A decent offering for the price, but lacks in image detail.
Panasonic has always been a significant player in the camcorder market, and their latest offering – the HC-V500 – falls in the middle range of their line-up. And though it leaves a lot to be desired in the image quality department, it’s a decent bet for the price that you pay for it.
The HC-V500 boasts an 1.5-megapixel 1/5.8-inch CMOS image sensor which can record 1920 1080/60p video with bitrates up to 28Mbps and a 38x optical zoom. It also has 2500x digital zoom but considering the low details that the camera captures in the first place, degrading that footage is probably not the best idea. It also has a 3.0-inch touch screen LCD display which is utilised by most of the menus in the camera and records on an SD card, which is actually a good thing because it allows you to change storage instantly without the access of a computer unlike most hard disk recording camcorders.
Touchscreen and UI
Because of the fact that it records on an SD card, the camcorder feels very light which might mean that the performance without a tripod might not be the most stable. But there are users that actually would prefer the lightweight feel of it and wouldn’t mind some shaky footage in certain situations. The form factor of the camcorder is also quite small, which might make the menu navigation on the touch screen somewhat of a hassle at times and not as smooth as you might be used to with other cameras. But other than that, the navigation is easy to get around and there are even buttons around the screen that do quite a few functions in an easier manner.
One very helpful feature that the camcorder has which casual users will love is the Intelligent Auto” mode, which selects the best image settings required for recording depending on the scenario and has bells and whistles like image stabilization and contrast control. Normally auto modes like these end up choosing the worst kind of settings for your footage, but in our usage we found the mode to be quite smart in itself and worked as a no-frills mode for recording on the go.
But there’s one area where the HC-V500 really stumbles – image quality. Working from a small CMOS sensor that isn’t as powerful as the more high-end cameras in Panasonic’s range, you can really see the difference in the image it produces. The colors are duller than normal and most of all, the details it captures is very bland and doesn’t do the footage any justice. That’s usually something you sacrifice with cameras that have small sensors like this, but here we found it quite a bit pronounced. Another thing was the auto focus capabilities of the camera and they were pretty weak to say the least. Constantly in our tests, the focus seemed to go haywire and produced a soft image that looked very disappointing. Audio quality is significantly better though, with a two channel stereo microphones capturing decent quality audio at surprisingly far away distances. But if that’s all that mattered to you, you would be buying an audio recorder and not a camcorder.
But for the price, it’s really up to the end user to decide what he really wants out of the camera. It’s loaded with some neat features that make shooting easy and accessible for all kind of users but the sacrifice is in the image quality for what price you can pick it up from. It’s a decent camera for the price, but doesn’t hold up if you have more money to spare.