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Good: Zoom, hard drive, Intelligent Auto
Bad: Picture quality, particularly heavy grain from indoor filming.
Comment: I bought this at what was meant to be a bargain price (just under Â£200, supposedly down from well over Â£300), so perhaps my expectations were higher than they should have been. Admittedly the hard drive adds to the value of it (consider how much 80GB-worth of SDHC cards would cost), but as this camcorder would get a lot of use indoors, that was the essential test... which it failed abysmally. I have a 5-bulb ceiling light-fitting, and 3 wall lights in our living room. Admittedly it's rather a large room, and all the bulbs are energy-saving ones that are underpowered compared to tungsten; but, nevertheless, I would have expected that to be sufficient to get a reasonable standard out of a quality camera. Sadly, the grain was extremely heavy, with a dull cast to the picture, even though the iAuto symbol seemed to show that it was using the low-light mode. Of course, there is a light fitted to this model, but that didn't seem to be very effective at all. It only appears to be an LED, and the instruction manual puts its limit at something like 1.5 metres, which is a ridiculously short range. Outdoor pictures were better, but even then I saw slight colour bleed, slight pixellation in the distance, and a slight jerkiness to anything other that the gentlest of movements.
On the plus side, however, the zoom is very impressive, and the features seemed good (eg, iAuto mode, backlight compensation, LP facilities, and automatic video-light in the same way you'd expect automatic flash on a still camera), but for me these are all wasted if the picture quality isn't up to my requirements.
I've returned my Panasonic, and taken the advice of this reviewer by looking at the HD options: I've ordered the Sony HDR-CX115, which CNET seems to give one of the best reviews in the price-bracket for its picture quality (with particular emphasis on the low-light). Fingers crossed...
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