modes plus presets for indoors and outdoors.
When full manual control is too much trouble, the NV-GS500 also offers the usual Scene modes. These include Sport, Portrait, Low Light, Spotlight and Surf & Snow. Canon’s premium consumer models offer many more Scene modes, but Panasonic’s are the most useful options, covering the broad range of shooting conditions.
However, as great as the NV-GS500’s manual controls may be, the NV-GS400 had a fair bit more. It offered picture colour adjustments and contrast. Its manual features were also easier to operate, with zoom, aperture and shutter also controlled with the lens ring – not just focus. This made for a very workable compromise on the multiple lens rings offered by professional camcorder models. It had a progressive shooting mode, too, and a larger LCD – 3.5in, where the NV-GS500’s is only 2.7in. So the new model has been dumbed down considerably, making it less attractive for the aspiring professionals who loved the NV-GS400, although it is quite a bit cheaper, too.