Panasonic HC-X800 review

20 Feb 2012

Another superb camcorder from Panasonic, but it won't hit the A-List while last year's models are still on the market

Price when reviewed: 
670(£670 inc VAT)
5

Panasonic’s camcorders have reigned supreme atop PC Pro’s A List for two years now. First the HDC-TM700, then last year the HDC-TM900 won us over with a combination of sterling all-round performance and comparatively reasonable price. This year it’s the turn of the HC-X800 and its siblings to see if they can hold onto top spot.

The HC-X800 sits at the bottom of the company’s top range of ‘3MOS’ camcorders, differing from the HC-X900 only with regard to extras. This model has no accessory shoe, viewfinder or microphone input and audio recording is stereo rather than 5.1 surround. It lacks the glasses-free 3D screen of its more expensive sibling too.

The core specifications are the same, however, which makes the HC-X800 the bargain of the range. It sports the same sensor arrangement – three 1/4.1in sensors capturing the red, green and blue elements of a scene seperately – and it shoots 1,920 x 1,080/50p footage at bit rates of up to 28Mbit/sec.

Panasonic HC-X800

The 12x lens is a little wider than last year’s model, starting at a 35mm equivalent of 29.8mm (down from 35mm), which makes it more flexible for use indoors. The maximum aperture range is f/1.5 to f/2.8.

It all looks rather conservative, but Panasonic has made some additions. The first – pixel shift technology – offsets the position of the green sensor relative to the blue and red sensors by half a pixel horizontally and vertically. Panasonic says this generates a volume of image data equivalent to 4K2K, which is then reduced back down to 1,920 x 1,080.

This may sound a little far-fetched, but it’s a technique that has been used successfully before in Pansonic’s pro and semi-pro HDV cameras to boost the resolution of 1,440 x 1,080 sensors to 1,920 x 1,080 without compromising sensitivity and dynamic range.

The second improvement is a simpler one, and adds a fifth axis of correction to the camera’s stabilisation mechanism to combat camera roll – the sort of movement walking and shooting induces in footage. There’s also a tweak to the camera’s 3D support (enabled by adding the new, optional VW-CLT2 converter lens) that allows it to shoot Full HD 3D footage.

It adds up to excellent performance. As with last year’s HDC-TM900, the HC-X800 performs well in all conditions, from dimly lit rooms right up to intensely bright snowscapes. Noise is visible in poorly lit environments, but it isn’t intrusive at all, and colours remain accurate at all times. Motion capture is extremely smooth in the top progressive 50fps setting too.

Comparing directly with results from last year’s HDC-TM900 it’s difficult to see much improvement, though.

Panasonic HC-X800

Image stabilisation is more impressive. Even at maximum zoom, it was possible to hold the HC-X800 in one hand and still achieve rock steady clips; and, while walking, the mechanism smoothed out bumps and shakes to the extent that footage almost looked as if it had been shot using a steadicam arm.

Clearly, the Panasonic HC-X800 is an excellent camcorder: it shoots fantastic footage in all conditions and the image stabilisation system is superb.

However, it doesn’t represent a massive leap over last year’s models, and while that isn’t a problem in and of itself, it does mean you’re better off grabbing last year’s model (currently available for around £400) while you still can.

Details

Price ex VAT £558
Price inc VAT £670
Performance 6
Features & Design 4
Value for Money 4
Overall rating 5

Specifications

Camcorder HD standard 1080p
Camcorder maximum video resolution 1920 x 1080
Camera megapixel rating 14.7mp
Camcorder recording format AVCHD
Accessory shoe? no
Camera optical zoom range 12x
Camera optical image stabilisation yes
Electronic image stabilisation? yes
Screen size 3.0in
Touchscreen no
Viewfinder? no
Built-in flash? yes
Light? yes
Number of sensors 3

Audio

Internal mic type Stereo
External mic socket? no

Dimensions

Dimensions width 63
Dimensions depth 134
Dimensions height 68
Dimensions 63 x 134 x 68mm (WDH)
Weight 345g

Storage

Integrated memory 0.0GB
Camcorder internal storage type N/A
Memory card support SDXC

Outputs

Data connection USB
Composite video output? yes
Component video output? yes

Accessories

Remote control? no
Dock? no