When it comes to highly evolving products and gadgets, digital camcorders aren’t very high up that list. That’s because there is usually not much to innovate on especially on the midrange category. But despite that fact, companies continue to release new midrange camcorders every year. Turns out that people with tight budgets and don’t find their smartphones enough for video recording still prefer buying actual digital camcorders. Plus, technology is getting cheaper which is often why specs of these midrange products get spec improvements year after year while retaining the same launch price. The Panasonic HC-V380K is a little bit different as gets a significantly different model number pushing it closer to the upper midrange segment and has a different launch price too.
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About the Panasonic HC-V380K
The HC-V380K is one of the several Panasonic camcorders that boast more zoom range than the entry-level and higher-end camcorders. Optical zoom is one of the main things that most smartphones lack and the ones that do just pale in comparison with the Panasonic HC-V380K. Of course, there are some areas where smartphones win like the screen size and the third-party apps but let’s face it, people love to get as close as to a subject as possible. The HC-V380K allows you to do just that along with other cool things that should entice a certain audience with very specific needs. Although the Panasonic HC-V380K has a higher launch price than last year’s HC-V270K, Panasonic still considers the V380K as the successor and therefore, both models will be compared to find out what is new.
Comparison with the Panasonic HC-V270K
Although both the Panasonic HC-V380K and HC-V270K are powered by the same battery, the newer model is slightly bigger and about a tenth of a pound heavier. The main reason as to why is pretty obvious when you open up the side panel revealing the screen. The screen is bigger measuring 3 inches diagonally putting it in line with the more advanced Panasonic camcorders. While it sounds like a minor change, it is significant as it not only makes live previews look bigger and wider but it makes it easier for menu navigation as it relies on touch. Even though the battery is totally the same, test shows that the HC-V380K outlasted the HCV270K by an extra 10 minutes.
There is also another attribute that forced the Panasonic HC-V380K to be a bit bigger and could very well be the main reason to consider upgrading from an older low-end model and that’s the increased optical zoom from 50x to 62x. Both models still boast 90x intelligent zoom but having some extra leeway on the optical front, you get clearer video quality when reaching slightly beyond 50x. The Hybrid image stabilization system still plays its role in handling those high zoom levels and hasn’t changed a bit.
The last big addition is a bit more gimmicky but certainly welcome as it leverages on the power of the smartphone. Through the camcorder’s built-in Wi-Fi, the HC-V380K can hook up to three different smartphones and access their camera lenses. While linked, you can activate the smartphone’s camera and have the live preview show up as a small overlay to the live video recorded by the Panasonic HC-V380K in real-time. Think picture-in-picture video and it eliminates the requirement of a secondary camera unit like the one in the Panasonic HC-W580 while adding a lot more flexibility. Linking three active smartphones is a rarer case scenario but if you have them, you could record a particular scene and have three additional angles.
The built-in Wi-Fi of the Panasonic HC-V380K has other cool uses too. You can transfer the live view of the camcorder to your smartphone’s screen via the Panasonic Image App and have direct control of the camcorder too. The core functions of the camcorder are accessible so you don’t need to have someone else near the camcorder if mounted somewhere. Most of the competing camcorders have this feature too but the HC-V380K can access the Internet too and have the live footage streamed directly to live streaming service Ustream. This mode also makes the PanasonicHC-V380K a pretty good surveillance camera or baby monitor.
In addition to the impressive 5-axis Hybrid Optical Image Stabilizer, the HC-V380K also has a “Level Shot” function. This basically detects if the camcorder is tilted and will automatically correct it. Finally, you can add creative touches to your videos by using one of the various in-camera Creative Controls or use the Intelligent Auto Plus if you are newbie and want decent video quality.
Other than the minor battery life improvement and the noticeably better picture quality at higher zoom levels, the Panasonic HC-V380K pretty much offers the same performance as last year’s midrange Panasonic models. The 28mm wide-angle lens is still impressive and while this camcorder cannot record 4K video like other smartphone models surprisingly can, nothing beats a comfortable camcorder without a great optical image stabilization system and the one the HC-V380K uses is great.
• More zoom.
• Bigger screen size.
• Wireless Multi Camera solution is pretty cool and easy to set up.
• No big gains on video performance.
• A tad pricey especially compared to the discounted HC-V270.
The Panasonic HC-V270 is discontinued but it might be possible to find it in third-party sellers. Zoom fanatics should find the price reasonable and may even like the larger display too. The Wireless Multi Camera is icing on the cake.