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Panasonic HC-W850 review

Andrew Unsworth
9 Mar 2014
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
699
inc VAT

Page 1 of 2Panasonic HC-W850 review

Great image quality, but the secondary camera sensor may be of little interest to many

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Specifications

1/2.3in BSI MOS sensor, PAL, 1,920x1,080, 1,280x720, 20.0x zoom, 360g

The Panasonic HC-W850 is a medium-sized camcorder with a 1/2.3in, 12.8-megapixel sensor, 20x optical zoom, 50x intelligent zoom, built-in Wi-Fi and a shoe adaptor that lets you attach accessories. With the HC-W850 you can also use near-field communication (NFC) to connect smartphones and tablets quickly, and make use of a new 50Mbit/s MP4 recording format to commit more information to your SD card. That’s already a fairly impressive list of features, yet the killer feature of the HC-W850 is something you might not expect: a second sensor built into the HC-W850’s touchscreen that lets you video yourself as you video other people.

Panasonic HC-W850

Given the massive proliferation of ‘selfies’ on social media, this could be the perfect camcorder for those who regularly post videos to Facebook and YouTube. The HC-W850 would also be perfect for videoing ‘reaction’ videos. You could use the main sensor to video something happening while simultaneously recording someone’s reaction to it with the sub-sensor. To give an example, you could video everyone gathered around a birthday cake with the main sensor and video the birthday boy or girl’s reaction on the sub-sensor and record them blowing out the candles.

Panasonic HC-W850

This secondary camera has a 1/4in, 5.3-megapixel sensor and can be swivelled 270 degrees, from a closed position, where it’s tucked into the touchscreen, to a position in which it’s pointing away from the touchscreen. The sensor can’t be tilted but you can tilt the touchscreen to which it’s attached, which provides some flexibility of movement as long as you’re prepared to sacrifice ease of monitoring.

Panasonic HC-W850

You can see footage from the secondary sensor whenever it’s not in its closed position. As soon as the sensor is opened, a little rectangle appears at the bottom left of the touchscreen, which is filled with an image around 3-4 seconds later. This is too slow for our liking, and we’d be worried about missing something because the sub-sensor hasn’t woken up in time.

The rectangle containing the sub-sensor’s footage also appears on recorded footage, so you’ll see yourself in the bottom left-hand corner of the screen when you watch your videos on your TV.

IMAGE QUALITY

As you’d expect, the HC-W850 records Full HD video at a variety of bitrates, but the HC-W850 also lets you record in the MP4 format at a whopping 50Mbit/s. That’s almost twice as much as the 17Mbit/s bit rate we typically expect when recording in the MP4 format at the highest quality. You can also record in AVCHD at a maximum bitrate of 25Mbit/s. A higher bit rate means more the camcorder should be capturing more information, which translates into more detail. However, we noticed little difference in quality between our 25Mbit/s AVCHD and 50Mbit/s MP4 footage in our challenging low light studio footage.

Panasonic HC-W850

The overall quality of both videos was great for a camcorder at this price, with a generous amount of detail and accurate colours. The fur on our cuddly toys looked more realistic than we expected, and much better than in our footage of the same scene videoed with the Panasonic HC-V720, the camcorder that the HC-W850 most closely resembles in specification. There was still a tendency for the fur to look like a hazy mass of colour when blasted by a bright light rather than individual strands, but such instances were few and far between when compared to previous years’ single-sensor models.

Page 1 of 2Panasonic HC-W850 review

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