It doesn’t take longer than a week after the New Year for big companies to announce the latest imaging gear. That includes an assortment of digital cameras, action cameras and even digital camcorders. Yes digital camcorders still have a place in a world filled with people more dependent on their smartphone for recording video. No company is willing to let one company have all the fun in getting the camcorder niche crowd together and that is why companies like Panasonic are still keeping their entire lineup of camcorders fresh every year. This includes the low-end ones like the Panasonic HC-V180K.

Panasonic HC-V180K

Panasonic HC-V180K

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About the Panasonic HC-V180K

The HC-V180K is the most basic camcorder model of Panasonic’s 2016 lineup and the successor to the HC-V160 released the previous year. It is made for the people who want a far superior lens than the downsized ones featured in smartphones and better stability thanks to the proven form factor, secure hand strap and better image stabilization. Being an inexpensive and basic camcorder, the Panasonic HC-V180K is small, has a 2.7-inch LCD display and a few basic physical controls for easy recording and access to core features. It launched with a $229 price tag.

Comparison with the Panasonic HC-V160K

If you used a Panasonic HC-V160K before, one of the main things that you will immediately notice on the HC-V180K is the lack of menu controls. This is because the interface is now touch-driven like the higher end models. The touchscreen responsiveness isn’t exactly as spectacular as a typical smartphone but it does make menu navigation a bit easier especially when you need to do quick adjustments on the spot.

Both the Panasonic HC-V180K and the older model possess the same 1/5.8-inch BSI MOS sensor, the lens has been improved with better optical zoom capabilities. You can now optically zoom up to 50x and optionally activate the Intelligent Zoom feature to extend the zoom range to 90x. Zooming to the extended levels still looks good and it has a lot to do with the improved image stabilizer. The HC-V160K was a pretty big deal because it had electronic image stabilization while the much older HC-V130 didn’t. The HC-V180K makes an even bigger leap by having a 5-axis HYBRID optical image stabilizer with level shot function. The level shot function is a fine addition for new users as it keeps the view straight even if the camcorder is slightly tilted. There is a dedicated button to activate this feature and you can adjust the intensity.

Zooming with the HC-V160 was also a little bit weird since it still captured sounds near the camcorder regardless of zoom level. With the Panasonic HC-V180K, the audio capturing is a bit more accurate as the microphone has been upgraded to a zoom microphone.

The final main addition results to a slight improvement in video quality as the HC-V180K can now record up to 1080p/50p 28 Mbps. The previous model only maxed out at 17 Mbps. Of course, using the highest quality mode requires a minor sacrifice in storage space so be sure to use a high-capacity memory card If you want to record lots of high-quality 1080p video.

While all the aforementioned features seem new compared to the HC-V160, they are actually all features taken from the older step-up model which is the HC-V270. The Panasonic HC-V180K is pretty much on the same level as the HC-V270 but it doesn’t have the Wi-Fi and NFC features and there are no red and white variants.

Features

The HC-V180K doesn’t really have much else to offer other than the improvements mentioned earlier. It doesn’t run a fancy operating system so you won’t be able to install those third-party apps that add extra features to the video recording experience. However, the Panasonic HC-V180K does offer a certain degree of creative control. There is a cool miniature effect option along with 8mm and “Silent Movie” modes. The time lapse recording feature is also really cool to use. The camcorder lacks internal memory though and doesn’t come with its own memory card so you need to buy your own. Fortunately, 64 GB memory cards are pretty cheap and you don’t exactly have to buy the fastest one because you cannot record 4K video with this camcorder. It is also possible to take 10-megapixel images with the camcorder or 2.1-megapixel images while you are currently recording video.

Performance

At normal settings, the HC-V180K pretty much operates like its predecessor although the improved image stabilization really helps out with the video quality especially if you are fond of walking while recording. It is a bit of a missed opportunity that Panasonic didn’t improve on its fairly weak low-light capabilities but then again, this is an entry-level model. Overall performance during the day is very good and the 2-channel zoom microphone records far better audio than the average smartphone.

Conclusion

Pros:

• Optical image stabilization finally hits the Panasonic low-end.

• Improved lens and microphone should impress the zoom crowd.

• 28 Mbps AVCHD recording option now available.

Cons:

• Same features as the HC-V270 but without the useful built-in Wi-Fi and only costs about $70 more.

• No improvements to low-light performance.

Verdict:

The Panasonic HC-V180K is basically the best choice if you like the specs of the HC-V270 but want to save money and Wi-Fi isn’t a huge deal. That kind of savings can get you a really good high capacity memory card. It isn’t an exciting camcorder but it is nice to see budget consumers having more choices than ever.


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