Panasonic PV-GS39 Camcorder Review
Video Performance (5.25)
The PV-GS39 offers a native 16:9 1/6" CCD with a 800K gross pixel count (290K effective pixels in 4:3 and 380K effective pixels in 16:9). The F values for the iris are the same as the PV-GS31, which this is replacing– f/1.8 to 3.9 – but the focal length has grown from 1.9 – 49.4 mm on the GS31 to 1.9 – 57 mm on the GS39. The optical zoom has increased from 26x to 30x.
Viewing the image at 3000 lux, the picture is merely decent. The chart certainly appears bright enough, but the definition between colors is lacking. The yellow-green and green-blue portions of the spectrum tend to run together. There is also a surprising amount of noise, which did not appear in last year’s PV-GS35, a camcorder with the same imager size that we have also reviewed. Both of these models showed decent sharpness – that is to say, satisfactory sharpness for a 1/6" chip – but the graininess present across the entire picture, and most evident in the red-orange-yellow colors, is a little disheartening. Finally, notice the "jaggies" on the upper right border and lower left border of the color chart. This performance indicates a downgrade from the GS35 we championed last year.
**Video Resolution ***(9.8)*
The Panasonic PV-GS39 was tested for the resolution of its video using Imatest Imaging Software. In order to test this, video was taken of a standard resolution chart in both 4:3 and 16:9 modes. At it’s best, in 4:3 mode, the camcorder yielded 296.2 lines of horizontal resolution and 331.4 lines of vertical resolution, totaling 98160.68. In 16:9 mode, the camcorder produced 385.7 lines of horizontal resolution, and 321.8 lines of vertical resolution, with 0.726% clipping, yielding 124118.26. Clipping occurs when the software determines that the exposure is too high, or in this case, too low. This can result in inaccuracies of the resolution score. It is a problem that can occur with lower-end camcorders, or sometimes with even good camcorders that are overly-contrasty.
**Low Light Performance ***(4.75)*
The PV-GS39’s low light performance was a mixed affair. From what we’ve seen, manufacturers tend to take one of two roads: either their camcorders can retain color information at the cost of sharpness and noise, or they can retain sharpness at the cost of color information. Of course, the compromise has a myriad of gray areas (no pun intended), but this is often the breakdown. Panasonic, in this instance, has chosen to sacrifice noise reduction for color.
At 60 lux, certain colors are still bright, like yellow and green. Red, however, takes a hit. The grayscale is still defined, but the whites are significantly darker. Noise has definitely increased. However, when you compare the images to the ones from the PV-GS35 of last year, the sharpness actually looks a little better. And although the grain is slightly more pervasive in the GS39, it is also a finer grain, which is a marked improvement.
Panasonic is generous enough to offer manual gain control, from 0dB to 18dB. In auto mode, the GS39 had already raised the gain to approximately 12dB. Above is an example of shooting in 60 lux with the gain manually bumped up to 15dB. Note the steep loss of sharpness in exchange for a relatively modest color retention. We tried it again at 18dB, but the picture was mostly blown out at that point.
At 15 lux in auto mode, the GS39 footage became a bit of a mess. Noise completely dominated the picture, rendering it most likely unusable. Much of the color definition has also been lost. At this point, the auto setting had already maxed out the gain at 18dB, so there was no way to try and improve the quality through manual settings. This is when a slower shutter speed would have come in handy.
The GS39 shows an improvement over last year's GS19 and GS35. The colors are stronger all around, and the noise has at least remained stable.
Wide Angle* (9.0)*
Wide Angle measurements were taken of the PV-GS39’s 4:3 and 16:9 modes. In 4:3 mode, this model’s widest angle was 45 degrees, while it measured 57 degrees in widescreen mode (16:9). This additional screen capture indicates the the PV-GS39 does indeed offer true 16:9 widescreen.
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