Panasonic AG-HSC1U First Impressions Camcorder Review
We expect the Panasonic AG-HSC1U to perform nearly identically to its consumer counterpart in all aspects other than color rendering because the camcorders are mechanically identical. Both are equipped with a 3-CCD imaging system that features 1/4" sensors, each with a gross pixel count of 560,000 and 520,000 effective.
In our 3000 lux tests, the SD1 produced a nice-looking image that was very close in quality and apparent sharpness to this year’s HDV camcorders including the Sony HDR-HC7 and Canon HV20. As is typical for Panasonic consumer cams, color balance was better than average, and not overly saturated. The AG-HSC1U should produce an even less saturated image because professional camcorders are calibrated for accuracy unlike consumer camcorders that are designed to produce eye-popping color. The assumption on the part of manufacturers is that most consumers are not going to post their footage, while professionals always post their footage, and thus need to begin with the most accurate colors possible. On the SD1, we found manual white balance was slightly greener than the other camcorders in its class. It would be reasonable to assume that the AG-HSC1U will improve on this performance since its overall color calibration is geared towards professional applications.
The biggest concern for professionals looking for a compact and durable camcorder to work into their shoots is that the AG-HSC1U records AVCHD rather than HDV. The new format’s low bit rate accommodates recording to a wide range of non-linear media, including flash cards and HDDs, unlike HDV but at this stage in its development, its performance is inferior to HDV. In all the AVCHD camcorders we’ve reviewed including the SD1, we’ve observed more graininess than seen in HDV. AVCHD compression also produces motion artifacts in the form of mild trailing. We observed both of these problems in SD1 footage, though overall the image was still very good.
Low Light Performance
The SD1 turned in a relatively weak showing in low light, and the AG-HSC1U should perform identically. Shooting our color chart at 60 lux in auto mode, the SD1’s light gathering ability was maxed out with gain automatically raised to +18dB, and the image was quite grainy. Unlike other compact HD cams, the AG-HSC1U cannot be lowered below 1/60 manually without using the MagicPix AE preset. On a camcorder that’s aimed at professional users, the lack of manual shutter speeds below 1/60 is a surprising omission.
At 15 lux, the SD1 showed in even noisier image, and color accuracy suffered with significant saturation loss.
The SD1 produced a peak of 50 IRE at 14 lux, while the Canon HV20 and Sony HDR-HC7 both mustered 50 IRE at only 7 lux for 1080i video. Measuring for noise level and color accuracy at 60 lux, the SD1 showed a noise percentage of 0.63% and a color error of 11.8. The noise percentage at 60 lux was quite low for a consumer camcorder, but the color error is a red flag to be considered for any low-light pro application that the AG-HSC1U might be used in.
Before you buy the Panasonic AG-HSC1U, take a look at these other camcorders.
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