Panasonic HC-X800 review
Another superb camcorder from Panasonic, but it won't hit the A-List while last year's models are still on the market
Review Date: 20 Feb 2012
Reviewed By: Jonathan Bray
Price when reviewed: £558 (£670 inc VAT)
Features & Design
Value for Money
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.
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.
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.
Author: Jonathan Bray
Where exactly you can get HDC-TM900 for around £400?
By aa111 on 20 Feb 2012
Sorry aa111, I should perhaps have been a little clearer. The £400 price, in fact, is for the HC-X800's predecessor - the HDC-SD800.
By JonBray on 20 Feb 2012
Strange reviewing the HC-X800, I would have thought that HC-X900 was the replacement for the HDC-TM900
By Clive_B on 20 Feb 2012
Thanks JonBray. You are comparing it to HDC-TM900 hence I assumed the price was this model.
Have been thinking about upgrading my old Sony camcorder for a while, but price of your A listed HDC-TM900 is a bit too steep. £400 sounds more reasonable.
I can't find HDC-SD800 review here. What would I lose choosing HDC-SD800 over HDC-TM900? Manly interested in picture quality and image stabilisation. Don't care about 3D, effects and other gimmick...
By aa111 on 20 Feb 2012
I think the X800 does actually have the touchscreen controls according to the Panasonic Global site:
"The X900/X900M feature a 1,152,000-dot 8.8-cm/3.5-inch wide 3D-compatible LCD. … The X800 has a 7.5-cm/3.0-inch wide LCD. Both models offer intuitive touch operation."
By Ianperegian on 23 Feb 2012
Good point, lanperegian. The X800, in fact, lacks the 3D touchscreen of the X900. I've updated the review to make this clearer.
By JonBray on 23 Feb 2012
SD800 verses TM900
The SD800 is an identical camcorder to the TM900 exept the sd800 has a lower resolution LCD display, no viewefinder, no internal memory, no 5 channel sound or mic plug in, and no manual lens ring (has to be controlled via the touchscreen menu). The sd800 has identical video footage to the tm900, menu settings etc except for the accesories mentioned above. If you can cope with the lack of a handy manual lens ring and viewefinder then the sd800 should be perfect. In the quality video tests both cameras received the same results since they essentially the same cameras with the tm900 having features that some people may require. I own the sd800 and of all the other HD camcorders I own it without doubt an exceptional camcorder.
By photon on 11 Mar 2012
I buy a X800 and it didn' come with remote control!
I like to know if possible to buy spare remote control and use it on X800?
By pcarvalho78 on 7 Jun 2012
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