Panasonic HC-V700 review
1/2.33in CMOS sensor, 1920x1080, 21.0x zoom, 115g
The HC-V700 is the top of Panasonic’s current crop of single-sensor camcorders. Instead of the three 1/4.1in MOS sensors of the higher-spec Panasonic HC-X900 and HC-X800 or the single 1/5.8in sensor of the HC-V500, the HC-V700 has a large single 1/2.33in image sensor. There's also a 21x zoom and Panasonic’s excellent optical image stabilisation technology. The camcorder doesn’t have a viewfinder, but enthusiasts will be pleased with its accessory shoe adaptor and its 3.5mm microphone input.
The HC-V700 is slightly larger than the HC-V500 (see What's New, Shopper 291), but it's still an incredibly portable camcorder. Even though it’s compact, the HC-V700 feels tough and solid enough to survive the attention of the roughest family member, so you won't worry about taking it around with you.
We were generally impressed with the camcorder's footage, which was significantly better than that of the HC-V500 but, as expected, not quite up there with the video from the HC-X800 and HC-X900's three sensors. The camcorder's sensor captures a high level of detail, but if you pause the footage and study it more closely you can see that some texture and definition is missing from some objects. The level of detail also diminishes around 25-30 metres from the lens. As an example, on the HC-X800 and HC-X900's footage we could see staining, flocking and grouting on a brick wall situated 30 metres away, but the same wall in the HC-V700's video just doesn’t have that level of detail.
Even so, the footage is a lot sharper and more defined than that captured by the HC-V500 and you really have to look carefully to notice the relative lack of detail compared to the Panasonic's three-sensor models. Colours are accurate, but relatively flat and reflective surfaces such as flagstones, signs and brick walls could sometimes become a single pane of bright light with little texture or detail when videoed on a bright day. One area where the large single sensor has the edge over the three smaller sensors of Panasonic's 3MOS cameras is in low-light conditions, where the HC-V700 showed noticeably less noise. As we expected, the camcorder's optical image stabilisation did a good job of eliminating the shakes, even while we were filming while walking around.
The HC-V700 is an impressive camcorder, but it sits in an awkward position in Panasonic’s line-up. Casual users wanting a high quality camcorder might be better served by the HC-V500, which you can now buy for just £305, while some enthusiasts might want to spend a bit more on the three-sensor HC-X800 and take advantage of its better image quality, but would then have to do without the accessory shoe and external microphone input. If you want impressive image quality and the ability to use external accessories and can't stretch to the HC-X900, the HC-X700 is the camcorder to buy.