Do some research on the top high-end consumer digital camcorders and you will find that many of Panasonic’s models are on the list. Panasonic not only knows how to make great camcorders but also knows how to appropriately price them to become very attractive options for people seeking specific needs. But coming up with an entry-level model is a bit different because you have to sacrifice features and specifications to hit that affordable sweet spot. The strategy of the Panasonic HC-V130 is to hit the $200 mark while focusing on ease of use and good all-around performance.
Design and Interface
In the entry-level category, you can’t really expect a company to design a camcorder that really stands out from the rest. But it is still important for the Panasonic HC-V130 to possess certain characteristics that most buyers are looking for. This includes a compact and light design with a simple control layout that is meant for beginners to pick up and shoot immediately. The good news is that the Panasonic HC-V130 ticks all of these boxes.
The HC-V130 is pretty small weighing just under a half pound without the battery. If you don’t mind loading up some extra weight, you can buy a bigger battery for extended recording sessions. The hand strap is pretty thin and basic but it still counts as one of the big advantages of using an actual digital camcorder rather than a point-and-shoot camera, DSLR or smartphone to record video. Turning on the device is as simple as opening up the LCD monitor and pressing the power button on the side of the camcorder. The lens on the front of the camcorder has a built-in cover to protect the lens although you must manually open and close it using the switch on the side of the lens.
The 2.7-inch LCD display is pretty small but the size is understandable considering the budget nature of this camcorder. Those that hate unresponsive and cheap touchscreens will appreciate the traditional physical button approach of the display. The layout is pretty simple featuring the standard directional buttons along with a menu button and enter button. The display can also open up to 90 degrees and rotate up to 180 degrees. In addition to the power button, you can also find a delete button and toggle that lets you pick between the Intelligent auto and manual modes.
Recording with the Panasonic HC-V130 is pretty simple as the recording button can be conveniently found on the back with the photoshot button on top along with the zoom lever which also doubles as a volume lever in playback mode.
Storage and Connectivity
The HC-V130 does not have any onboard storage and the package doesn’t come with a separate memory card either so you must make sure that you buy an SD card after purchasing the Panasonic HC-V130 unless you have a spare. The lack of embedded flash storage can be seen as a good thing though as it is one aspect that keeps the overall price of the camcorder down. You get to pick your preferred storage capacity and fortunately, 4 GB and 8 GB SD cards are dirt cheap nowadays. If you are up for recording large amounts of HD video, you should consider the SDHC cards that go as high as 32GB or SDXC memory cards that start at 48 GB and beyond. The SD card slot can be found beneath a cover underneath the camcorder.
Wi-Fi technologies are slowly making their way to entry-level camcorders but Panasonic hasn’t caught this train just yet and it could heard the long-term potential of the HC-V130 for those folks that enjoy uploading videos to Facebook and/or YouTube. The only way to enable wireless connectivity is to get an SD card with wireless features such as the Eye-Fi. This makes it easier to transfer files to a computer. As far as wired connectivity goes, you have to deal with the mini HDMI port, A/V connector and USB terminal.
The Intelligent 75x zoom is one of the main highlights of the Panasonic HC-V130 as it boasts a better zoom range than many of Panasonic’s pricier camcorders. In actuality, the optical zoom maxes out at just 38x but some sophisticated technologies allow the zoom to extend further without much quality loss. The HC-V130 is also equipped with a BSI sensor for improved low-light results. At Full HD 1080p, you get pretty good results especially on a sunny day outdoors.
As an entry-level camcorder, the Panasonic HC-V130 is designed for hassle-free video recording. Using the iA Mode or “Intelligent Auto” is recommended for beginners as it automatically picks the right settings and functions for the current scene. If ever you need to snap still shots, you can simply press the button on the top of the camcorder. It snaps 8.9-megapixel images and the quality is decent if the lighting is adequate.
If you feel adventurous and want to adjust the shutter speed, white balance, focus and iris manually, you can switch to manual recording by pressing the iA button. With some practice, you may be able to record better results than the auto mode although it is better to get a higher-end model that features physical manual controls.
There are a few fun modes in the HC-V130 to try out for creative control purposes. This includes a few filter effects like the 8mm movie and miniature effect. Time lapse recording is also possible with the Panasonic HC-V130.
Being a multimedia Panasonic product, the HC-V130 supports VIERA Link which is a feature normally found in today’s Panasonic TVs. It relies on the HDMI CEC standard to enable the camcorder to respond to commands coming from the TV’s remote control. VIERA Link can only be used if the Panasonic HC-V130 is connected to the Panasonic TV via HDMI cable.
The Panasonic HC-V130 doesn’t really bring any new innovations to the entry-level category but it does manage to bundle a bunch of essential features and good zooming capabilities into a $199 package. This affordable camcorder can be good enough for those that are tired of recording videos with their smartphones.