By senior reviewer Stephen Turner
This is simply amazing. A fully capable, fully professional, camera for under $2000. Three rings on the lens, 20x zoom, awesome stabiliser, two XLR inputs, a decent LED light and despite a small sensor very good in low light.
This sums up the Panasonic HC-PV100
So it’s not 4K? So what? Full HD still covers 90% of the markets this camera will serve. It’s a gold standard light weight aimed at weddings, events, and story tellers in all forms.
It is very light and feels a tad plastic. What do you expect for the price? Reminds me of the Sony Z1 when that came out. At least you won’t have to grow massive biceps to hold it up for any length of time. It’smere 1.5kg. I was testing the magnificent Black Magic Mini Ursa at the same time and it came in at 7 kilos with a pair of V-Locs on the back end! Chalk and cheese…
Goodbye CCD and CMOS and hello BSI. The back illuminated sensor uses a clever trick to improve low light performance in a small sensor. It’s a 1/3inch BSI and if it was a CMOS or CCD I’d expect very poor low light performance. By simply moving the wiring from the front to the back the improvement is around ½ to 1 stop. Doesn’t sound like much but it makes all the difference in the world.
The built in LED light seems like a token add on but it actually works quite well as a fill light. The snap on diffuser softens the light and while you have no level control it is useful. Don’t forget your other lights though!
The menus are easy to run through and aren’t very deep so you can’t get lost trying to find that one thing you wanted to change but only vaguely remember where it is. So mostly set and forget – just the way I like it.
I really like the pull out and swivel monitor but I’d like to have both that and the excellent EVF on at the same time. The default is the EVF if the screen is tucked away and the LCD if it’s out. You then have to switch between the two – minor but many cameras now detect the eye approaching the EVF and switch it on or I’d prefer both. It can’t cost that much in battery time.
I love having dual SD card slots. You can hot swap to keep going or dual record for safety. The 50mbps rate means the demand on the cards is not high and off the shelf will do. By comparison the Panasonic GH5 now offers 400mbps! Overkill in my book but there you go.
The optical 20x zoom is great and just the right length. The five axis stabiliser is very good and you can shoot hand held with very good results – it’s not a gimbal so let’s not get carried away! There is “intelligent” zoom out to 40x but just say no. 20x is more than adequate and beyond that is still just digital enlarging.
It’s 29mm at the wide end and runs out to 600mm and is a very good 1.8 at the wide and a respectable 3.6 at the far end. For run and gun you are very well covered by that range. There’s the usual zoom control on the handle and another on the top for shooting off a tripod.
The tiltable viewfinder is comfortable and very clear with 1.5 million dots. The LCD screen is also very good but I did struggle in bright light. A small issue is the font size on the screen. The info is small and I struggled to read the settings sometimes. Match practice might change that.
The ergonomics are great, In a very short time I was comfortably making changes, This is where video cameras have it all over DSLRs with hard switches and settings easily worked at speed.
So the pictures? Very good. Errrrr…. that’s all really. Sharp with nice colours straight out of the box. This is another difference between the video and DSLR worlds. The vast majority of film work does not require, or have a budget for, colour grading. The obsession with shooting flat and grading does my head in. It’s brilliant and has it’s place but it’s not needed at most shoots. So having a camera that spits out nice pics from out of the camera is still gold.
Value for money does not come much better than this! At around $1800 the PV100 is stupidly cheap and I’d suggest you get one before Panasonic realise they’ve made a big mistake!