The Panasonic NVGS35B is in most respects a rather ordinary compact camcorder -- until you hit the zoom switch. With its far-reaching 30x optical zoom, the NVGS35B offers shooting flexibility that's unprecedented for a camera in its price class. With decent video quality and a good basic set of features, it's an excellent choice for shooting distant subjects.
The Panasonic NVGS35B is fairly compact. Weighing slightly less than 500g, it's slightly shorter than typical MiniDV cameras, but it's also fairly wide, giving it a portly appearance. Its silver-and-grey shell makes for a very generic look, but the thick plastic feels sturdy and solid.
The Panasonic NVGS35B's body has a minimalist set of controls. There are only four buttons -- Quick Start, Menu, Manual Focus and Light -- as well as the mode dial, and the record, photo-capture, power and zoom controls. You use a tiny joystick in the centre of the mode dial to navigate menus and control playback. This has the advantage of offering true one-handed operation, as virtually all the controls are accessible with your right thumb. However, precise playback control is difficult with the joystick, so you'll want to keep the included infrared remote handy.
The menu system is a real improvement over those on earlier generations of Panasonic camcorders, both in appearance and ease of navigation. However, the tiny icons used for some of the manual settings will send you scurrying for the manual, as they lack text labels. Otherwise, the menus are clear and easy to use.
One bizarre engineering decision is the placement of the S-Video connector behind the battery along with the external power connector. You have to remove the battery and plug the camera into AC power in order to output via S-video.
The camera's slightly above-average width is probably due to the design of the MiniDV eject mechanism, which opens to the top of the camera. This lets you swap tapes without removing the camera from a tripod.