Panasonic HC-V500M Video Features
The HC-V500M uses the AVCHD Progressive format for 1920 1080/60p high definition recording. This newer AVCHD standard allows the camcorder to shoot progressive, not interlaced, 1080 video which tends to result in a smoother video, particularly when shooting fast-moving subjects. It supports 28Mbps recording. You can also drop the bit rate to 17Mbps, 13Mbps, 9Mbps or 5Mbps to save memory. Recording in the iFrame format (at 960 x 540) is also. The HC-V500M features a 1.5-megapixel 1/5.8-inch CMOS image sensor.
The camcorder uses Panasonic's "Intelligent Auto" mode for automatically matching scene modes such as portrait, sunset, scenery, forest and macro mode, to shooting environments. The mode employs various technologies - including image stabilization, face detection, an intelligent scene-selector and contrast control to optimize your exposure.
The V500M also serves as the debut for an updated video processing engine, dubbed Crystal Engine PRO. According to Panasonic, the new engine helps reduce the amount of video noise (the grain that pops up when shooting in low light) by up to 40 percent compared to the earlier generation processor. It also uses an "intelligent resolution" technology which helps the camcorder identify edges in a frame to help sharpen the video.
You'll find a 38x optical zoom lens on the VC10. This optical zoom is joined by a 50x "intelligent zoom," which can enhance the magnification of your footage by using a smaller portion of the sensor without losing image resolution. Finally, there's a 2500xdigital zoom which will degrade resolution when in use.
The lens employs a new Power Optical Image Stabilization Hybrid-plus (O.I.S.) system for keeping your footage relatively shake-free. The image stabilization technology corrects for blur across five axis and also offers a lock button, which is ideal when you're stationary and want to get the sharpest video possible.
It has an automatic lens cover as well, which is very convenient.
Memory and Display
The V500M offers 16GB of internal flash memory, giving you over two hours of HD recording capability right out of the box. It also records directly to an SDHX memory card slot. There is also a relay recording function, which enables you to automatically switch recording formats when one memory fills up.
The HC-V500M offers a 3.0-inch touch screen LCD display. It supports touch zoom, which (as you'd expect) lets you use the camcorder's zoom by pressing the LCD display. There's also a touch shutter, which lets you focus and snap a photo of any subject that you touch on screen. There is no optical or electronic viewfinder.
Design-wise, the HC-V500M cuts a fairly conventional figure. Thanks to the use of flash memory you'll still enjoy a light weight body at a bit over .6 pounds when battery and SD card are included (slightly heavier than the non-internal memory packing V500). The HC-V500M measures in at 2.1 x 2.6 x 4.7 inches, roughly the same form factor as the entry-level series of Panasonic camcorders, and features a zoom lever and photo shutter on the top of the camcorder and a record shutter located on the side, next to the camcorder's battery. Open the display and you'll find buttons video playback, scrolling and info, plus the camcorder's ports: component, HDMI, USB and AV. The display itself is button-free, so the touch-screen will do most of the heavy lifting here.
Aesthetically, the HC-V500M is available in a black with silver accents.
The HC-V500M is outfitted with face detection a pre-record function which records three seconds worth of video before you hit the shutter. The V500M also offers an auto ground-directional standby mode, which detects if the camcorder is being held in an unusual position (say, upside down) and automatically stops recording. A low light/color night recording mode preserves colors even in dim lighting.
As far as scene modes go, you'll find sports, portrait, low light, spot light, snow, beach, sunset, fireworks, night scenery, night portrait and soft skin mode. You can snap 3-megapixel photos while recording video on the V500M. Still photos can also be isolated from video footage played back on the camcorder and saved as a separate file. There is a video light as well to aid in low-light shooting.
As far as the camcorder's audio recording capabilities go, there is a two channel stereo microphone with a zoom microphone feature that focuses audio collection forward on a subject as you use the optical zoom.
The HC-V500M offers a built-in HDMI output for connecting the camera although the cable is not included. You can also connect to a PC via USB cable.
At $499, the HC-V500M is $50 more than the similarly-equipped V500, with the exception of the 16GB of internal memory. In my view, paying $50 for 16GB of flash memory isn't a good deal (you can purchase a 16GB SDHC card for half that cost, or less). If you're attracted to the V500M's feature set, consider the less expensive V500 and simply pick up an SDHC card on the side.