While smartphones are great for casual shooting, there's still a need for dedicated camcorders when video quality really counts — to provide detailed control over focus, zoom, and image effects.
 
However, shooting with camcorders traditionally has required the additional step of importing and editing the video on a computer, which seems so archaic in this age of instantly posting clips online directly from a smartphone.
 
Panasonic is bridging this gap with an impressive range of in-camera shooting and editing capabilities in its camcorder line, including zoom effects, motion tracking, stabilization, multi-cam, and tilt correction.
 
Here at CES, Panasonic has added two new camcorders to its 4K Ultra High Definition line that was introduced last year, the HC-WXF991 and HC-VX981. These are impressively compact, almost as small as the HD models. (There are also three new Full-HD models, the HC-W580, HC-V380 and HC-V180.)
 
When shooting, the 4K models add new Cinema-Like Effects features including Slow & Quick Video to dynamically switch between slow-mo and normal speed, automated Slow Zoom, and Dolly Zoom of the background while maintaining the subject's size.
 
Then a new 4K cropping feature lets you extract a Full HD video from the 4K frames, while applying in-camera post effects including user-controlled zoom and pan, automated tracking of a selected subject, and stabilization.
 
They also have a 4K photo burst shooting mode to capture 8-megapixel still images.
 
All of the new camcorders (except the V180) have an enhanced Wireless Multi Camera feature that captures multiple viewpoints by connecting to up to three smartphones and simultaneously recording up to two picture-in-picture images.
 
All five new models also include the 5-Axis Level Shot function to automatically correct slight tilting of the camera and suppress blurring caused by hand shaking.
 
The new 4K cameras are due in March. The WXF991 is priced around $1000, and the VX981 around $900. It omits an electronic viewfinder and picture-in-picture twin camera recording.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Reading through the catalogue of features added to this camcorder, it seems to me that it is an attempt to enhance its appeal for those who endlessly fiddle with technology, but produce precious little worth seeing in the way of video. I have used a Panasonic HDC-SD900 for some years and tend to think that model got the utility/technology mix dead-right. But this new model seems to me to be an attempt to produce, in a consumer price-range, a model which is intended to be ‘all-things-to-all-people’. Fresh from several years of shooting wild-life, I am very conscious of the need to set up with minimum delay in many situations, leading to quick-release camera mounting and well-rehearsed minimalist procedures. For me, I am afraid, this camcorder seems to be very rich in features which are probably best added ‘in-post’; not in the heat of the moment when working in-the-field. So sorry, this model, despite all of its very clever but rather superficial add-ons is not likely to be my next purchase. Who was it once said that the primary requirement in a camera (for which also read camcorder), is ‘a good lens in an accurate shutter’? To which I might add also, a means of accurately framing the subject. After all, some of the most memorable news photographs ever taken, were by captured by cameras which used open-frame wire viewfinders for the latter function. Or am I showing my age, here?

  2. As a “prosumer” I have a limited budget for video hardware, and seek an affordable 4K Cam with SloMo. Pro cams with these features are $$$.This seems to be the only consumer grade cam that offers SloMo and 4k. (and yes I’m aware that you don’t get SloMo at 4K res). Bells & whistles are not important to me. But I have heard some chatter about the tiny sensor in these cams. I’m assuming that a larger sensor would bump the price and size, and yet Panasonic has just released some pocket cams that offer 4K. Has anyone actually used the precursors to these cams? If so, was the footage grainy? If the results are good, I don’t really care how they get there, but after years of upgrading my way through various sized sensors in my DSLR’s, I am a fan of larger sensors. The Canon XC10 is now only $2K, and offers 4K plus 120fps at 720p. Perhaps the IQ might just be worth the extra $1K . Any EXPERIENCED opinions?

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