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Panasonic AG-DVC30 review: Panasonic AG-DVC30

The AG-DVC30 also has an unrivaled set of image controls for its class. It offers four independent scene files, each consisting of user-customizable detail, chroma, color temperature, master pedestal, skin detail, and gamma settings. While it is beyond the scope of this review to describe each of these, suffice it to say that you can create four distinct looks, which can easily be called up at any time.

The DVC30 also incorporates an odd blend of consumer-oriented features, unusual in a three-chip camera. Most noteworthy are three modes of Infrared Super Night Shooting, which lets you shoot monochrome video in the dark; extensive digital zoom options; and LumiFlik, a crude, filmlike flickering effect. There is, however, no provision for high-resolution still imaging.

So what's missing? If you're in love with the AG-DVX100A's cinematic 24P imagery, you'll definitely miss it here. While this camera has no progressive capability, it does offer a reasonable lower-resolution facsimile, similar to Canon's Frame Mode. The AG-DVC30 also lacks the professional audio connectors and controls necessary to interface with high-end audio gear, though these features may be added via a nifty-looking optional adapter that mounts neatly on the handle. And finally, Canon's competing GL2 offers a larger optical zoom range.

The Panasonic AG-DVC30 responds quickly and appropriately to all control inputs. Zoom, focus, and exposure controls all react predictably and consistently, though they are somewhat limited by the lack of independent buttons and rings.

The various automatic functions all perform well. Autofocus is very quick and accurate, providing you want to focus on whatever is in the middle of the screen. Autoexposure also works well, and automatic white balance generally seemed right on. The optical lens stabilizer performed admirably, allowing reasonably steady handheld shooting, even at the long end of the 16X zoom.

The built-in stereo microphone is mediocre, as is generally the case with built-in mics. As it's not very directional, you'll pick up unwanted sounds easily. Furthermore, due to the microphone's placement on the camera, camera buzz and handling noise are inevitably recorded. In short, if you're looking to record good sound, you should consider the optional XLR audio adapter a must-have item.

The AG-DVC30's low-light performance at least matched that of competing models from Sony and Canon, although you'll capture grainier-looking images than you would with the current crop of 1/3-inch-CCD cameras. In extremely dark situations, this camera is unique in offering infrared shooting modes.

Finally, battery life is decent but not spectacular. Expect to get one to two hours of shooting out of the included battery. If that's insufficient to meet your needs, you can invest in a larger, higher-capacity battery. This is one area where Sony, offering the ability to shoot all day on a single battery, clearly has the lead.

The Panasonic AG-DVC30 produces outstanding interlaced video, with accurate colors, good tonal range, and sharp, contrasty images.

Since it also offers a depth of image controls unrivaled at its price point, the AG-DVC30 can produce a much wider variety of looks than the competition. If you're a serious shooter, it will give you the capabilities you need to control your images.

While not as sharp nor quite as cinematic as true progressive imaging, the Movie-Like mode produces a decent film look.

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