In the camcorder market, Panasonic is a lot like the grey flannel suit of old - completely dependable and reliable. Sure, there may not be a lot of flare and trendiness, but you can be sure of what you're getting. The company is mostly sticking to that tradition in its 2012 lineup of camcorders introduced at the Consumer Electronics Show.
There will be fewer models in the lineup this year than last, which should make it easier to compare and contrast among your options. Here's a look at what the company has in store. Keep in mind, pricing and availability have yet to be announced but we expect it shortly.
The HC-X900M looks to be one of the higher-end models for Panasonic in 2012 with an 8.6-megapixel 3MOS image sensor for 1080p video recording. Panasonic says the sensor has been re-engineered to deliver better low performance by reducing video noise by 40 percent compared to the previous generation of camcorders with a 3MOS image sensor.
You're also looking at a 12x optical zoom lens, 3.5-inch touch screen display, 32GB of internal 16-megapixel still photo capture, optical image stabilization and 2D-to-3D video conversion using internal software (you can also take 3D video using an optional conversion lens).
The V10 is Panasonic's heavy hitter in terms of lens, boasting a 63x optical zoom with optical image stabilization. This HD model records in the H.264 format and offers an intelligent auto mode for optimizing camcorder settings based on shooting environment. It features a pre-record setting for grabbing up to three seconds of video before you actually hit the shutter. It's available in black, silver and red.
The HX-WA2 is a waterproof HD camcorder capable of being submerged in up to nine feet of water. It records video in the H.264 format to SDXC memory cards. The WA2 features a 5x optical zoom lens with a 15x "intelligent zoom" to provide extra magnification with the compnay's "Active Electronic Image Stabilization" technology thrown in to keep things steady. There's automatic and manual focusing too.
It can snap still photos up to 14-megapixels in resolution and offers a panorama mode that automatically stitches multiple images together while you pan the camera (either horizontally or vertically). The Panasonic HX-WA2 will be available in blue and orange.
HC-V700 and V700M
Leading the 2012 lineup of 1MOS Panasonic camcorders are the HC-V700 and V700M. Both offer 2D-to-3D video conversion thanks to on-board software. They can also shoot 3D video using an optional conversion lens. Both sport 21x optical zoom wide-angle lenses, 3-inch touchscreen LCD displays, optical image stabilization, 15-megapixel CMOS sensors, automatic and manual focusing, and AVCHD video recording at a maximum bit rate of 28Mbps. You'll also find face detection capable of focusing on up to six faces, and 2-channel stereo audio recording. An "intelligent auto" mode automatically optimizes the settings for the shooting environment.
Using the touchscreen displays, the V700 models offer two new features. Touch zoom allows you to swiftly zoom by sliding your finger on the display while a touch shutter feature will automatically focus and snap a still photo when you touch a subject on the display. An Eco mode will power down the camcorders automatically when not in use for five minutes.
Both camcorders deliver manual control over the iris and shutter. The V700 will record directly to SDXC cards while the V700M will also offer 16GB of internal flash memory.
HC-V500 and V500M
Stepping down, the V500 series offers 1.4-megapixel image sensors with longer wide-angle zoom lenses at 38x. High definition video is recorded in the AVCHD format with a maximum bit-rate of 28Mbps. You'll also find automatic and manual focusing, optical image stabilization, 2D-to-3D conversion, four video effects modes (natural, pop, dynamic and classical) and face detection. Manual controls are available for both the shutter and iris. The V500 models also have 3-inch touchscreen displays with touch zoom and touch shutter.
The V500 records directly to SDXC memory cards, while the V500M will also offer 16GB of internal flash memory in addition to memory card recording.
HC-V100 and V100M
Rounding out the V-series, the V100 line of AVCHD camcorders delivers 1.5-megapixel image sensors capable of a maximum bit rate of 17Mbps. The camcorders will feature a 2.7-inch LCD display, 34x optical zoom lens with optical image stabilization. Manual controls are available for focusing and iris. Audio is recorded through a 2-channel stereo microphone. As above, the V100 will record directly to SDXC memory cards while the V100M will also offer 16GB worth of internal memory.