Panasonic updates 3-chip camcorders

Though Panasonic's replacements for its 300 series' models have relatively minor updates, they seem like nice enhancements.

HDC-TM700 Panasonic

While it looks like Canon and Sony have bowed to market whims and pricing pressure, Panasonic has stood firm and year after year continues to release sub-$1,500 3-chip camcorders for enthusiast and budget-strapped indie videographers. Of course, you might argue that the continually improving CMOS chips used by competing Sony and Canon models obviate the need for 3-chip solutions to achieve extended tonal range. Or at least that the quality differences are so subtle that they're moot. Whatever the need or reason, though, Panasonic remains the last torchbearer for high-quality three-chip consumer camcorders. This year's offerings, the HDC-TM700 and HDC-HS700, don't deliver radical changes over last year's HDC-TM300, HDC-HS300, and HDC-HS150. But as long as the video quality and performance live up to their predecessors, you'll hear no complaints from me.

This year's models compared with last year's:

 HDC-HS700HDC-TM700HDC-TM300HDC-HS300HDC-HS250
Sensors3 x 1/1.4-inch 3.05-megapixel MOS3 x 1/1.4-inch 3.05-megapixel MOS3 x 1/1.4-inch 3.05-megapixel MOS3 x 1/1.4-inch 3.05-megapixel MOS3 x 1/1.4-inch 3.05-megapixel MOS
Recording modesAVC/H.264 MPEG-4:
1080p @ 60fps 28 Mbps
AVCHD:
1080p @ 30fps 17, 13, 9, 5 Mbps
AVC/H.264 MPEG-4:
1080p @ 60fps 28 Mbps
AVCHD:
1080p @ 30fps 17, 13, 9, 5 Mbps
AVCHD:
1080p @ 30fps 17, 13, 9 Mbps
1440x1080 @ 30fps 6Mbps
AVCHD:
1080p @ 30fps 17, 13, 9 Mbps
1,440x1,080 @ 30fps 6Mbps
AVCHD:
1080p @ 30fps 17, 13, 9 Mbps
1440x1080 @ 30fps 6Mbps
Min illumination
(lux; recommended/
low light/
night mode)
1400/1.6/11400/1.6/11400/1.6/11400/1.6/11400/1.6/1
Lens
(35mm-equivalent, video recording 16:9 aspect)
12X
f1.5-2.8
35.0-420mm
12x
f1.5-2.8
35.0-420mm
12x
f1.8-2.8
44.9-539mm
12x
f1.8-2.8
44.9-539mm
12x
f1.8-2.8
44.9-539mm
LCD3-inch 230,400 dot3-inch 230,400 dot2.7-inch 230,400 dot2.7-inch 230,400 dot2.7-inch 230,400 dot
EVFYesYesYesYesNo
Built-in/removable storage240GB hard drive/SDXC32GB/SDXC32GB/SDHC120GB hard drive/SDHC120GB hard drive/SDHC
Audio5.1 channels
mic and headphone jacks
5.1 channels
mic and headphone jacks
5.1 channels
mic and headphone jacks
5.1 channels
mic and headphone jacks
5.1 channels
Availabilitytbd (est. April 2010)tbd (est April 2010)April 2009April 2009April 2009
Pricetbd (est. $1,399.95)tbd (est. $1,299.95)$1,299.95$1, 399.95$899.95

HDC-HS700 Panasonic

In summary, Panasonic has changed the lens--still a 12x zoom, but with increased wide-angle coverage. It also adds a new 60fps 1080p mode (that requires a different encoding, since AVCHD doesn't support 1080/60p). The 700 series also has slightly bigger LCD screens, though they're at the old resolution. And like most SD-supporting products this year, they'll support SDXC. The sensors look to be the same as their predecessors, and they keep the EVFs, mic and headphone jacks, as well as the unnecessary 5.1-channel audio. Unfortunately, the Panasonic is also hewing to its annoying new tradition of not announcing pricing and availability until 30 days before the mystery ship date, so I've put in my best guess.

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