When it comes to consumer electronics and home appliances, there isn’t really a clear leader that delivers quality products across every type of electronic. Some companies excel in HDTVs and home theater systems while others are innovating in other areas. Panasonic is one of the leaders in the camcorder industry where many professionals that are on a tight budget would use one of the many prosumer models available. Back in CES 2012, Panasonic intends to extend their lead in providing quality camcorder experience with the announcement of their new flagship model for the consumer category – the Panasonic HC-X900M. The HC-X900M is out to replace the previous flagship model which was the HDC-TM900.
Design and Interface
Very few changes were made on the Panasonic HC-X900M which may disappoint some people because the overall design of this particular high-end consumer camcorder wasn’t very flashy. But Panasonic’s focus was to make sure all of the controls and functions are easily accessible. On a utility front, Panasonic succeeded when the old HDC-TM300 model was launched. It doesn’t look like this design will change any time soon.
Some of the minor improvements include a change of finish which is more than welcome. Now the body of the HC-X900M has a matte finish so it is less likely to collect fingerprints. On the downside, it is a bit heavier to hold. But if you compare the comfort and handling with most other competing camcorders, the Panasonic HC-X900M still wins in that respect.
The 3.5-inch LCD touch display hasn’t changed on the outside, but Panasonic did the right thing in upping the resolution to 1,150,000 pixels so it is in-line with the rest of the 2012 competition. Videos look more defined when previewing on that display. It is also possible to preview any 3D videos even without the glasses.
Most consumers would prefer looking at the screen while recording but the HC-X900M still has a viewfinder option just in case the weather is too sunny. The plastic eyepiece doesn’t make the viewfinder very comfortable to use and you cannot pivot it either.
Storage and Connectivity
Alongside the Panasonic HC-X900M, Panasonic also launched the HC-X900M and HC-X800 models which are both cheaper. But the HC-X900M is the only camcorder of this trio to sport internal memory. You can store up to 32 GB worth of video content. If that isn’t enough, you can add any SD, SDHC or SDXC memory card to increase the storage capacity. A HDMI port is present so you can output any stored videos to a TV display. There is also an AV-Multi port so you can use any of the proprietary cables the package comes with in order to connect to older displays with component or composite ports. When you need to transfer the videos to a computer, you can attach the USB cable to the USB port.
Many of the features of the Panasonic HC-X900M are the same as the HDC-TM900. It uses the same 3MOS system which consists of 3 1/4.1-inch CMOS sensors that are all backlit. Each sensor represents R, G and B channels respectively. This special sensor setup works with the Crystal Engine Pro II to provide more pixels, better color reproduction and minimal noise. The results look best when using Full HD resolutions. On the lens side, the LEICA Dicomar Lens helps suppress flaring and ghosting because the surface of the lens is infused with Nano Surface Coating Technology. The 29.8 wide-angle lens is also reliable for capturing a large group. If you buy the VW-CLT2 accessory, you can record in 3D too.
Last year’s model had these fine technologies as well, but the Panasonic HC-X900M sports better optical image stabilization. The feature is now called the HYBRID O.I.S. which bumps up the 4-axis correction to a 5-axis so handshakes are better compensated even while zooming. This feature is user-controllable so all you need to do is press the indicator on the display so the blur detection sensitivity is maximized.
This is useful since you can zoom up to 23x without sacrificing the sharpness. The Panasonic HC-X900M features a manual ring which is something that the less expensive HC-X800 lacks. This makes zooming and focusing a lot easier since you won’t have to go through menus. Other functions can be adjusted as well including the shutter speed, white balance and iris. These functions can be the things that some professions will enjoy in terms of usability.
The Panasonic HC-X900M is filled with tons of extra features that consumers and prosumers alike would enjoy. The Time Lapse Recording feature is nice if you want to record a sunset for a long time so it can be played back quickly. It is also possible to take 16 megapixel images just by touching the screen. If you are okay with taking 14.7-megapixel images, you can take these photos even while you are recording video. It even has a high-speed burst shooting option just in case you need to witness a scene frame by frame.
Several videos can be played back in a more exciting fashion using the Advanced Highlight Playback feature. This feature will automatically detect the most exciting parts of different scenes and arrange them in a more presentable manner. Background music and other nice transitions and effects can be applied so viewing lots of content looks more fun.
If you have a Panasonic VIERA display, you can take advantage of its VIERA Link feature so you can use the TV’s remote control to easily playback stored videos. Panasonic Blu-ray player remote controls can be used too if the player supports VIERA Link. When hooking up to a PC, you can install the HD Writer AE software so you can upload videos to YouTube for editing or directly to Facebook for sharing.
The Panasonic HC-X900M costs $1,099 dollars and the performance, usability and extra features really support the price well. But on the downside, there aren’t so many improvements over the previous model so owners of the HDC-TM900 shouldn’t upgrade unless the image stabilization improvements are needed.
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