camcorders

Panasonic HDC-HS300 Camcorder Review

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

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Lens & Imaging System

Lens Photo
The lens ring is one of the HDC-HS300's most prized features.

The Panasonic HDC-HS300 features the same lens as the Panasonic HDC-TM300, the sister model to the HS300. Both models represent Panasonic's top-of-the-line HD camcorders for 2009. On these high-end models, Panasonic includes its standard lens ring for making precise manual adjustments. While most manufacturers are designing consumer camcorders with one large sensor, Panasonic continues to utilize a smaller, multi-chip system that features three 1/4.1-inch CMOS sensors.

LCD & Viewfinder

The Panasonic HDC-HS300 has both an LCD and a 0.44-inch electronic viewfinder. Most people will likely use the LCD for their filming needs, but the presence of a viewfinder is good to see on a consumer camcorder. While Sony also includes an electronic viewfinder on the HDR-XR520V, Canon does not offer one on the HF S100.

The LCD is 2.7 inches in size and has a resolution of 230,400 pixels. This is fairly average for a consumer camcorder, although the Sony HDR-XR520V features a larger screen (3.2-inches) and a much better resolution (921,000-pixels). As is common on camcorders, the LCD screen can rotate 270 degrees so you can shoot at odd angles or do some self-recording.

There are a number of brightness settings for the LCD screen. Power LCD (accessible in the Q.Menu or Setup menu) allows you to choose from Auto, +2, +1, 0, or -1. You can also manually set the LCD brightness in the camcorder's menu (with 11 increments). There is also a color adjustment feature that allows you to tune the color settings of the LCD screen. Making adjustments to the LCD color or brightness will not change your recorded image.

Display Size
Display Resolution
Touch Screen
Viewfinder
Viewfinder Resolution

It's good to see a viewfinder on the HDC-HS300 and it is definitely something you'll be grateful to have on a bright, sunny day. The viewfinder doesn't have the best design—it is surrounded in hard plastic that isn't very comfortable and it cannot pivot—but it does extend and offers a small dial for adjusting the diopter. The viewfinder brightness can be set to any whole number on a scale from -16 to +16. If you're relying entirely on the viewfinder for image adjustments, the same warning applies: remember that a viewfinder adjustment will change the way your footage appears during recording, but it will not impact the final recorded footage. The viewfinder has an image resolution of 183,000 pixels.

Connectivity

A/V output
Component output
HDMI
USB
FireWire
Headphone jack
External microphone
Wireless Remote
DC Power
WiFi
GPS

The Panasonic HDC-HS300 has the standard fare when it comes to ports and connectivity options. Inside the LCD cavity, near the bottom of the camcorder, are the video output options: A/V, Component, and HDMI. These three ports are located behind a sliding plastic shield that opens and closes like a garage door and protects the ports well. It's good to see these ports located on the left side of the camcorder in an easy-to-access location. On last year's models, Panasonic awkwardly placed the video outputs inside the battery compartment—which meant you had to remove the battery and connect the DC-input every time you wanted to connect the camcorder to a television or computer.

The USB connector, which is protected by a flexible plastic cover, is located just beneath the video output ports. The SD/SDHC card slot is also located here, and it is covered by a flip-down door that pops open with the flick of a small switch. On the top of the camcorder is a cold accessory shoe. The shoe is covered by a large piece of plastic that is hinged to the side of the camcorder. The plastic does a good job blending in with the rest of the camcorder and it offers a decent seal for protecting the accessory shoe compartment. Even though the shoe is cold (not powered), Panasonic should be applauded for not using a proprietary-fit design like Canon and Sony. The shoe will fit any normal-mounting accessory or device.

Up front, on the right side of the camcorder are the external mic and headphone jacks. While the inclusion of these ports is excellent on the HS300, their placement is a bit uncomfortable. The ports ride a bit too close to the edge of the camcorder's hand strap, which means the side of your hand may rub up against the plug when you have headphones or a microphone connected. Still, this will only be a problem if you plan on doing lots of hand-held shooting with an external mic or pair of headphones connected to the camcorder.

Despite the fact that Panasonic moved its video-output ports to the left side of the camcorder, it decided to keep the DC-input inside the battery compartment. By placing the DC-input here, it forces users to stop recording and turn off the camcorder whenever a switch from battery to DC-power operation is required. So, if you want to continuously record for longer than an hour or so, you'll need to have the DC-input plugged into a power source for the entire time. This may only be a problem for certain users, but if you like to consistently switch between battery power and DC-input, the design of the HDC-HS300 will certainly frustrate you.

Battery

The HDC-HS300, along with numerous other models from Panasonic, has an irritating design for its DC input. The input is located inside the battery compartment, which means you have to remove the battery in order to connect the camcorder to a power source. This design forces you to turn the camcorder off whenever you want to switch from battery to DC power—effectively forcing you to cease recording for a few moments. This flaw may not be an issue for some users, but if you're planning to film a long play or sporting event, you will definitely run into this problem as your battery gets low. Find out how the performed in our battery life test./r:link_to_content

Battery Photo
The DC-input is located inside the battery compartment.

Media

The Panasonic HDC-HS300 includes a 120GB internal hard drive, which takes up a good portion of the right side of the camcorder. This is a lot of storage space, and it should be large enough to hold roughly 15 hours of video at the highest quality setting (exact record times are not available). If that isn't enough space for you, the camcorder also has memory card slot located inside the LCD cavity (just below a collection of ports). Here, you can insert standard SD/SDHC memory cards, which are currently made in sizes up to 32GB, to increase the storage capacity of the camcorder.

If recording to an internal hard drive doesn't suit you, Panasonic offers the HDC-TM300, which records to 32GB of internal flash memory (as well as having an SD/SDHC card slot). The TM300 is a bit smaller and lighter than the HDC-HS300, and it also costs $100 less than its hard-drive-based sister model. If you're looking for a camcorder with a larger internal hard drive than 120GB, Sony offers a whopping 240GB hard drive on the HDR-XR520V. Read more about the advantages and disadvantages of various media types.

Media Photo
The camcorder has the option of recording to SD/SDHC cards as well as its 120GB hard drive
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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