Panasonic VDR-D300 Camcorder Review
**Video Performance ***(8.0)*
The Panasonic VDR-D300 comes equipped with 3 1/6" CCDs, each with 800K gross pixels; there are 640K effective pixels in 4:3 aspect ratio, and 540K effective pixels in 16:9 mode. The differences between the D300 and Panasonic’s top DVD camcorder from last year are significant. Most notably, the VDR-M75 had only a single 1/4.5" CCD to work with. But DVD cams are on the rise. Last year the king of the format was Sony’s DVD403, which provided a brilliant video performance spurred by its huge 1/3" CCD and 2048 effective pixels. This year Sony looks to keep their lead with the DVD505, a DVD camcorder sporting an advanced 1/3" ClearVID CMOS sensor with 1910K effective pixels.
At 3000 lux, the Panasonic VDR-D300 showed an exceptionally sharp picture – sharpness approached that of the top-end MiniDV PV-GS500. Yes, that is the comparison we’re making. Of course, it’s not quite as good, but it’s sharper than any DVD camcorder we’ve seen before. The Sony DVD403 can certainly outperform any DVD camcorder we’ve seen so far in terms of color performance, but the D300 is so crisp. The sharp edges and ultra-crisp color definition make this a very likeable picture. On the downside, the colors are not terribly vivid, a surprising find for a 3 CCD camcorder. After all, with a chip for each of the primary colors, you’d expect brilliant results. The greens and blues read the strongest, but most colors fail to pop out of the picture. The grayscale was also sharply defined, but the whites were just not that white, and appeared far more gray than they should have when held up against the brilliant DVD403.
Last year’s VDR-M75, by comparison, had a strange tendency to over-darken the black lines along the borders of the chart, and the colors, on the whole, looked too far skewed towards the yellow-green palette.
Video Resolution* (16.5)*
We tested the VDR-D300’s resolution using by shooting both 4:3 and 16:9 footage of a standard resolution chart and running the results through Imatest. In 4:3 mode, the D300 gave us approximately 506.4 lines of horizontal resolution and 324.9 lines of vertical resolution, which yields an approximate true resolution of 164529.36. In 16:9 mode, the D300 yielded 384.1 lines of horizontal resolution and 288.9 lines of vertical resolution, giving an approximate true resolution of 110966.49.
**Low Light Performance ***(3.5)*
As fantastic as the D300’s 3000 lux video performance was, the low light performance disappointed, and seemed only to prove that chip size is a major factor in this category. The 1/6" CCDs, despite being three in number, could not capture enough light to match a larger, 1/3" chip camcorder like the DVD403.
At 60 lux, the VDR-D300 took on characteristics of a trend we’ve spotted in this year’s Panasonic camcorders. As with the MiniDV PV-GS39, the fine grain noise has taken an upswing since last year. Panasonic’s aim seems to be a boost in overall sharpness, but the noise is hard to ignore. Color presence is still fairly strong, but the greens have begun to muddy together. The whites, however, are very strong. Last year’s VDR-M75, despite having an inferior bright light performance, looked much better in low light – sharper and with better color. The Sony DVD403’s footage, as noted in the Low Light Performance section of so many reviews last year, is incredible, and looks nearly as good as it did at 3000 lux.
At 15 lux, the noise becomes even more noticeable and the grain is less fine. The red portion of the spectrum takes the biggest hit, blurring entirely the distinctions between the orange-red-violet panels. In comparison, the DVD403 had much stronger colors and better color definition. The VDR-M75, on the other hand, had lost nearly all of its color information at 15 lux, and, if nothing else, might help you to feel that the two hundred dollar difference in MSRPs between the M75 and the D300 is justified.
Wide Angle* (7.8)*
The VDR-D300 was tested for the width of its field in both 4:3 and 16:9 modes to see if the camcorder possesses true widescreen mode, and what the difference between these mode is. In 4:3 mode, the D300 had a wide angle measurement of 39 degrees. In 16:9 mode, it had a measurement of 39 degrees. This absence of difference in field width indicates that the D300 does not offer true widescreen. The PV-GS39, for example, had a difference of 12 degrees between 4:3 and 16:9.
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