Striking innovation on a compact digital camcorder is pretty tricky as many of those extra features turn out to be gimmicks. But there are a few ideas like Panasonic’s idea of live streaming and Sony’s idea of incorporating a built-in projector that stand and manage to transcend to future models. Panasonic’s “Twin Camera” feature is the latest innovation that will push to a couple of new models. What makes the newly launched Panasonic HC-W570 so interesting is that this camcorder gets the improvement while maintaining a highly competitive midrange price. It also gets a few other fine improvements making this a great upgrade over any old midrange camcorder.
The HC-W570 is the direct successor to the HC-V550CT and it comes in similar midrange body weighing just 266 grams. However, many of the specifications found in higher-end models are present in the Panasonic HC-W570 like the 3-inch LCD touchscreen and the set of buttons for activating features like Level Shot and Wi-Fi. There is no manual control dial but the overall layout should make it easy for first-time camcorder users to operate. The HC-W570 also lacks a mic jack but you can still use the USB 2.0 port for charging along with the AV and mini HDMI ports for TV output. It has an automatic lens cover too so you get a bit of a premium feel out of this midrange product. But the most notable difference between the Panasonic HC-W570 and Panasonic’s older midrange camcorders is the secondary camera attached next to the display.
The addition of the second camera is a pretty big deal because it used to be reserved for the high-end model. This lens has a F2.8 aperture with a focal length of 2.48mm. The main advantage of this smaller camera is its flexibility as you can rotate the camera and have the footage show up picture-in-picture style. This lets you record a scene in real-time at two different angles with the second angle appearing within a smaller box. Dubbed the “Twin Camera” system, this makes it great for “selfie videos” where you can record a subject and your facial reaction at the same time. It works very much like last year’s HC-W850 which first introduced the Twin Camera but the HC-W570 takes it up a notch by offering the smartphone’s camera as another option. This means that you are no longer limited to using the built-in secondary camera if you need even more flexibility. As long as the smartphone is paired to the Panasonic HC-W570 and is within range, the smartphone can record video too and have it appear as a picture-in-picture window on the active recording session. This is great for recording two related events at once in two different areas.
The Wi-Fi functionality of the HC-W570 is pretty in-depth in its own right featuring the same set of capabilities that other Panasonic Wi-Fi camcorders possess. Linking a smartphone or tablet to the camcorder is pretty simple and you can take the easier one-touch approach if your mobile device has NFC. All the networking features can be used in the Panasonic Image App for Android and iOS devices where you can activate remote view to see the camcorder’s live view on the mobile device. From there, you can remotely control the camcorder or set up the baby monitor function which makes the camcorder send notification alerts to your mobile device if sudden movements or sounds are detected. On the camcorder-end, you can optionally enable real time broadcasting to broadcast videos in real-time to Ustream for the public to watch. If you buy the $199 Panasonic VW-CTR1 Remote Pan Tilt Cradle, the Panasonic HC-W570 can become even more useful as a remote monitoring tool since the app can pan or tilt the camcorder while recording.
The HC-W570 isn’t just a more affordable and basic version of the HC-W850 with the Twin Camera system. It is also a better choice for casual users that are more likely to appreciate the broader zoom range over features that professionals like such as 4K, manual controls and HDR. It has an impressive maximum optical zoom of 50x and you can reach up to 90x without compromising on the details by enabling Intelligent Zoom. High zoom levels is perfectly fine because the Panasonic HC-W570 uses a special 5-axis image stabilization system called Hybrid OIS that combines the benefits of optical and electronic stabilization into one powerhouse package. Jitters and shaky movements are well compensated with this feature on. You can also turn on the Level Shot function to correct tilting in images if detected.
The rest of the features of the HC-W570 are pretty typical for its midrange price. You can record up to 1080p/50p video in AVCHD and iFrame formats with the option of taking 2.1-megapixel still images while recording. When not recording, you can take slightly better 10-megapixel stills. With no physical manual control dial, the iA or “intelligent Auto” mode should serve as the recommended option for newbie people. With this mode active, you can effortlessly shoot video without worrying about scene options and other settings. There is also an “iA Plus” mode if you like some control over the white balance and exposure compensation. There are also a number of filter effects that you can apply if you wish to add some creative spins to your video. Time lapse recording is also a possibility although the ability to record slow-motion video is absent.
Camcorders with unique extra features normally serve as reasons for manufacturers to substantially increase the price. But Panasonic isn’t bringing that trend to the Panasonic HC-W570 as its $449 price tag is pretty spot on. The Twin Camera system may not be for everyone as it is limited to picture-in-picture layering but it is fun for creative folks and younger audiences to play with and it is finally available at a lower price point. The HC-W570 is also your only choice if you need the physical secondary camera with good primary camera optical zoom.
Update: There is a newer model > Panasonic HC-W580K