Panasonic Mini DV Camcorder Review AG-DVC10

The line between professional and consumer video gear is blurring, in terms of both price and performance. Panasonic’s Professional Broadcast Division has introduced the AG-DVC10, a Mini DV camcorder that targets advanced hobbyist and entry level professionals.

If you’re looking for professional-quality images on a budget, and like the stability of shoulder shooting, read on, the AG-DVC10 may be just what you are looking for.

First Impressions of the DVC10 Panasonic Mini DV Camcorder

In this age of tiny camcorders, the DVC10 dares to defy the trend. One of the first things you’ll notice about the DVC10 Panasonic mini DV camcorder is that it is designed to rest on your shoulder. Its large size gives the unit a professional look and feel, its shoulder-rest design makes steady shooting much easier, and makes the unit more comfortable to hold for long periods of time. The camera looks heavy, but it’s not. The DVC10 Panasonic mini DV camcorder weighs in at less than five pounds. The unit is made of lightweight plastic, much of which seems to be hollow. Only the most used controls are on the exterior of the camcorder’s body, the rest are tucked into a menu system.

Lens Look

The DVC10’s fixed lens features a 12:1 optical and 120:1 digital zoom. The variable speed zoom worked well on the unit we tested, enabling accurate zooms at various speeds, but on our test unit the zoom toggle itself wiggled loosely in the camera housing as though it were broken, and provided little resistance when pressed. The soft, wiggly toggle did not seem to affect the performance of the zoom, but it did cause us to question the quality of the unit’s construction.

The automatic focus system worked well. When we zoomed in at full speed, we were pleased with how the focus matched the pace. We loved the huge rubberized ring around the lens that let us easily adjust our focus manually.

Manual Control

The DVC10 Panasonic mini DV camcorder has two operating modes, automatic and manual. In the automatic mode, as you might expect, the camera does all of the adjusting. You need only to point and shoot.

When shooting in the manual mode, the essential controls, like shutter/iris, white balance and focus are activated. By clicking and rotating the shutter/iris wheel, we could quickly scroll to choose shutter speeds from 1/60 to 1/8,000 or adjust the aperture. To set the white balance, we pushed the button on the side of the camcorder to choose between preset indoor settings for incandescent or florescent light, an outdoor setting or the manual option.

With a push of the menu button located on the side of the body, we gained access to the menu where we scrolled down to turn a number of different settings on and off. Menu features include electronic image stabilization, digital effects, automatic exposure setting, normal and frame shooting modes, microphone pickup level, and zebra stripes (used to help set aperture), and many other settings. Advanced users who will use menu-driven functions often may find themselves wishing for a flip-out LCD viewscreen. We did.


Professional Touches

There are a few features that distinguish the unit as a professional-level model. The zebra feature identifies parts of the picture that are too bright in regard to exposure. If parts of a shot are "hot" or overexposed, diagonal stripes appear in those areas, alerting the user to close the iris.

We especially liked that we could adjust the microphone’s sensitivity. While the audio levels are not adjusted manually in the truest sense of the word, the unit does allow the user to override the automatic gain control and select from a number of preset levels. We scrolled through the menu and experimented with the various settings (auto, -20dB, -10dB, 0dB, 3dB, 6dB). If you choose either the 3dB or 6dB setting, which raises the recording level, a red light appears in the viewfinder when the sound distorts. So when the light was continuously red, we knew to turn down the level to 3dB or 0dB.

A headphone jack is also included. The ability to turn off the automatic gain control (AGC) and adjust the input level of the mike is a feature we would like to see on more camcorders.

The DVC10 includes an external mike jack and two accessory shoes so users can attach a shotgun mike and/or a video light. Shoppers should note that these are not hotshoes. Lights and mikes that need power will need to get it from an outside source. Another neat little feature was a built-in neutral density filter. We slid the ND filter over the lens and off again by switching a lever located under the lens.

The DVC10 also has a still-shot function. By pressing the button behind the focus lever, the DVC10 records a still image to tape for five seconds. The unit does not capture stills to a memory card or removeable media.

Image is Everything

The pictures recorded by the DVC10 were fantastic (as we’d expect from a three-chip model). Colors were crisp and details were clear. Even when we tried it in relatively low-lit situations, the video we shot was of relatively excellent quality. Shooters looking for high quality images will not be disappointed with the results they’ll get from the DVC10.

The Verdict

Panasonic’s DVC10 Mini DV camcorder has a professional look, includes a plethora of manual features and produces images that put it up there with the big boys.

The ability to override AGC will make the DVC10 attractive to serious amateurs and entry level professionals alike, but the unit’s lightweight construction makes it feel distinctly fragile.

The extensive menu system left us wishing that there was a flip-out LCD screen. All in all, we feel it is a good camera for the price.

Specifications

Price: $2,595

Lens: F1.6, 4.0-48mm, 43mm diameter, 12:1 optical zoom, 120:1 digital zoom

Image Sensor: 3 1/4-inch CCDs, 270,000 pixels per CCD

Viewfinder: 0.5-inch color

Focus: manual, auto

Maximum Shutter Speed: 1/8000

Exposure: Manual, Auto

White Balance: Manual, Auto

Digital Effects: 4 (Wipe, Mix, Strobe, Gain)

Audio: 12-bit stereo recording, 16-bit stereo recording

Inputs: FireWire, external microphone

Outputs: FireWire, S-Video, composite video, headphone

Edit Interface: FireWire

Other Features: Zebra Stripes, ND filter, microphone level control

Dimensions: 7-1/8-inch (w) x 8-13/16-inch (h) x 16-3/4-inch (d)

Weight (sans tape and battery): approx. 5lbs.

Performance Times

Pause to Record: 1.5 seconds

Power-up to Record: 6.5 seconds

Fast-forward/Rewind (30 min. tape)

approx. 1 minute 20 seconds

STRENGTHS

  • Excellent images
  • AGC override
  • Focus ring

WEAKNESSES

  • No flip-out viewscreen
  • Weak zoom toggle construction
  • Feels plasticy

SUMMARY

  • The DVC10 delivers excellent images, but feels like a lightweight.

Panasonic Broadcast and Professional Solutions

3330 Cahuenga Blvd. West, 2nd

Los Angeles, CA 90068

(800) 528-8601
www.panasonic.com/PBDS

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