LAS VEGAS -- Given that it's 2015 and other manufacturers have been contracting their camcorder product lines for several years, Panasonic's introduction of 7 to 11 camcorders at CES is pretty impressive. Seven of the models will be available in the US, while four other models will also appear in other regions, they've got "M" in their model names, indicating that they incorporate 16GB of built-in memory.
At the top of its consumer line now sits the WX970, the company's first consumer 4K -- UHD, 2160/30p -- model, tentatively priced at $1,000 (£652 and AU$1,237 directly converted). Panasonic's next 4K step-up is the $3,500 (£2,700, AU$4,000) HC-X1000, and the 3-chip HD X920 stays in the line. It's not the only 4K model, though; it's joined by the $900 VX870 (directly converted, £587, AU$1,113). Both models incorporate a 1/2.3-inch BSI sensor, and they're also equipped with 20X f1.8 Leica Dicomar lenses.
The VX870 differs from the WX970 only by the absence of a second camera for shooting picture-in-picture video, the Twin Camera feature that Panasonic debuted last year. It does support Wireless Twin Camera, though, which is what Panasonic dubs the unique new capability of using a Wi-Fi connected phone or tablet as the second camera. Wireless Twin Camera support will be available in many, but not all, of the new models. And one sad omission from all of the 4K models is an electronic viewfinder.
Panasonic adds an interesting new feature to several of the $600-plus models: HDR Movie. Similar to multiple-exposure HDR stills, HDR Movie simultaneously records two exposures at different shutter speeds, then merges them with optimized highlight and shadow areas. While it won't work well in some situations, notably those with very fast action, and only works in HD, it's a novel approach to compensating for the tendency of consumer cameras to blow out highlights and clip shadows.
The company also claims faster autofocus using a new lens drive based on the Lightspeed AF used in its point-and-shoots.
Of the rest of the models, which range in price from $230 to $600, it's annoying that Panasonic makes you choose between the Twin Camera (V770/V760) and the HDR Movie features (W570).
All of the camcorders are scheduled to ship in late February/early March.