Today’s scaled down camcorders are nice if you have a need for lightweight mobility in your video capturing quests. Unfortunately, scaled down size also requires scaling down features and adjustment capabilities. However, if you’ve had a hankerin’ for some heft lately, and a longing for all sorts of buttons, dials and I/O ports protruding from various parts of your camera, then Panasonic’s AG-HMC80P full bodied, professional class, shoulder-mount camcorder may be just be the cure for what ails you.
Unboxed the HMC80P looks like everything you would expect of a shoulder-mount broadcast style camera. The only real cause for pause is the fact that the body feels very, well, plasticky; almost like a toy. Not that plastic is bad, of course. Most things have a certain amount of plastic in them these days and plastic can be very durable, but it has a bit more of a toy-like feel than one would expect from a professional class camcorder. Also, somewhat misleading is the monstrous lens hood and cover hiding a much smaller diameter lens than expected.
Once past those little details though you’ll soon find there is nothing toy-like about it. Behind the lens hood is the focus/zoom wheel. This works in conjunction with a switch located on the left side of the lens barrel that lets you toggle the wheel’s functions between focus and zoom. This Focus-Zoom/Iris switch works along with an Iris wheel, or dial, also located on the lens. The Iris wheel has a push button feature allowing you to switch between manual and auto Iris. The lens barrel is home to Focus Assist, Focus, White Balance and three user assignable buttons as well.
Continuing along the left side of the camera body we find the OIS button for switching on and off the Optical Image Stabilization system. Shutter speeds from 1/2 – 1/2000 are selected using the Shutter and Speed Selection buttons. A Disp/Mode CHK button turns on and off display screen information and reveals the current settings of the three user assignable buttons and the focus/zoom wheel. There is a button for turning on/off and recording color bars and another for switching Zebras on or off.
A Mode button toggles the camera back and forth between record and playback modes while a switch beneath it selects between either the AVCHD or DV recording formats. There are Audio Level dials and switches for selecting between auto or manual audio functions and front or rear channel selection. A switch for selecting Auto or Manual settings and a pair of buttons for turning on or off and resetting counter and time code displays, as well as both an HDMI and USB 2.0 port, round out the goodies on the left side of the camera body.
Below the body, on the left side of the shoulder mount, are a sliding door which houses the SD/SDHC media card slot and a number of menu and navigation buttons for making adjustments to the various scene file, recording, switching, display and other functions that are available.
The rear of the camera is home to a 6-pin FireWire port, headphone port and dual XLR inputs, each with MIC +48V ON/OFF and high impedance LINE/MIC switching. Two 316mV, 600 ohms, pin jacks (CH1, CH2) for audio output also reside on the rear. And, oh yeah, the battery pack goes back there too!
The right rear of the camera body houses the Video/Component switch, three BNC connectors (Y/Video, PB, PR) and camera remote ports; one super mini jack (2.5mm) for zoom and record start/stop functions, and one mini jack (3.5mm) for focus and iris adjustments. The right front contains a 3.5mm external microphone stereo mini jack.
The right side of the lens barrel doubles as the hand grip with an adjustable hand strap for support, on/off switch, record start and stop button, zoom toggle and photo capture button. Topside is the built-in stereo microphone, electronic viewfinder with lateral adjustment for more comfortable viewing and flip-up eyepiece. Two cold shoe adapter mounts, a record start and stop button and a handle zoom with three speed selection switch completes the tour.
Despite the aforementioned plasticky construction there’s a lot to like about this camera. High quality image capture to SD/SDHC media cards, vast manual adjustment capabilities and its size, to name a few. Greater size allows engineers a place to put all those buttons, switches and dials that professionals and prosumers love so well. More real estate means pro features like XLR connectors, so you can capture professional quality audio along with those pristine images. Increased size also means increased weight, which helps immensely when going for those stable handheld shots.
Sensor: 3MOS (1/4.1-inch progressive modes supported)
Lens: Optical image stabilizer; 12x zoom
ND Filter: Auto On/Off interlock with Iris
White Balance: ATW, ATW LOCK, preset 3200K, preset 5600K, Ach or Bch
LCD: Wide LCD color monitor, 2.7″ (approx. 230,000 pixels)
Recording Media: SD/SDHC card up to 32GB
Video Recording (AVCHD mode)
Recording Format: AVCHD
Compression: MPEG-4 AVC / H.264
Recording Video Format: HA, HG and HE modes – 1080/60i only; PH mode – 1080/60i, 1080/30p (over 60i), 1080/24p (native), 720/60p, 720/30p (over 60p) and 720/24p (native)
Video Recording (DV mode)
Recording Format: DV
File Format: AVI Type 2
Recording Video Format: 480/60i, 480/30p (over 60i), 480/24p (over 60i)
Compression: JPEG (DCF/Exif2.2.standard), DPOF
Input: XLR (3-pin) x 2, Internal stereo microphone, stereo mini jack (3.5mm)
Output: pin jack x 2 (CH1, CH2), HDMI (AVCHD mode only), headphone internal speaker
Other Connectors: USB (AVCHD mode only), camera remote, DV (DV mode only – 6 pin IEEE 1394)
- Professional features such as XLR connectors
- Manual everything
- Stable, shoulder mounted platform
- Plastic, almost toy-like construction
Professional features, a sturdy platform and a reasonable price add up to a camcorder worth looking at. Check out the shoulder mount Panasonic AG-HMC80P.
One Panasonic Way
Secaucus, NJ 07094
Mark Holder is a video producer and trainer.