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Panasonic HC-V700M Review
The Panasonic HC-V700M lacks some of the useful Wi-Fi features found on competing consumer camcorders, but excellent video quality in a variety of lighting scenarios more than makes up for it.
(4 out of 5)
- Excellent video quality
- Solid image stabilization
- Sharp LCD.
- Occasionally inaccurate white balance
- No Wi-Fi
The Panasonic HC-V700M ($599.99 list) is one of the few consumer camcorders that can record full 1080p60 video, and it adds solid image stabilization and a versatile 26x optical zoom. It lacks Wi-Fi and some of the other the bells and whistles found in competing models, but it delivers excellent video quality even in low light, which earns the HC-V700M our Editors’ Choice.
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-V700M. At 2.2 by 2.7 by 4.7 inches (HWD) and 9.6 ounces, the Panasonic HC-V700M looks like most other camcorders in its class. Button placement is also fairly standard, with the zoom rocker and still image shutter on top, with 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 Stabilization 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.
At 3 inches with a 460k-dot resolution, the LCD is sharp and bright enough for outdoor use. It’s a big improvement over the 260k-dot LCD found on the Canon Vixia HF R300 and the Canon Vixia HF M50 , but lags behind 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-V700M uses a 1/2.33-inch 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 competitors like the Vixia HF M50, but not quite as long 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-V700M surpasses the that camera in low light scenarios.
Both indoors and out, the HC-V700M delivers exceedingly crisp video. In low light tests, the HC-V700M was able to maintain fine details, even in some darker shadows. There was virtually no image noise and colors 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 colors and accurate exposure. Shooting in 1080p60 produced smooth and fluid action, with very little blurring or loss of detail. I noticed mild color 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 sharper and smoother than the Vixia HF M50, which also excelled in low light, but tops out at 1080i60.
Image stabilization 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 V700M was able to pick up voices loud and clear, but outdoors the camcorder 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 muddles some finer details, even in good light.
The V700M records in AVCHD only, while the Canon Vixia models offer the option to record in both AVCHD and MP4 format. 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 includes 16GB of built-in memory and 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 V700M lacks any Wi-Fi connectivity, which is included on both the Canon HF M50 and 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-V700M. 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 of 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-V700M, especially indoors or in low light. The Canon Vixia HF M50 comes close in terms of video quality and it has some Wi-Fi features, but tops out at 1080i60 and costs $50 more. If your budget is limited, the Canon Vixia HF R300, our entry-level Editors’ Choice, offers solid overall video performance for its $350 price.
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By Eugene Kim, PCMag