The Panasonic HC-V700, priced at just under the £400 mark, is one of the few consumer camcorders that can record full 1080p60 video, and it also offers solid image stabilisation and a versatile 21x optical zoom. It lacks Wi-Fi and some of the other bells and whistles found in competing models, but it delivers excellent video quality even in low light.
Design and features
There isn't much deviance in consumer camcorder design these days, with the familiar barrel-like shape, handgrip, and swing out LCD, which are all found on the HC-V700. At 69 x 119 x 56mm (WxDxH) and 270 grams, the Panasonic HC-V700 looks like most other camcorders in its class.
Button placement is also fairly standard, with the zoom rocker and still image shutter on top, and the Record button on the back, where your thumb naturally sits. To the left of the zoom rocker is an Auto/Manual button and Image Stabilisation button. To the right is a slider to change between Video, Photo, and Playback modes. Inside the LCD recess are mini USB, mini HDMI, and AV out ports, as well as a 3.5mm microphone input, power button, and 1080i60/p60 toggle button.
The 3in LCD, which has a 460k-dot resolution, is sharp and bright enough for outdoor use. It’s certainly a much better quality affair than found on some camcorders, although it isn’t up there with the 921k-dot resolution of the JVC Everio GZ-GX1. The LCD is touch-enabled, and menu navigation is responsive. Full auto mode is fast and accurate, so you probably won't need to dig into the menu for finer adjustments. Manual mode puts focus, white balance, shutter speed, and iris adjustments within easy reach, but changing video quality and some other features requires digging deeper into standard list menus.
The HC-V700 uses a 1/2.33in MOS sensor with a 21x optical zoom lens that covers a 28-717.4mm (35mm equivalent) focal range. The wide angle lens is good for capturing larger scenes in tight quarters, and the zoom is longer than the 10x reach found on some competitors, but not quite as impressive as the 25x zoom found on the Sony HDR-PJ200. The lens opens up to f/1.8 aperture at the wide end and f/3.5 at its telephoto reach. It lets in half the amount of light as the Everio GZ-GX1, with its f/1.2 aperture, but the HC-V700 surpasses that camera in low light scenarios.
Both indoors and out, the HC-V700 delivers exceedingly crisp video. In low light tests, the HC-V700 was able to maintain fine details, even in some darker shadows. There was virtually no image noise evident and colours were generally true to life. I did notice some instances of inaccurate or slow white balance, which would give video a yellow tint.
Outdoor footage was equally sharp, with vibrant colours and accurate exposure. Shooting in 1080p60 produced smooth and fluid action, with very little blurring or loss of detail. I noticed mild colour fringing outdoors, with purple edges on objects with bright backgrounds, but it was less pronounced and less frequent than the fringing that popped up with the GZ-GX1. The overall video quality was consistently sharp and smooth.
Image stabilisation is very good, even at the telephoto extreme. Zooming in and panning across scenes is smooth, with very mild and unobtrusive shakes. There was occasional lag before quick pan shots, but it wasn't too egregious and definitely preferable to a shaky shot. Audio quality was also good in my tests – the V700 was able to pick up voices loud and clear, but outdoors the camcorder also picked up a lot of environmental noise like cars driving by or rustling of trees. Still image quality, like most other camcorders, leaves something to be desired. Image noise is generally kept low, but a persistent graininess muddies some finer details, even in good light.
Do note that the V700 records in AVCHD only. Keep in mind that some editing programs, like iMovie, do not support AVCHD at 1080p60, so you'll need to convert your videos accordingly. The camera has a single card slot that accepts SD, SDHC, and SDXC memory cards. The mini HDMI port allows for playback on HDTVs, and the mini USB port facilitates file transfers between camcorder and computer. The V700 lacks any Wi-Fi connectivity, which is included on the likes of the JVC GZ-GX1. An included AC adapter charges the removable battery.
In terms of pure video performance, it's hard to find fault with the Panasonic HC-V700. It delivered some of the sharpest and most detail-rich video we've seen in a midrange consumer camcorder, but it also lacks some of the extra features seen on its competitors. The JVC Everio GZ-GX1 is also capable of 1080p60 video and includes a suite of genuinely useful Wi-Fi features, but it can't compete with the crisp and clear video of the HC-V700, especially indoors or in low light.
A quality LCD and some impressive image stabilisation capabilities mean that all in all, Panasonic has delivered a camcorder which deserves our Best Buy award.
(Editor’s Note: We tested the HC-V700M model for this review, which is identical to the HC-V700 in terms of features, except for an added 16GB of on board memory – so we expect an identical performance. The pictures in this review are of the HC-V700M.)
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