Panasonic HC-X900M Camcorder and 3D Conversion Lens   Review

Panasonic ups the image quality ante with its new HC-X900M: a camcorder that packs a ton of visual punch and is equally at home in both the 2D and 3D worlds. With the addition of the optional 3D conversion lens, the X900M is capable of producing stunning 3D images in full HD.

Impressive

In addition to its beautiful image capture, the X900M has numerous features that make it an excellent camcorder. To begin with there is no separate lens cover to misplace. When powered on and switched into capture mode the built-in automatic lens cover opens. Power down, switch into playback mode or simply close the LCD and the cover closes again.

Another excellent feature is the manual ring around the lens. Working in tandem with the camera function button, this allows quick, intuitive, manual operation of the focus, white balance, shutter and iris settings. Pressing the appropriate button displays its sub menu on the LCD touch screen. Here the desired function is selected; turning the wheel scrolls through the various settings.

At 3.5-inches, the LCD display is larger than that found on similar models. And, at 1,152,000 dots, the resolution is considerably sharper too. The menus and other onscreen functions are touch-operated and the LCD is equipped with auto functions as well. When the screen is closed, the power switches off automatically to preserve battery life. Flip the LCD open and power switches on in 0.6 seconds. By the time the screen appears it’s ready to start shooting. We think this is a great function. How many shooting opportunities have been lost waiting for camcorders to ready themselves for action?

With the optional 3D conversion lens attached, the LCD lets you view 3D images live, without using active shutter or red/cyan anaglyph glasses.

When closed, the LCD hides the power button, the playback speaker, the button for turning on 1080/60p recording, the battery release and ports for making HDMI, AV multi and USB 2.0 connections. Above the closed LCD screen is the intelligent auto/manual toggle button and the optical image stabilizer selector button. The top rear is home to the still image capture button and the zoom/playback volume rocker switch. Dropping down the other side is the playback/video record/still capture selector switch followed by a covered port for plugging in the AC adapter. At the rear is the video record button, battery and pull out electronic viewfinder.

Mic and Jacks

At the top front is the 5.1 channel, surround sound microphone. Equipped with five electret condenser microphones, different mic configurations may be selected to best suit the recording conditions at hand. The zoom mic function is linked to the lens. When you zoom in to your subject, the mic focuses on the sound coming from that direction. The wide, or surround, function employs all five microphones to pick up sounds coming from all directions for the most natural, real-life effect.

Going down the right side from the microphones is the covered port for attaching the side-mount accessory shoe, below which is the shoe adapter release. Forward of the hand strap is another covered port with stereo mini jacks for headphones and an external microphone. Both of these are a real plus. Headphones allow you to more accurately monitor your audio and, as good as the built-in microphone may be, a quality external mic, mounted up and away from the body of the camera, will always deliver better sound. Finally, along the bottom edge of the X900M is the media slot. If you find the built-in 32GB memory just isn’t enough, you can expand the capacity with SD, SDHC or SDXC memory cards.

To 3D or Not to 3D?

Our test camera arrived with the optional 3D conversion lens, so of course we had to take it for a spin. With the lens attached, the camera recognizes it and takes you through a simple calibration process utilizing markings on the inside of the lens cover and dials beneath a flip-up panel on top of the lens. Unlike Panasonic’s HDC-SDT750, which used an earlier version of this conversion lens, and split the full HD image between two lenses resulting in dual images at half the resolution, the X900M records both left and right images at full HD quality to produce a superior 3D image. Also new is the addition of 1.5x digital zooming whereas the earlier conversion lens offered no zooming at all.

An extremely fine camcorder that is well worth the price, tests revealed that the X900M is capable of producing stunning images with excellent color reproduction and sensitivity to fine detail. It has decent low light capabilities and loads of desirable features, with a very user-friendly interface to boot.


Tech Specs

Image Sensor: 1/4.1″ MOS Sensor (3)

Total Pixels: 9.15 MP (3.05 megapixels x 3)

F Value: F1.5-2.8

Optical Zoom: 12x

Lens Brand: Leica Dicomar Lens

Standard Illumination: 1400 lx

Minimum Illumination: 1.6 lx (1 / 30, Low Light, Scene Mode); 1 lx (Color Night Rec.)

Image Stabilization: Hybrid O.I.S.+with O.I.S. lock

Focus & Iris: Auto/Manual

White Balance: Auto/Indoor1/Indoor2/Sunny/Cloudy/White set

Shutter Speed: 1/24 to 1/8,000

LCD: 3.5″ wide 3D LCD monitor (1,152,000 dots)

Recording Format: 1080/60p: MPEG-4 AVC/H.264

Still Recording Format: JPEG, MPO

Microphone: 5.1 ch Surround/Zoom Microphone/Focus Microphone/2 ch Stereo

Interfaces: HDMI mini, Microphone (stereo mini), Headphone (stereo mini), USB 2.0, AV Multi

Media: Built-in memory 32GB, SD/SDHC/SDXC Memory Card

Weight (w/o Battery): Approximately 0.93lb

Dimensions: Approximately 2.64″ W x 2.83″ H x 5.90″ D

Strengths

  • 3MOS imaging system produces very high quality results
  • 12x optical zoom
  • Large, high resolution LCD display
  • Full HD, 3D images (with optional conversion lens)
  • Focus assist

Weaknesses

  • Shoe mount is in awkward location

Summary

With outstanding performance in two dimensions or three, the HC-X900M, by Panasonic, is well worth the attention of anyone seeking quality HD at an affordable price.

Panasonic Corporation of North America

www.panasonic.com

Price: $1,200; Optional 3D Conversion Lens: $400

Contributing Editor Mark Holder is a video producer and trainer.