The Panasonic HDC-HS60K (along with the SD60, TM60 and TM55) is part of the new HD 60 series of mid-range camcorders Panasonic has introduced at the entry-level, offering HD video recording together with other nifty features. These include a wider angle lens, a new Intelligent Auto (iA) mode, as well as the Power Optical Image Stabilizer (O.I.S.) that suppresses jittery hand-shake movements while shooting.
The HDC-HS60 comes into the market as one of the new flash memory-based camcorders supporting Panasonic’s pioneering SDXC (Secure Digital eXtended Card) memory cards which enable up to 64GB of additional storage. These SDXC cards also boast lightning quick transfer rates at almost 300 MB per second. It is in terms of storage where the HDC-HS60 differs from the other camcorders in the series as it comes with a 120GB internal hard disk drive. Coupled with the SDXC card-compatibility, consumers can hardly said to be lacking in the memory department with this ‘hybrid memory’ camera.
The HDC-HS60 has a comfortable-to-grip design. A slight variation in design from the other HD60 cameras sees the hard disc enclosure on the right side of the camera which provides an extra bulk to grip. Even with its lightweight 378g body, its sturdy build would appear robust enough to brave outdoor elements. In all, the HDC-HS60 is solid, yet compact enough to carry around as you would expect of a portable camcorder.
The ease of use of the HDC-HS60 is accentuated by its user-friendly interface to simply point-and-shoot. The Intelligent Auto (iA) mode along with the simplistic touchscreen controls makes this an ideal camcorder for beginners. Chief to this is the 2.7” LCD display that offers an intuitive experience for beginner users familiar with other touch screen gadgets. While responsiveness might be one point to improve on in the next series, it still remains uncomplicated enough to navigate your way around the menus. The LCD screen can also be rotated for multiple viewing options.
In the absence of an accessory shoe, the key buttons like the zoom control and the shutter button are conveniently located at the top of the camcorder. A nice touch on Panasonic’s part is the physical mode switch at the back of the camcorder to allow fuss-free toggling between the playback, video and still-image modes.
The HDC-HS60 is loaded with 1/4.1 inch MOS sensors. The total pixel count for the camera stands at 3.32 megapixels with the effective pixel count coming in at 2.11 megapixels for motion recording. Still images are captured at 5.0 megapixels, producing quality pictures that are bright and sharp, up to 51000 of which can be stored on the internal memory.
Also not commonly available amongst mid-range camcorders is a rather handy LED video light for shooting in dimly-lit environments, capable of doubling up as an improvised flashlight as well. The camera automatically switches on the light to boost performance in low-light situations if it decides the ambient light is not bright enough. Users would do well to refrain from directing the light into any human subject’s eyes though, due to the temporary blinding effect it might have.
As aforementioned, the HDC-HS60 supports the new SDXC cards, while still retaining compatibility with the SD/SDHC cards. This would allow storage of recorded video to exceed the 16 hours (17Mbps) that can be stored on the already impressive 120 GB internal flash memory. If the inbuilt memory maxes out, the camera automatically records to the external card attached.
“I love this thing. The 1080i images it produces are crystal clear. If shot outside or brightly lit, the colors are vibrant and pop off of my plasma TV. Low light shooting produces grainier images but can be made to look better with the automatic built-in light. 120GB hard drive is spacious enough that you never really have to worry about running out. It is like 17 hours of max quality shooting. The only complaints I would have are the battery, which only lasts 80 minutes or so (less if the light’s on) and the weird format it records in which is “.mod”.Problems aside, I would highly recommend this camera.” – K.Simpson (MI,USA)
Being the successor to the previous HDC-HS20 model, the first noticeable improvement on this camera is the 35.7mm Wide Angle Lens that increases shooting possibilities in close-up situations. Intended subjects can still fit into the frame when shooting at close distances, saving us the need of shifting the camera backwards to get everything on-screen.
Here’s a short clip of an motion test by camcorderinfo.com using a wide angle setting shot at 1920×1080 with a 60i frame rate:
A new Power O.I.S. is mooted as an enhanced stabilizer option to optimize shooting while on-the-move. Crucial to the zoom function, the Power O.I.S. uses gyro sensors to detect hand-shake movements and adjusts the optical axis and the lens to help minimize these movements. Although being reasonably effective in doing so, we found that this effectiveness diminished when the zoom settings were increased.
The zoom ratio has also been increased on the HDC-HS60, reaching up to 25x optical zoom. This is substantiated by the Intelligent Zoom feature that allows it to reach 35x zoom. While images showed signs of jitter, the crispness of the image is still commendable when zooming in to record. Panasonic touts this as superior to other forms of digital zoom, as image degradation is corrected by the camera when zoom is extended.
What is most unique to Panasonic’s latest offerings is the face recognition and AF/FE tracking function which works most amiably with the touchscreen controls. The face recognition feature is able to recognize up to 6 registered subjects and keep track of their movements within the LCD frame. Simply tapping the screen will prompt the AF/AE tracking function to follow the chosen subject and keep it in sharp focus. It can even maintain recognition of a subject that leaves the frame for a short time.
Overall shooting performance of the HDC-HS60 is impressive, much similar to the others in the series. Recording in Full HD (1920 x 1080 pixels), image resolution is high and gets the contrast and the color accuracy just right, as opposed to looking over-processed. The mini-HDMI cable jack allowed easy hookups with a HD LCD monitor and the image looked equally good on screen. Other connectivity options include a high-speed USB 2.0 port and the composite AV-multi output.
Audio capabilities also contributed to the video quality. The lack of a microphone input is well offset by the inbuilt 2 channel stereo zoom mic that does a competent job in capturing audio. In addition to that, the enhanced Wind Noise Canceler feature goes further to reduce wind noise and minimize interferences with the microphone. Ripples of rushing water were captured most audibly as seen in the test video. Even so, a headphone jack is notably absent, depriving users the ability to monitor their recordings.
HDC-HS60 Video & Audio Test
The rechargeable battery provided is said to last for 100 minutes of actual recording time (start and stop usage), considerably sufficient for a day’s worth of shooting, although it may prove handy to acquire an additional battery.
Videos are recorded in both the MPEG-4 and AVC/H.264 (default) formats. This means compatibility with most Windows-based editing tools. The HD Writer AE 2.0 is included for such editing needs. Mac users are able to edit their videos with the iMovie application which is not supplied along with the camera. Videos in HD formats are considerably large in size however, and users are encouraged to have sufficient hard disk capacity to store and edit said files.
On a whole, the HDC-HS60 is extremely competent for what it is, as an entry-level camcorder. The deluge of new features and functions should not put off less-experienced users with the intuitive iA mode straightforward enough to pick up easily. Excellent video capture is favorably comparable with other higher-end models on the market. The only major difference between this camera and its HD60 siblings lie in the huge 120 GB internal hard drive, which most likely constitutes the difference in price as well (RRP for the HS60 is $699.95 to $529 for the SD60 and TM55). So if you prefer to store lots of video right on the camcorder, then the HDC-HS60 is more than equipped to meet these needs at the consumer-level, giving some other high-end models a run for their money.
More user reviews:
• “So glad I found this little gem. I was looking at Sony, but all the negative issues with Sony’s HDD Hi-Def 150 have been addressed by Panasonic with this unit. The OIS actually works and there is an on-board flash and video light for not-so-well-lit environs. Played back some video on my 1080p monitor from footage inside the house tonight and its all clean. If you are not needing advanced, commercial grade video equipment but rather just want a Hi-Def camcorder that works trust me this one is it. I put about 13 hours of research into this purchase. BTW, this unit costs less too – no brainer.” – S.Baglio (FL,USA)
• “Love this camcorder. Bought it for the wife for Christmas but I used it a lot. fairly easy to start up right away and the picture is really good. the camera really proves itself in good light, looks like a camera that costs a lot more shot the video, very high definition. would buy again. the size is impressive, very small yet a lot of features.” – L.Johnson (GA,USA)
• “The camera is very easy to use and navigate. For video quality, the shots are clear, but bounce heavily even with the antivibration on the highest setting. A tripod is a must or you’ll get a headache watching it. This is my first video camera, so I don’t know how severe this is compared to other digital video cams. It might be inherent to all digital cameras. I would buy this again.” – Matt (USA)
• “Finally made the conversion from mini DVD tape. Have used it for less than a week. I have been really pleased with it. With the 120GB drive has all the storage I need for both video and pictures! I am used to using an Electronic view finder. So far the display screen has been ok. The low light and Zoom are really impressive. The only negative I see is the lack of the view finder, but I think it is offset by the higher Zoom capability. I would highly recommend camera. This is my 5th camcorder.” – D.Epperson (USA)
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