Panasonic's VDR-D150 is an entry level DVD camcorder that offers a good range of functions in an easy to use package, but falls down when it comes to the quality of its video footage and still images.
- Large zoom, wide range of supported discs, easy to use, price
- Washed out colour indoors and in low light, grainy footage, not natively widescreen
Although the VDR-D150 offers heaps of functionality at a reasonable price, the quality of its video footage is a letdown.
Price$ 879.00 (AUD)
When playing back footage it was immediately obvious that the VDR-D150 suffered from poor quality video. Shooting indoors we found colours to be poorly reproduced, with a grainy haze proving an annoying distraction. We thought our television was perhaps at fault, but switching screens yielded only minor differences. Shooting in a darkened room made matters worse, with the camcorder's sensor failing to show the vivid primary colours of our test charts. Turning on night shot mode helped a great deal, with the colours impressively coming to life instantaneously, however the resulting drop in frame rate when using this mode means it isn't an ideal alternative.
Things became better when moving outside, where the camera's small LCD screen coped well, even in direct sunlight. The picture was a great deal brighter, with the graininess less evident and the colours more accurate. One slight problem here was the camera's tendency to over saturate the image in areas of intense sunshine. However, a bigger downside is that the VDR-D150 doesn't record natively in widescreen. The LCD uses the standard 4:3 aspect ratio and to record in widescreen mode the camcorder simply adds black bars to the top and bottom of the picture; not true widescreen at all. Panasonic has usefully included a huge 30x optical zoom, which enabled us to zoom in on objects in the far distance with ease.
Ease of use is in fact one of the areas where the VDR-D150 excelled. All the models in Panasonic's latest line-up of video cameras use a simple five-way directional stick and an intuitive menu system to provide access to the various functions. This system works well, especially as the VDR-D150 is also lightweight and comfortable to hold. Panasonic has provided support for a wide range of discs, including DVD-RAM, which can be played back immediately on a compatible player, without the need for finalising the disc. Unfortunately, as recordable 8cm DVDs only offer 1.4GB of space, you can only expect a paltry twenty minutes of recording time using the highest quality settings
One final feature of the VDR-D150 is the camcorder's ability to save still images to your SD card. Most digital video cameras offer this functionality these days, with varying degrees of success, but unfortunately the VDR-D150's pictures are of too lower quality to be really useable. It can only save images as 640x480 JPEG files; an incredibly low resolution, and one that makes it inadequate for most uses. It did however have a surprisingly large range of manual options, across both still and video recording. Focus, shutter speed, white balance and aperture can all be adjusted using a simple on screen switch. These are impressive inclusions for a low end camera, but are largely wasted on such poor quality images.
Overall the VDR-D150 offers a good range of functions, a portable frame and a good zoom range. The quality of its video and still images, however, is just not up to scratch.
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