Panasonic HDC-HS900 review: Panasonic HDC-HS900

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Typical Price: $2,099.00
4.5 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

The Good 3D-capable (with add-on lens). Excellent video quality. Records at 1080/50p. Touchscreen controls actually work.

The Bad Doesn't seem to like OS X Lion much. SD card slot can all too easily sit outside the camera body. 3D is an add-on; you'll have to carry the lens with you to make it happen.

The Bottom Line Panasonic's 3D-capable 3MOS camcorder offers an impressive array of features and top-quality shooting, but it's not a light model to carry around, especially with the optional 3D lens bolted on.

8.8 Overall

Design

The HS900 is the evolution of previous Panasonic models that we've tested, such as the HDC-HS700, and, visually, there's not a whole lot of difference between the two models. At 66x72x146mm and 455g this is a solid camcorder, but the round shape and comfortable holding strap don't make it too much of a strain on the hand and wrist while shooting. We tested the HS900 directly after testing Panasonic's SD80 and SDRH101 camcorders, and while we had some small issues with the placement of the recording button on those models, the more generous dimensions of the HDC-S900 make it easier to get along with.

This isn't to say that the HS900 doesn't have its own design quirks. The basic controls for mode selection, zoom and still-camera shot taking are where you'd expect them to be, but there's also a few key controls snuggled in on the side normally obscured by the LCD display, including all of the input ports hidden under a plastic flap, and the option button for switching to 1080/50p shooting mode. The HS900 utilises a touchscreen for the rest of its controls via a menu setup that sits to the left side of the 3.5-inch LCD display screen. It's a simple set-up, and while touchscreens aren't to everybody’s tastes, it works quite well.

One minor design oddity that we noticed while shooting was that if we had opened the A/V slot cover, it sat below where the viewfinder folds back. If you quickly close the viewfinder to switch it off, it's possible to leave the flap itself hanging out and exposed, which could lead to it breaking off.

Features

The HS900 sits at the top of Panasonic's line of 3MOS Full High Definition camcorders, along with the cheaper AU$1499 SD900 . The chief differences between the two models aside from price are recording media and the inclusion of a manual focus ring on the HS900. The SD900 has SD card storage, whereas the HS900 offers the option of SD card recording as well as a 220GB internal hard drive. Both models feature an effective 7.59-megapixel (2.53 megapixel x 3 if you wish to be technical about such things) video-shooting mode, as well as 7.59-megapixel still-shooting mode. A hotshoe attachment on the top allows for accessory attachments, save for the HS900's other big selling point: 3D video.

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