Gadgets and consumer electronics with some sort of 4K resolution specification started off as a gimmick and is slowly making the transition to the mainstream as the 4K displays get cheaper. It still isn’t widely adopted considering you won’t find your favorite movies in 4K format just yet but it isn’t stopping big tech companies from adding the ability to record 4K video in just about anything from camcorders to DSLR cameras, action cameras and even smartphones. It is easy to think that 4K video simply looks better than 1080p video because of the higher pixel count and that technically is true if you compare the two on a 4K display but that doesn’t mean that all devices that can record 4K video offer the same results. The Panasonic HC-WXF991K is somewhat in the middle ground as far is 4K video quality is concerned sacrificing professional quality for portability while having far more power than a modern smartphone.
About the Panasonic HC-VX981K
The HC-WXF991K is Panasonic’s new flagship consumer camcorder for 2016 and it offers some pretty interesting weapons to combat other 4K camcorders in its class. It is priced at $999 making it more half the price of the professionally-inclined HC-X1000. Panasonic promises a “semi-professional recording experience” with the Panasonic HC-WXF991K which basically translates to some compromises in the recording experience for portability while still having a few essential manual controls. Portability is still a big deal for a lot of people considering the fact that the HC-WXF991K is four times lighter than the HC-X1000. The Panasonic HC-WXF991K still weighs less than a pound and has the typical features one could expect from compact camcorder like the 3-inch touch display, 20x optical zoom and a couple of unique features taken from its predecessor that still sets it apart from its competitors.
Comparison with the Panasonic HC-WX970
The HC-WXF991K takes over the HC-WX970’s flagship throne and to many people owning a flagship camcorder product, it isn’t really a huge deal. Camcorder manufacturers usually add incremental updates to make the flagship more appealing than the older model but not to the point where one might be interested in selling their older flagship camcorder to buy the latest model. While the Panasonic HC-WXF991K doesn’t add too many new features, it offers one new thing that makes the upgrade very appealing and that’s the addition of an electronic viewfinder.
The lack of a viewfinder was one of the main weaknesses of the HC-WX970 and the HC-WXF991K finally has one. Sure it makes the camcorder a bit heavier (about 40 grams difference) but it makes the Panasonic HC-WXF991K better play the role as a bridge between the typical consumer camcorder to the very expensive large professional camcorders. It now looks like a real downsized model where you can do some serious work with. The 0.24-inch electronic viewfinder is pretty neat too because you can adjust it to different angles.
The other new addition consists of a bunch of mini features designed to allow less experienced prosumers to produce cinema-like effects that normally take require more effort from an ordinary professional camcorder. One of these cool features is the dolly zoom which basically replicates the famous Vertigo effect that you see in a lot of big movies and TV shows. The Slow/Quick motion function is a pretty neat trick too allowing you to record both fast and slow motion video in one clip making it great for recording sports scenes. Both of these effects are exclusive to this model.
Alongside the cheaper Panasonic HC-VX981, the HC-WXF991K offers some pretty neat in-camera editing functions so you don’t have to record a 4K video and add some post-processing edits to make a 1080p video. 4K video is still not very common but videographers still use the format to create better 1080p footage that they normally cannot create by recording at native 1080p and then using fancy software to make the magic happen. With the Panasonic HC-WXF991K it is possible to do that with relative ease. Take the “zooming crop” function as an example where you can simply open up a recorded 4K video, select a small area of the scene you want to zoom into and then another area where you want to pan to and then you end up with this cool 1080p video which is basically a zoomed in version of the 4K video that smoothly pans to the other area you selected. Quality looks much better compared to trying to do this with optical zoom and doing the panning yourself. Other features include the “tracking crop” allows you to zero in on a subject and automatically track it and the “stabilization crop” which can further stabilize a shaky 4K video.
Features and Performance
The HC-WXF991K shares a lot of the prosumer found in the cheaper HC-VX981 model but the main difference lies in the letter – “W” in particular. Panasonic camcorders in the “W” family possess the highly unique twin camera which is basically a secondary camera attached to the side of the 3-inch touch display. You can pivot this camera so you can record yourself while recording video or record another angle of a scene. Enabling this feature adds a picture-in-picture window and it’s actually pretty neat. The midrange HC-W580K has this twin camera too but the one found in the Panasonic HC-WXF991K has a higher 5-megapixel resolution. The built-in Wi-Fi allows smartphones to connect to the camcorder for remote control operation or allow the smartphone’s camera to take the role of the twin camera too for even more flexibility. Plus, up to three smartphones can connect to the camcorder all at once. Everything else about the Panasonic HC-WXF991K is the same as its predecessor though.
• Now has an electronic viewfinder – a first of the prosumer series.
• In-camera editing features and exclusive effects are really cool.
• Has all the cool things that made the WX970 a great camcorder.
• Sensor and lens technologies still the same as the older model.
• Still doesn’t have a lens ring.
The Panasonic HC-WXF991K turned out to be a huge improvement over its predecessor. Considering the $999 price tag, not everyone may wish to upgrade but the EVF and extra effects clearly add more flexibility to budding cinematographers.