Panasonic PV-GS35 Mini DV Camcorder Review

The Panasonic PV-GS35 is a light and comfortable camera for the casual point and shoot user. Featuring a whopping 30x optical zoom, it can get extremely tight on your subjects. But don’t forget your tripod!

This is a compact size camcorder that is big enough to handle easily, but small enough to accommodate an on-the-go lifestyle. It has enough features to keep shooters busy, too. One of the niftiest features on this camera is the joystick.

Ode to Joystick


The most notable advantage of the joystick is that it gives you near instant access to some features. Activating the Fade, Backlight, Skin Soft mode, MagicPix mode and Recording Check features is quick and easy with a little bit of practice. At first, the icons for these features are difficult to read and the joystick can be a little confusing to operate. After a couple of minutes you should pick it right up and blaze through the features.

The joystick also controls the manual features. Although the camera looks like it has a focus ring on the lens barrel, don’t be fooled. A joystick control operates the manual focus, as well as the white balance, shutter speed, gain, and iris. Adjusting the manual controls on the fly is a hassle, as the automatic gain resets itself every time you return to manual control menu to make another adjustment. You’ll have to set it once and make adjustments in between shots.

Menu, Please


The menu is very well organized and thus easy to navigate. Within the menu there are five program modes: Sports, Portrait, Low Light, Spotlight and Surf and Snow.

The PV-GS35 also has an onboard light and a super gain mode turns on when triggering the Light button. The boost in gain is the most noticeable enhancement in dark scenes. Hitting the Light button a second time will shut off the super gain and leave the on-board light on. The light doesn’t do much to brighten up a scene. A subject will have to be fairly close to the camera to get decent results from the light alone.

Without an accessory shoe, adding accessories to the camcorder (i.e. lights, shotgun mics) will come as a bit of a challenge. Fortunately, there’s an 1/8" mini mic input for shooters hoping to get a little more control with their audio. Another beneficial feature is the S-Video connector (out only). This camcorder comes equipped, but you should note that it is inaccessible if you’re also using the battery. Panasonic had to squeeze it in somewhere, we guess.

Room to Zoom


Getting a close-up shot from a distance is easy with the 30x optical zoom. Shooters looking to capture wildlife images or capture a staged performance from afar will definitely want a camera with this feature.

Don’t assume, however, the Electronic Image Stabilizer (EIS) will take the bounce out of all your shots at this long telephoto range. At full zoom, the EIS has a difficult time consistently smoothing out a carefully balanced handheld shot. It stabilizes the image for a couple seconds, then in a split second it spastically re-frames itself. It repeats this process as long as you don’t keep the camcorder perfectly still. Overall, it’s a little distracting, but with a decent tripod you will have better results.


Audio


The on-board stereo mic is located at the front of the camcorder near the bottom. Its placement seems dangerously too close to the handgrip. In review, though, we didn’t hear any noticeable operator or camera noise.

At close range we could hear audio clearly, but it sharply dropped off in volume as the source moved further away. As far as directionally goes, the unit performed well, and was able to pick up audio from a wide angle from in front of the camcorder. For playback in the camcorder there’s a small monitor with an adjustable volume control. Unfortunately, there’s no headphone jack for more accurate monitoring.

Image


The camcorder’s 1/6″ CCD is not one that will blow your mind in terms of resolution, but it performs as expected. Capturing fine details is not the camcorder’s best ability. Although, with a 30x zoom you are likely to get close-up details that most camcorders will miss at longer distances. Also, with the Soft Skin mode, you’ll be able to soften up your image to complement portraits.

The ability to accurately reproduce color is the camcorder’s most notable image quality. Unlike some other camcorders, bright colors appear true without that over-saturation brightness that takes away from the scene’s realism. Overall, the video quality is incredibly true to the eye, and will definitely please those family historians shooting to preserve their family’s memories.

Summary


The Panasonic PV-GS35 is a reliable point and shoot camcorder with some impressive features. Its comfortable fit and joystick make it easy to operate.

The biggest shortfall is the limited input options–the only way to input video onto the camcorder is through the FireWire jack. On the other hand, most users will find the zoom capabilities a worthwhile trade-off. Overall, we found it to be a great Mini DV camcorder for a low price.

TECH SPECS

Format: Mini DV

Number of CCDs: 1

Size of CCDs: 1/6″

Pixels on CCD: (k) 680

Video Effective Pixels (k): 340

Focus: auto/manual

Shutter Speed: auto/manual

Maximum Shutter Speed: 1/8000

Minimum Shutter Speed: 1/60

Lens f Stop: 1.8-3.9

Program Exposure Modes: 5

Optical Zoom: 30x

Focal Length: 1.9 – 57mm

Image Stabilization: Electronic

Manual White Balance: Yes

Viewfinder: Color

LCD Monitor: 2.5″

Progressive Scan: still photo only

HD Modes: no

Video In: FireWire

Video Out: special a/v, S-Video, FireWire, USB

Mono/Stereo Recording: Yes

Microphone In: Yes

VU Meters: no

Manual Audio Level Controls: no

Headphone Jack: no

Speaker: yes

Still Shot Media: SD card

Memory Card Included: no

Flash: no

Wireless Remote: yes

External Battery Charger Provided: yes

Battery Type: Li-ion

Tape Loading Configuration: top/side

Onboard Video Light: yes

Accessory Shoe: no

STRENGTHS

  • S-Video Connector (out only)
  • Mic Input
  • Accurate Color

WEAKNESSES

  • Jerky EIS at full zoom
  • Limited input options
  • Difficult manual operation

SUMMARY

This camcorder is hard to beat, especially with a 30x optical zoom and a mic input. Although, it has limited input options, most users will find it as versatile as their needs.

Mark Montgomery is Videomaker‘s Editorial Assistant.

$500

Panasonic

One Panasonic Way

Secaucus, NJ 07094

(800) 211-PANA

www.panasonic.com

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