camcorders

Panasonic VDR-D200 Camcorder Review

October 18, 2006
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Performance

Video Performance* (6.25)

*The Panasonic VDR-D200 uses a 1/6" CCD with 680K gross pixels and 340K effective pixels. This is the standard set of entry-level imager specs from most manufacturers. At 3000 lux, the camcorder produced an image with vivid colors, but with a good deal of noise. This is not surprising, as all of the lower-end Panasonics this year leaned towards the noisy. If you insist on a very clean image, you can find better in this price range.  However, the colors are strong and even across the spectrum. Panasonics seem to produce slightly stronger reds than Canon and Sony, and this was also the case with the VDR-D200.

Strangely, the image with the VDR-D200 was slightly darker than the Panasonic VDR-D100, the next model down, which has the same imaging system. These camcorders were shot at exactly the same light levels – 3000 lux – and under the same conditions. Even if we give a very slight variance in our testing levels, there still seems to be some additional variance in the auto exposure levels of the VDR-D100 and the VDR-D200. (This hypothesis is supported by evidence that each low light test was also slightly brighter in the VDR-D100.)

Last year’s Panasonic VDR-D75 is a more contrasty image, with thick, sharp lines between objects. The colors were also more saturated, particularly the yellows with stronger overall blues.

  

Last year’s Panasonic VDR-D75 had a more contrasty image, with thick, sharp lines between objects. The colors were also more saturated, particularly the yellows, and stronger overall blues.

The Canon DC20 had a brighter image overall, with far less noise. Also, the picture was sharper overall. The colors popped more than the VDR-D200. The significant differences are likely due to the larger, 1/3.9" CCD. It’s actually hard to compare these camcorders. The Canon DC20 far outweighed the VDR-D200.

The Sony DCR-DVD205 was brighter, to the point of blowing out. In all, the image appeared overexposed. There was also some minor instances of blue noise, which is a problem associated with some of their low and middle-end camcorders.

{column='Video Performance' models='Panasonic VDR-D200,Panasonic VDR-D100,Panasonic VDR-M75,Sony DCR-DVD205'}

Video Resolution* (10.4)*

The Panasonic VDR-D200’s video was tested for its resolution by shooting a standard ISO 12233 resolution chart and running those stills through Imatest imaging software. In 4:3 aspect ratio, the camcorder produced 322.5 lines of horizontal resolution and 321.5 lines of vertical resolution, yielding an approximate total resolution of 103683.75. In 16:9 aspect ratio, the camcorder produced 316.3 lines of horizontal resolution and 319.4 lines of vertical resolution, yielding an approximate total resolution of 101026.22.

The chart below shows how the Panasonic VDR-D200 performed in comparison to similar camcorders. Clearly, this is what you should expect for the price. It's not terrible, but it's not great.

{column='Video Resolution' models='Panasonic VDR-D200,Panasonic VDR-D100,Panasonic VDR-M75,Sony DCR-DVD205'}

Panasonic-VDR-D200-front.jpg

similarities with respect to their single difference further indicates that either the VDR-D100 is slightly overexposing or the VDR-D200 is slightly underexposing due to manufacturing variances.

The Canon DC20 has a disappointing image at 60 lux, given the great image at 3000 lux. The image still looks sharp, but also dulled. The Canon manages to stave off most noise, and is still better looking than the Panasonic VDR-D200.

The Sony DCR-DVD205 saturated its colors unevenly. The blues look correct, the reds are too dull, and the greens are practically neon. The blue noise that was just hinted at in 3000 lux becomes very apparent here. It did not have any of the focus issues that the Panasonic suffered from.

The VDR-D200, like all Panasonics, offers manual gain control – a digital signal enhancement. At 60 lux, the camcorder had already boosted the gain to about 12dB. At a manual setting of 15dB, the picture looks a little better. At 18dB (the maximum setting), the picture has become entirely overexposed.

At 15 lux, the Panasonic VDR-D200’s noise has increased immensely, and dominates most of the fine detail. The general tone of colors still manages to pass through the noise, but low overall luminance levels kill color vibrancy. The 15 lux performance is a toss-up. Some camcorders put their efforts into maintaining resolution and minimizing noise, while sacrificing color. The VDR-D200 does the opposite, putting color first. We tend to appreciate the latter more, but we understand that shooters will have their own preferences.

The Panasonic VDR-D100 was essentially the same. The variance in auto exposure levels that caused the D100 to be slightly higher than the VDR-D200 were least obvious at 15 lux, but you could still point it out. The Panasonic VDR-M75 is a good example of what we just talked about, where a camcorder leans towards a noise-less picture over a colorful picture. The image is essentially greyscale, but it looks cleaner than the VDR-D200.

The Canon DC20 fits into the same category. Almost no color remains while noises levels are definitely noticeable. This image shows a total failure of gain, saturation levels, or any sort of in-camera enhancement coming to the rescue. The Sony DCR-DVD205 had similar brightness levels as the VDR-D200, but the colors are not quite as accurate. There is noise, but it comes in the chunky blue variety rather than the black fuzz tones of the Panasonic. Neither are pleasant to look at.

When shooting at 15 lux, the Panasonic VDR-D200 automatically found a gain level of 15-16dB. When manually set to 18dB, the picture did improve. Noise increased proportionately, which overwhelmed even more of the fine detail, but it’s a trade-off I’d be willing to make.

{column='Low Light Performance' models='Panasonic VDR-D200,Panasonic VDR-D100,Panasonic VDR-M75,Sony DCR-DVD205'}

Wide Angle* (9.9)*

We tested the wide angle capabilities of the VDR-D200 in both 4:3 and 16:9 modes. In 4:3 mode, the field width of the VDRD200 measured 49.5 degrees. In 16:9 mode, its field width also measured 49.5 degrees. Because these measurements are identical, the camcorder does not possess true widescreen capabilities. Camcorders that are capable of true widescreen use a 16:9 CCD that produces an increase of field width in 16:9 mode.

 

 

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. Performance
  2. Format
  3. Tour
  4. Auto / Manual Controls
  5. Still Features
  6. Handling and Use
  7. Audio / Playback / Connectivity
  8. Other Features
  9. Comparisons / Conclusion
  10. Specs/Ratings
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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