At first glance, Panasonic’s new spring 2010 camcorder family does little to distinguish itself from its rivals. In fact, you often need a sharp eye to tell Panasonic’s own models apart, with the chief difference being the storage medium: hard disk, twin memory or SD card only.
The mid-range HDC-HS60 opts for the combination of a 120GB hard drive and SD card slot, and follows that up with a mighty impressive 25x optical zoom. With a sizeable CMOS sensor on board, too, it certainly promises to offer better performance than the recent breed of pocket cams.
A refreshing change with the HS60 is the eschewing of fancy extras in favour of getting the basics right. So instead of one-button YouTube uploading you get two different optical image stabilisation settings keyed to the type of movements you’re expecting.
And rather than a built-in, automated clip-mixer, you get a quick and effective Intelligent Auto mode that’s made the jump from Panasonic’s Lumix digital cameras.
The HS60 is a camcorder full of features you won’t bother to brag about, but will actually make use of. Not having bragging rights will, though, put it at a disadvantage when it takes on Sony’s impending CX and XR models, which will cost a tad more but outspec the HS60 for pixel count and capacity.
The big picture
The HS60 can shoot 25fps Full HD at various bit-rates, which means up to 51 hours of footage can be squeezed on board. It also has an excellent 35.7mm wideangle lens that does away with the clumsy backpedalling most camcorders require when filming a group shot.
In use, the HS60’s focus on practicality pays dividends. The old-fashioned horizontal chassis remains the easiest and most comfortable to use over extended periods of time.
Review continues after the break
And its picture performance is beyond reproach at this price, resolving lots of fine detail both at range and close up. Colours are lively when used in bright sunlight, and there’s only the barest smattering of the sort of dot and grain you’d expect when used under artificial lighting.
Its 5MP stills capability doesn’t match what can be found in a dedicated DSLR, but the sharp, bright pictures it produces are an extra sweetener in the deal.
It’s not colourful, shapely or stylish but, unlike many camcorders that are all of those things, the HS60 offers plenty of top-quality performance for your money.