Panasonic HC-W850K Digital HD Camcorder Review


PROS:
The Panasonic HC-W850 has a dial for manual focus.

CONS: The second lens on the viewfinder is a gimmick with low functionality.

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 VERDICT: The Panasonic HC-W850 films in full HD and offers image stabilization, but its extra lens feels like a gimmick.

In the world of high definition camcorders, there is one main feature you need: 1080p resolution filming at a minimum of 30 frames per second. Beyond that, every other feature is extra. Sometimes these extra features are useful and sometimes they are simple gimmicks. The Panasonic HC-W850 fits both categories, offering excellent tools through its integrated Wi-Fi and including a second lens for picture-in-picture filming. Fortunately, its good features trump its questionable tools. Based on its excellent quality, the Panasonic earns our Top Ten.

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Video & Image Quality

The Panasonic HC-W850 films in 1080p at 60 frames per second, making it great for modern high-definition monitors and TVs. Although human eyes can only process 30 frames per second, modern displays look choppy at this resolution. However, you can adjust the settings so that if you are using YouTube or a TV with a lower refresh rate, you only need to record at 30 frames per second.


If you want to take still images with this HD video camera, it has some of the best image resolution available at 24 MP. This image resolution is comparable to many high-end cameras and better than most smartphones.


One major issue with the HC-W850 is its poor zoom, which makes you push the slider left for a wide shot and right for a tight shot. It doesn't feel natural, and you might find yourself pushing both directions to figure out which one you want. The camera also comes with a second lens on the viewfinder for picture-in-picture recording, but there are few practical uses for this gimmick. In fact, it connects the second video to the main video file, and you cannot separate the files when editing video.


Design

The Panasonic camcorder is compact and light, and it fits well in your hand. It comes with a 5.1-channel, on-board microphone so you'll pick up the most natural sound. It also has a light to keep your subject bright and in focus. The touchscreen is less responsive than many of the other cameras we tested, but once you get the feel for it, it shouldn't be a problem. The HC-W850 does not come with any built-in storage, so you cannot use the camcorder unless you have an SD card. Also, the viewfinder does not display the remaining recording time or battery life, so it's difficult to know how much time is left on your memory card and battery.


Convenience Features

The device has many of the features you should look for in an HD video camera, including image stabilization and intelligent auto mode. It also has both integrated Wi-Fi and near field communication, which allows you to broadcast footage to Ustream or send footage to your phone. This makes it great for livecasts, and you can use it as a baby monitor or a security camera.


Help & Support

Panasonic supports this HD cam with a one-year warranty. On the Panasonic website, you can download a new user manual, but we were unable to find any FAQs or forums. However, you can contact customer support by email, phone and live chat.


Summary

The Panasonic HC-W850 has most of the features we look for in a full HD camcorder. It offers excellent picture quality and great tools, but it also has some oddities. Its zoom controls are oddly placed, and its second lens is mostly a gimmick. However, it is compact and includes built-in Wi-Fi connectivity, making it an extremely functional camcorder for virtually any situation.

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