The Panasonic HDC-DX1 is one of the latest in the new wave of high definition digital video cameras. Recording to mini-DVD and utilising the AVCHD format via a 3CCD sensor, the camera is clearly geared towards high level users. However, it still manages to remain fairly competitive in its pricing. Great image quality and vibrant colours are at the top of the list of great features on the DX1, however it does suffer from an awkward design, and bare manual feature-set.
- Sharp and clear images, vibrant colours
- Design and interface make operation difficult and irritating at times
An attractive offering from Panasonic, the HDC-DX1 is capable of delivering high definition video once its interface and menus have been mastered.
Price$ 2,199.00 (AUD)
Image quality is the biggest advantage of the DX1 over a non-HD camera. Delivering 1080i resolution images, video shot on the camera looks smooth and sharp with very little blurring or image noise, even in high motion shots. Colour reproduction is excellent, thanks largely to the 3CCD sensor. If anything, we found the colours to be a little oversaturated, but this isn't necessarily a bad thing. It makes video look brighter and more vivid, and is common in most digital video cameras. The camera also has a 12x optical zoom which may be lacking for some, although digital zoom is available up to 700x.
The camera's automatic mode performed fairly well in most of our tests, although the auto-focus did tend to be a little slow to respond at times. However, the automatic settings were sufficient for most scenarios, reacting well to changing conditions and targets. This is fortunate because the manual settings available are quite bare, being limited to shutter speed, ISO and white balance. This isn't a massive concern, but given the camera's high level of performance in other areas, it would have been nice to see some more options available.
Unfortunately, the available features are accessable via a cumbersome and difficult interface. The small, inconveniently placed controls require either incredible dexterity or very long fingers to reach and operate effectively whilst keeping the camera still, and the confusing menu system is difficult and, at times, counter-intuitive to operate. The menus are further complicated by the division of the options into a conventional-style menu and a mini menu. In the mini menu each direction on the navigation joystick correlates to either toggling a setting or moving to the next set of three options, which only tends to make things more confusing still.
Physically, the camera is quite large, with the rear-mounted, elongating the camera's body. The mini-DVD drive sits on the right hand side, whilst the 3in LCD screen folds out from the left hand side. The camera is also slightly heavier than we're used to, but not uncomfortably so, weighing in at around 700g with battery and disc included.
The DX1 also includes still image functionality, although at 2.1MP this is fairly limited in its uses. Still, it's nice to have the option to use it for quick snaps when the need arises.
Battery life is decent, and lasted over 90 minutes in our tests, more than enough considering the 14 minutes of available recording time per DVD when using the highest quality mode. Nevertheless, recording time can be extended to approximately 30 minutes, or 60 on a DVD-DL by using the lowest of the three recording quality modes.
Overall, the HDC-DX1 is a decent offering. Great image quality and vibrant colours are definitely a big selling point, especially at this price, however with its limited feature set and frustrating interface, it's not for everybody.
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