Camcorders that cost less than $300 are pretty attractive nowadays because they feature fantastic zoom ranges and good overall HD quality. Smartphones are becoming more and more useful for video recording but they are still pricey and are not exactly designed for long recording sessions. But like other entry-level gadgets, the most affordable models often come with a few too many compromises. Fortunately, Panasonic has a couple of entry-level models each with their own price levels with the Panasonic HC-V250 being priced $100 more than the cheapest member of the 2014 consumer camcorder family – the HC-V130. These two models may look similar but serious camcorder users may find the extra $100 worth saving up for because of the extra features that the HC-V250 possesses.
Design and Interface
Most budget camcorders look the same regardless of who made them but the Panasonic HC-V250 is unmistakably a Panasonic camcorder with its plain black design and noticeable Panasonic logo behind the display panel. It is a bit thicker than the HC-V130 but the weight is very much the same so you can effortlessly record video with one hand and the hand strap will help you achieve this in a more stable manner.
The HC-V250 also uses the same 2.7-inch screen as the cheaper model which might be a turn off for those hoping for a larger 3-inch screen considering the fact that this camcorder lacks an optical viewfinder. On the upside, Panasonic didn’t bother adding touch capabilities to the screen as the limited screen real estate would make for a poor touch experience. So instead, you have to rely on the buttons on the side to navigate through the menus. While it is a traditional approach, the interface isn’t very complicated and there are not many physical buttons on the side. Some shortcuts can be found on the side of the camcorder as well with the screen popped out. This includes the playback button, O.I.S. button, power button and Wi-Fi button. As with most compact camcorders these days, you can begin recording a video by pressing the start/stop button on the back and operate the zoom and take snapshots using the controls on the top of the Panasonic HC-V250. When not in use, you can close the lens to protect it but it must be done manually via a physical switch on the side of the camcorder.
Storage and Connectivity
Panasonic isn’t much of a believer of internal flash memory for many of their products nowadays so you need to load the HC-V250 with an SD card before you can record your first video. A 16 GB SDHC card is recommended as they are quite cheap or you can go direct to the point and get a meaty 64 GB Class 10 card for high HD recording performance and plenty of storage space available. The lack of internal memory translates to savings on your behalf and you get the freedom in deciding how much storage you want depending on your budget.
The connectivity option is where the Panasonic HC-V250 really stands out compared to the Panasonic HC-V130. It is Panasonic’s most affordable camcorder introduced for 2014 to support Wi-Fi. While it is possible to add an Eye-Fi memory card to a budget Panasonic camcorder so it has a wireless function, the built-in Wi-Fi featured in the HC-V250 and higher-end Panasonic models allows you to do more than just transfer videos to a computer wirelessly. It also allows you to link the camcorder to an Android or iOS smartphone or tablet. The Panasonic Image App for mobile devices lets you control the camcorder remotely and it doubles as a remote viewfinder. If your mobile device is NFC-enabled, you can easily connect the mobile device to the camcorder by simply letting it touch the camcorder. This pretty much mimics the functionality of a home monitoring solution so you might not need a dedicated solution if you already have a tripod. Real-time broadcasting to Ustream is supported as well if you decide to use the Wi-Fi to connect to an Internet-enabled hotspot instead. When you want to preview videos on your TV, you can use the included mini HDMI cable to connect the Panasonic HC-V250 directly to the TV.
Shooting with the HC-V250 is a pretty fun affair because you get to work with a tremendous zoom range. You may conveniently shoot at the wide-angle at 28 mm or zoom 50 times optically to 1400 mm. By enabling the Intelligent zoom feature which uses special techniques to magnify even further without messing up the quality, you can reach up to 90x zoom. The Panasonic HC-V250 uses the same 1/5.8-inch BSI MOS sensor as the cheaper model so you can expect decent video quality in most situations including low light. The Power O.I.S. or Optical Image Stabilization technology is worth mentioning though as you can capture better videos even if you have a shaky hand. The still shots that the camcorder can take are a bit better as the resolution maxes out at 10 megapixels.
While the Wi-Fi features make the HC-V250 a little bit more advanced, this camcorder is still meant for beginners that don’t wish to tinker with manual controls. The iA (Intelligent Auto) setting is oftentimes the best option to pick because it tries to detect the shooting conditions and makes the appropriate setting adjustments. If you need to make a little bit of fine tuning to the white balance and exposure compensation, you can try the iA Plus mode instead.
With several effects like silent movie, miniature effect and 8 mm movie, there are plenty of fun things that audiences of all ages can try out to make some compelling home videos. You can have the Panasonic HC-V250 do some time lapse recording as well.
Connecting to the TV via HDMI remains as a convenient way to show off videos on the big screen and it should work fine with all TVs. But if your TV is a Panasonic TV that supports VIERA Link, you can use the remote control to operate the camcorder as well making it even easier to present several movies still present in the memory card.
Because of all the added features that Wi-Fi brings, the Panasonic HC-V250 should really be your main budget choice at $299. The HC-V130 is only an attractive alternative if you live with the slightly reduced zoom range, lack of optical image stabilization and inability to connect to smartphones wirelessly.