camcorders

Panasonic HDC-HS300 Camcorder Review

The Panasonic HDC-HS300 (MSRP 1399.99) is a first-class camcorder.

May 06, 2009
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Manual Focus

Manual Exposure

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Miscellaneous Controls

Tele Macro

Allows you to focus on items close to the camcorder (focal distance is approximately 1cm to 1m)

Guide Lines

Onscreen lines that help you frame your shot (can be set to three horizontal lines, a 9-sector grid, or a 60-sector grid)

Zebra

A common professional feature that assists with manual exposure adjustment: black and white stripes appear in overexposed areas (not on your final footage); unlike on the Canons, there is no option to set zebra stripe sensitivity

Luminance

A small target at the center of the screen, give you a luminance value from 0% - 100% (can be set to always on, on adjust, or off)

Histogram

Helps you determine how much of your shot is currently in brightness, shadows, and midtones (can be set to always on, on adjust, or off)

Audio Controls

The Panasonic HDC-HS300 has more audio controls than your average high-end consumer camcorder. For starters, it has a built-in 5.1-channel Dolby digital microphone located just behind the lens on the top of the camcorder. The mic is located poorly, as your pinky can easily rub up against it when you're holding the camcorder. Moving over to the right side of the HS300, you'll find the external mic and headphone jacks. The jacks aren't located very well either, as they come too close to the edge of the hand strap when you're holding the camcorder. On a positive note, both the built-in mic and a connected external mic can be set to manual audio level control.

The built-in mic can be set to surround, zoom, or focus. Levels can be set using the Set +AGC feature. The interface looks more complex than it really is. At the bottom is an AGC button for turning the auto gain control on and off. At the center is a slider for manually adjusting gain levels on a scale from -30 to +6 (fourteen increments total). This feature alone is more than you'll see in most consumer camcorders, but Panasonic takes it one step further by offering bass control. There are four different settings here: 0dB, +3dB, +6dB, and Lowcut.

The animated image above shows the microphone level control display (Set +AGC). The 5 bar displays around the perimeter of the sliding scale represent the audio levels of each channel on the built-in mic. You can't adjust the levels of the individual channels, so the bars are really for display purposes only. The camcorder also has a wind cut option that can be turned on and off. Below are the audio features found on the Panasonic HDC-HS300 and its comparison camcorders:

Editing

The camcorder ships with HD Writer AE 1.0, which is a simple editing software that is only compatible with Windows operating systems. The software lets you make simple edits to your footage, helps you organize clips, and assists with uploading video to the internet. Most importantly, the software enables you to import video from the camcorder onto your computer (the AVCHD footage can't simply be 'dragged-and-dropped').

When you open the HD Writer AE software, a 'simple menu' pops up that guides you through some of the more common tasks the program can perform. We found the simple menu was fairly easy to use, although some of the features were too confusing than they needed to be. The image below is a screen grab of the 'import to PC' screen. The design of the 'import to PC' window has too much information and isn't very user friendly. We would have liked to see a simpler, cleaner layout for this very important option.

We got loads of error messages while working with the HD Writer AE software. Most of the time the messages popped up when we tried to do more complex tasks with the program, but they appeared consistently throughout our time spent with the software. Most professional or prosumer video editing programs should work smoothly with footage captured by the HDC-HS300. The camcorder is also compatible with iMovie. Our recommendation is that if you already have an editing program that you're comfortable with using, by all means keep using it with the HS300. HD Writer AE isn't a very good program, although it will work in a pinch if you need it to.

For an overview of the software that ships with this and other camcorders, see our article: Video Editing Software For Your CamcorderPanasonic-Included-Software.htm.

Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.

Sections

  1. Introduction
  2. Product Tour
  3. Color Performance
  4. Low Light Performance
  5. Motion Performance
  6. Sharpness Performance
  7. Sample Videos
  8. Ease of Use
  9. Handling
  10. Controls
  11. Recording Options
  12. Hardware
  13. Other Features
  14. Sony HDR-XR520V Comparison
  15. Canon Vixia HF S100 Comparison
  16. Sanyo VPC-HD2000 Comparison
  17. Conclusion
  18. Photo Gallery
Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.
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Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.

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