Many of Panasonic’s current consumer camcorder models have a letter “V” in front of the model number. Panasonic doesn’t exactly explain the meaning of it but it certainly bears a distinction once you have a full view of the current family. Looking at the 2016 lineup of Panasonic camcorders, you will notice that one of them looks really different. One of the models has a “W” instead. Panasonic started this new trend the previous year with the Panasonic HC-W570 and its differentiator was the highly cool secondary camera. Being a first-generation model, not everyone was a huge fan of it but the Panasonic HC-W580K has a few improvements that might encourage those folks to give the unique specimen another look.
About the Panasonic HC-W580K
The HC-W580K is a direct successor to the HC-W570 and that really means that the older model had its fans and they really liked the idea of using another camera lens to do all sorts of creative stuff. That secondary camera makes a return to the Panasonic HC-W580K and remains as the selling point for this particular model. You won’t find any other Panasonic model in the 2016 series like this so owners can have a little bit of those bragging rights knowing that the prosumers have only one lens to work with.
The secondary camera lens resides on the side of the screen making the display door a bit longer. It’s a pretty clever spot too because you have that degree of flexibility for your second angle. The lens unit pivots so having that second angle is completely optional. For instance, you can have the lens face you effectively making it a front-facing camera where you can record yourself while you are recording a subject. This is great for interviews or footage where you want to show your audience your reaction while recording. The secondary camera footage is shown live on a smaller window in typical picture-in-picture style. This exclusive addition does bump up the price to $399 and you could find a camcorder with better specs for cheaper so you really need to make sure you need this feature.
Comparison with the Panasonic HC-V570K
The HC-W580K is a pretty minor upgrade over the HC-W570K but the improvements make the overall package a lot more appealing. The sub camera hasn’t changed a bit and it might be for the best as you cannot use it as a primary camera anyway. The picture-in-picture window is small anyway so the 2-megapixel sensor is a perfect fit. The main difference between the older and newer model is that the sub camera is no longer a hard requirement if you need to do picture-in-picture work. There is now an alternative way to do it and all you need is at least one iOS or Android device. Basically you connect that device to the Panasonic HC-W580K via Wi-Fi and that device becomes the secondary camera for the picture-in-picture window instead. This will give you more freedom in recording another viewing angle since you can essentially hand the smartphone over to another person enabling all sorts of creative results. Perhaps the best thing about this hot new feature is the extra ability to have two picture-in-picture windows. You can actually connect up to three smartphones to the camcorder and cycle through picture-in-picture windows on the fly. This feature is implemented in a few other new Panasonic camcorders too so it makes the HC-W580K a little bit less special. Still that secondary physical camera is very flexible and enables second angle recording while you have one hand free.
Panasonic also didn’t bother improving the rest of the specs like the 50x optical zoom, 90x Intelligent zoom and 1/5.8-inch BSI MOS sensor on the main camera unit but there is a new movie function that’s been all the rage in recent digital cameras and camcorders – an HDR movie function. Using this feature is highly recommended if you are recording a scene that has a lot of contrast.
All of the Panasonic camcorders in the lineup including the Panasonic HC-W580K have built-in Wi-Fi and NFC except for the most affordable one. Having Wi-Fi turns out to be pretty neat because it allows the connected iOS or Android smartphone or tablet to a remote control of sorts where you can remotely set various parameters to the camcorder such as having the camcorder start or stop recording. You also have the ability to stream whatever it is you are recording to the Ustream service for other viewers on the Internet to see in real time.
The HC-W580K may not have the third-party app support that smartphones enjoy but you can still use some of the fun built-in features like the Creative Controls if you want to spice up the look of your videos without the need to edit them on a computer using post-production software.
The Panasonic HC-W580K pretty much performs like a typical entry-level camcorder so you can expect satisfactory video quality when recording a scene during the day and average to poor low light performance depending on the scene. But the new HDR function really improved the quality when recording in rooms with windows for instance. This feature works by merging two live videos taken with different exposures so the highlights aren’t too overblown and the unwanted shadows are blocked out. There is a dedicated HDR button too.
This HDR feature does give the Panasonic HC-W580K a slight edge over other entry-level camcorders and the HYBRID O.I.S. with 5-axis correction also contributes to the good overall video performance. It is also worth noting that the HC-W580K can record full 1080p 60 fps video while lower-end Panasonic models only max out at 50 fps.
• Twin Camera Function remains a cool trick.
• Wireless Multi Camera allows for better picture-in-picture window possibilities.
• HDR is a nice addition.
• No improvements on the other specs.
• Wireless Multi Camera can be found in other Panasonic models too making the Twin Camera Function a bit less special.
As mentioned earlier, it is best to have a good look at the Twin Camera Function before even thinking about purchasing the Panasonic HC-W580K. It is the main element that drives up the price a bit but once you assessed the possibilities, it is a fun feature to have.