Pros: Excellent picture quality even in low light; built-in storage capacity; good range of manual controls.
Cons: Interface can be confusing; build quality not as good as some rivals; wind noise.
For its HF S10 – the HDC-S300’s closest rival – Canon embraced internal flash memory, but Panasonic opts for a hard drive for this model, with 120GB of storage, and space for expansion through an SDHC card slot. It differs from its rival in other areas, too: it boasts three CMOS image sensors – one each for red, green and blue video signals – with a total effective video resolution of 6.21 megapixels.
The HDC-HS300 offers a top AVCHD video recording resolution of 1,920 x 1,080 at 17Mbps, which isn’t as far behind the Canon’s 24Mbps as it looks on paper. It has a lens ring for focusing, and other manual tools such as zoom, an electronic viewfinder and a 2.7-inch touchscreen LCD. There’s a 12x optical zoom (compared to the Canon’s 10x), and face detection with pinpoint focusing via the touchscreen.
The HDC-HS300 packs in a full-size (cold) accessory shoe and 5.1-channel surround sound microphones on top of the lens. Build quality isn’t up to Canon standards – it has some hard-to-press buttons and a main zoom toggle that’s too small to use comfortably.
The advanced features are good, including zebra patterns, shooting modes and white balance settings that you access using the menu button below the LCD.
Team that with physical buttons for functions such as Intelligent Auto (iA), two sets of zoom switches and the touchscreen and it’s all a bit random – especially at first.
Picture quality is excellent. The three CMOS sensors don’t detract from the end result: footage is as good as that offered by the HF S10. You get detailed, natural-looking images and in Digital Cinema mode, 25p recording and the extended xvYCC colour space to boot. Sound quality from the 5.1-channel microphone is good, although it tends to pick up wind noise.
This review is one of six in a HD Camcorder Group Test.