Panasonic HDC-HS700 Full HD Camcorder Review

Panasonic’s HDC-HS700 is a great little HDD/SD hybrid AVCHD camcorder that will serve well for most anyone wanting to produce rock solid HD video and the integrated 5.1 channel built in mic can make for fun, surround sound home movies.The HDC-HS700′s three, 3.05 megapixel CMOS sensors provide crisp clean images with vivid color and the image stabilization makes for video that anyone can be proud of.  Really, with a little practice, most anyone can produce great footage.

The controls are laid out well with the main functions easy to access and comfortable to reach.  The slight upward slope toward the viewfinder makes reaching the zoom switch and photo button more comfortable.  The high ridge of the grip gives a stable feel and also aids in comfort.   Menu controls are a blend of push buttons and touch-screen buttons making navigation quite simple.  I actually prefer at least some push buttons since they are generally more responsive.  Before diving into the menu I had in my mind there would be scads of options, but really that is not the case.  Menus are easy to navigate and the touch screen has just the right amount of sensitivity.  Keep a soft cloth handy though. Finger prints are inevitable as with all the touch screen cameras I’ve used.  The screen on the HDC-HS700 is on the low resolution side and is a bit small for this level of camcorder.  While the screen is important, I put more emphasis on the quality of video which is very good as you can see in the video below.

This clip was shot at 1080/60p.  There is also a sample still image a little further down in this post.

The HDC-HS700 is quite compact, so taking this camera out for a day of shooting video wouldn’t be a big chore.  In fact, this camera is on of the most compact available with a full set of features and digital viewfinder.  However, because of the hard disk the HDC-HS700 is a bit heavy compared to the size.  Battery life for the HDC-HS700 is very good; above average I would say, but for extended periods of shooting a spare battery is a must.  Panasonic offers the standard VW-VB130 as a reasonably priced option that should serve well.  Panasonic went with the old fashioned dial selector for still/record/playback mode selection, which works well, making choosing between the modes quick and easy.  The digital view finder is a welcome option for filming in direct sunlight, for example.  Simply slide the viewfinder out to enable it.  The record button is in the traditional location for palm camcorders, allowing for easy thumb operation.

The camera function button located on the left side of the lens barrel allows for making quick adjustment of things like focus, white balance, shutter and iris.  Simply select an option via the LCD touch-screen and the rotating ring toggles between the options, which also doubles as a fine zoom control for precise zooming while filming.  When open, the LCD screen will rotate 180 degrees while flipping the image to make viewing from almost any angle possible.

On the HDC-HS700, Panasonic places the shoe accessory mount on top for the body under a door that is easily opened.  The shoe is a cold mount, so accessories such as lights will need their own power source to operate.  The built in 5.1 channel surround mic doubles as a stereo mic as well an actually does a decent job of collecting a warm sound quality rather than the tinny audio of most camcorder mics.  Home movies in 5.1 surround sound… that’s just too cool.  The built in wind cut does a good job as well.

The trio of CMOS sensors are small, so don’t expect DSLR still image quality, but for quick snapshots it does quite well and the built in light doubles as a flash for low light.

The output ports are pretty standard for an HD camcorder.  There is one USB, HDMI, A/V multi and headphone (located on other side, in front of strap).  There is one mic input and a cold shoe mount on top for mics and lights.   The SD/SDHC/SDXC card slot will handle up to a 64GB SDXC card.  A major gripe of mine is camera’s with an HDMI output, but no HDMI cable included and the HDC-HS700 is no different, though Panasonic does include component cables you still need to string a separate cable to connect the audio to a source.

Accessories

Panasonic VW-VBG130 Replacement Battery Pack – The Panasonic HDC-HS700 comes with a good rechargeable lithium-ion battery; however, if you’re going to be away from power for an extended period a spare may come in handy.  For even more capacity Panasonic offers the VW-VBG260 as well.

Manfrotto 190XDB Tripod Kit – To get that smooth movement for more professional looking video a tripod is a must have.  Don’t buy a cheap $15 excuse for a tripod.  I have had those and they just don’t work.  Buy a quality piece like the Manfrotto 190XDB.  At a $150 price the 190XDB kit with ball head is in mot budgets and your video will benefit.

Bescor LED-25 25W LED On-Camera Light – For an inexpensive LED light that will work as continuous light source and not drain the cameras battery, the Bescor LED-25 may be a good option

Extra Memory – While the Panasonic HDC-HS700 comes equipped with 240GB internal memory, you may want the ability to expand that even further.  I’ve used the basic Kingston SDHC cards in the HDC-HS700, which worked just fine. No need to go all out on fast memory cards with the HDC-HS700. You’ll just need to make sure you pick up SD cards that are Class 4 or higher in order to capture Full HD video. The HDC-HS700 is compatible with all SD, SDHC and SDXC cards.

Memory card reader – If you don’t own a memory card reader, they make transferring images to your computer a world faster.  I highly recommend picking one up with the HDC-HS700.  They’re cheap and big time saver.  Lexar makes a good card reader for about $15.

Pearstone Gold Series HDMI Video Cable – It is convenient to be able to play back newly recorded video on a larger screen without loading onto a computer and a HDMI cable makes that task super easy.  At $25 this Pearstone cable is a pretty good deal.

Camera Bag – When making an investment into a high end camcorder make sure it is protected when in storage by keeping is zipped up in a quality case.

Conclusion

The Panasonic HDC-HS700 is a great little camcorder with awesome video quality, 5.1 channel surround audio, 240GB internal hard drive plus SD/SDHC/SDXC card slot for expansion and a user friendly interface.  For a $1,000+ camera you expect to get great quality and a wide range of features and the HDC-HS700 does deliver in most respects, but if you are on a budget the Panasonic HDC-TM700 may be a better option as it has almost identical features without the large hard disk and costs about $400 less.  Panasonic has made the HDC-HS700 able to perform the duties of more experienced videographers, but easy enough to use for the casual endeavor as well.  Hefty computing power is required  to handle 1080/60p video, so the casual videographer be warned.  All-in-all the Panasonic HDC-HS700 is a great little camcorder, on that I’ve enjoyed shooting with and getting to know, but a bit pricey if you don’t really need a large hard disk.

Panasonic HDC-HS700 at B&H Photo/Video

For European standards B&H has the Panasonic HDC-HS700 PAL camcorder as well.

Specifications

Optics
Sensor 3x 3.05 Megapixel 1/4.1″ CMOS Sensors
Lens 3.45-41.4mm
f/1.5-2.8
Zoom Optical: 12x
Intelligent (Optical): 18x
Digital: 700x
Filter Size 46mm
Recording
System NTSC
Recording Media Hard Disk Drive 240GB
SD/SDHC, SDXC
Video Format High Definition
MPEG AVC/H.264
1920 x 1080p (60 fps)
Still Image Resolution

12.2MP= 3:2, 13.3 MP= 16:9, 12.2MP= 4:3

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JPEG: 14.2 Megapixel
JPEG: 13.3 Megapixel
JPEG: 12.2 Megapixel
Audio Format

User selectable surround mode 5.1 or 2-channel

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2-ChannelStereo
Display
Display Type LCD
Screen Size 3″
Touchscreen Yes
Features
Image Stabilization Optical
Lux 1400
Built-in Mic Yes
Built-in Speaker Yes
Built-in Light/Flash Light – No
Flash – Yes
Accessory Shoe Cold
Tripod Mount 1/4″
Input/Output Connectors
Inputs 1x Microphone In
Outputs 1x Mini HDMI
1x USB 2.0
1x Headphone Out
Microphone Input Yes
Headphone Jack Yes
General
System Requirements Not Specified By Manufacturer
Battery Rechargeable Lithium-Ion Battery Pack
Dimensions (WxHxD) 2.56 x 2.72 x 5.43″ / 65 x 69 x 138mm
Weight 0.99 lb / 450g

Comments

  1. says

    I have owned the Panasonic HDC-TM700 for six months and coudn’t be more pleased. We shoot heavy industrial video within live plants with it to complement still shots. It is nice to have so much capability in your pocket. Pop it out and get lasting memories where ever you may be.

    In a pinch we use it for still shots with better than most results. The burst mode is fun to use as well as the timed exposures.

    I couldn’t be more pleased with this investment for my business and for capturing the children’s sporting endeavors.

  2. mit says

    I took a 2-year old Sony HD camcorder (not the G series, and rarely used because it is not as sharp as I expected) and a brand new Panasonic HDC-HS700 and tested them last summer in the Himalaya. The Sony was put on a Sony lightweight tripod with control to minimize the jerking zooming effect, and the Pana on a monopod mostly handheld. To my surprise both performed very well. The Pana produced brilliant and very sharp videos (recorded in full HD but rendered as DVD Mpeg2 for normal distribution.)
    I like every bit of my new Pana except the zooming mechanism which is as kerking as any other camcorders I have used. I reckon Sony produced better zooming mechanism on their Hi8 analog camcorders in the old days, by then there was no need to zoom in 700 times.

  3. forkboy1965 says

    I’m still not sold on HD camcorders. While I certainly much prefer their high resolution output, the general difficulties with editing and burning to Blu-Ray make the camcorders less interesting to me at the consumer level.

    Until Blu-Ray burners are the default install option for notebooks and desktops I think I’ll just stick to my Panasonic SD camcorder.

  4. lovethecamera says

    I’ve owned the model with the hard drive for six months and couldn’t be more pleased. I primarily use it to record my son’s sporting activities and it performs very well. I record everything in full HD (otherwise why bother?) and I have never tried the still photo feature. Why? Well for me it is a lot better to pull stills using the snapshot feature after the fact. Why shoot one still when you can select from any (or multiple) frames later? For every second of full hd video you record, you are taking 60 shots anyway. I believe I have gotten some GREAT stills of my boy playing football that I never would have gotten using a still camera.

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