There are casual camcorder enthusiasts who like the results of their video and still shoots to look professional. Several brands and models accomplish that objective with a wide range of pricing. The camcorder aficionado looking for the latest in professional equipment should focus attention on the new Panasonic HC-X1. There’s no hesitation in identifying the resemblance of its camera action to that of the Lumix DMC-GH4 Mirrorless Micro Four Thirds Digital Camera. Panasonic deserves a compliment for including specialized features throughout the top of their line. What else is there about the HC-X1 that brings its recognition as a 4K camcorder for professionals? There is a wealth of features designed to make the specialized videographer’s task more alluring.
About the HC-X1
The HC-X1 is a 4K camcorder designed to supply nearly all the requirements of professional videographers. An example is its impressive Leica Dicomar zoom lens. At 20x to 24mm, it’s the widest angle in the industry and handles situations that send other camcorder owners scrambling for a wide conversion lens. It’s hard to describe the feeling that results when using the 480mm equivalent view video feature. This Panasonic product also eliminates the long hours spent on color correction because the camera’s programmed to handle that task.
We tend to think of loaded equipment as bulky, heavy, and awkward. That image is quickly erased when lifting the Panasonic HC-X1. Features like HD super slow-motion, UHD 60p/50p, and FHD 60p/50p multi-format recording are the proverbial tip of the iceberg when talking about what’s included, yet the unit is easy to carry and use while filming. Interface and design meet the pro’s needs. At least 13 user buttons are programmable to allow quick access to commonly used functions. Rings for focus, zoom and iris operations are included in the lens barrel. Weighing in at 4.41 lbs, the unit is about 6.8 x 7.6 x 13.6 inches. That’s significantly less than other professional camcorders in this class.
The Best of OIS
My favorite Panasonic HC-X1 feature is the advanced Optical Image Stabilization included in the 4-Drive lens system. Four separate lens groups are driven both independently and simultaneously. The result is optimized zoom power, image quality, and built-in OIS that detects and corrects instability.
It doesn’t matter how experienced a photographer is, there’s always going to be a time when it’s hard to keep the camera steady during filming. That’s when the pros count on maximum correction for camera shake.
The 5-axis image stabilization system is among the best systems available. It corrects vibrations while shooting in Full HD using a combination of electronic and optical stabilization technologies for these five points:
- Upward movement.
- Downward movement.
- Pitch (Tilting up and down).
- Yaw (Rotation along the x axis).
- Roll (Rotation along the y axis).
The camcorder uses OIS only when shooting in 4K Ultra HD, delivering smooth, steady footage. It is a particularly welcome feature when shooting from a truck or car.
Experiment with the various options provided by the 5-axis image stabilization. Drop to UHD to compare the effect and record videos in MP4, AVCHD, or MOV formats.
I’m also impressed with the Panasonic HC-X1’s Micro Drive Focus Unit. Autofocus has never been this easy! Enjoy uncomplicated tracking sensitivity and speed adjustment in addition to accurate autofocusing. Pros will also appreciate a variety of focus assist functions that support quick, accurate manual focusing.
Shoot the two SD cards simultaneously or continuously. Panasonic HC-X1 is built with remarkable broadcast-grade camera image adjustment functions. Clear, accurate audio is vital to professional video. HC-X1 starts with two channels of XLR audio input and continues to impress with the high-quality recording using a 16-bit linear PCM or Dolby Digital system.
Ask for a lot from this professional system because you will NOT be disappointed! Expect impressive dynamic range, low noise, excellent image quality, and an amazing accurate depth of field. Choose from a variety of recording options for the quality you want for what’s being shot. The 4K 1-inch MOS sensor records up to 9.46 megapixels at 24 fps (4096 x 2160). The highest quality for UHD is 3840×2160 at 60/50 fps. The best quality for FHD is 1920,1080 at 60/50 fps. Enjoy the dramatic flair of dual code and slow motion recording.
What about Selfies? As mentioned earlier, the HC-X1 is relatively light and compact. There may be times when a still image is required or requested. The good news is that the f/2.8 aperture of lens is capable of shooting well in low light to produce an 8.8 megapixel image (4096×2160). They are stored as JPEGs so you can share with friends and relatives. For those moments when a selfie seems like a great thing to memorialize, pull out the 3.5-inch monitor built into the camcorder’s handle. Rotate it up to 270 degrees in the vertical direction for a selfie, low-angle or high-angle shot.
The HC-X1 features a built-in stereo microphone that produces acceptable audio. It’s disappointing that Panasonic downgraded the quality of this professional camcorder by getting cheap with the sound. The upside is the number of external mics that will add professional sound to make a seamless match with the video, including the important sound portions of weddings and similar events. Lapel mics resolve the situation during interviews. Videos that invite an overlay of music to match the genre of the film also eliminate the need to purchase a superior external mic. A 20mm speaker output and 3.5mm headphone output are located on the camera body.
Overall, the HC-X1 is easy to use. Quickly adjust the viewfinder to accommodate left or right eyed shooters. Once the exterior buttons are mastered, they are convenient to locate.
The unit has an option for remote control using an iPad and wireless module that is available as an accessory. It’s a convenient way to adjust recording quality as well as camera and lens settings. Export videos up to 4K quality using the HDMI out port.
Comparison with the Panasonic DVX200
The similarity in appearance between Panasonic’s HC-X1 and DVX200 inspires people in the market for a professional camcorder to compare the two. The DVX uses SDI, which raises its price several hundred dollars compared to HC-X1 and its longer-recording SD cards and HDMI output. HC-X1 is not strong in recording cinematic scenes, but handles narrative stories with style. Simple exposure combined with easy function and focus makes shooting on the go a snap with Panasonic HC-X1. The choice comes down to which type of video is being shot. Unless the higher bit rate and larger sensor of the DVX200 is crucial, the HC-X1 is an economical choice with powerful delivery.
- Professional level controls
- Image stabilization and autofocus
- Dual SD Memory Card slots
- Record simultaneously into two different formats
- Compact and light for easy carrying and use
- Precise AF performance
- Monitor tucks away for easier storage
- Case is loaded with small button tabs.
- No SDI
- Rolling shutter has issues when shooting fast moving objects.
Final Points and Conclusion
Panasonic designed the HC-X1 for professionals. The industry’s widest angle (24mm!) promotes wide-angle shooting with low distortion. There’s no need to switch over to a wide conversion lens, saving time and money. Optical 20x zoom is achieved through the 4-Drive Lens System, which minimizes the drive range of each lens group.
Select MOV, MP4, or AVCHD file format. The camcorder has an extensive range of recording modes that deliver a choice of frame rate, bit rate and image quality selections. The Triple Manual Rings on the lens barrel provide iris, zoom and focus operations. Thirteen user buttons are located on the camcorder’s exterior. Four are located on the LCD touch panel, while the remaining nine are on the body.
Excellent color reproduction is a result of the EVF high-resolution OLED display.
Focus assist functions include MF Assist, Expand/Peak, and One-Push AF. The Panasonic HC-X1 Micro Drive Focus Unit delivers stable, high-speed Intelligent AF. Superior tracking performance results in accurate focusing, an important part of 4K shooting. Customize operation settings to adjust speed, area width and tracking sensitivity.
There is so much to film outside, whether it’s a volleyball game at the beach, a seasonal dropping of leaves from trees, or a community gathering to clean up the park. Achieve a professional quality video using the 180-degree outdoor shooting capability of the HC-X1’s 1/4th to 1/64th built-in ND Filter wheel.
The Panasonic HC-X1 is a viable choice when upgrading camcorders. Genres such as reporting and independent film will be enhanced by the smooth video achieved with this system. The dual cards and recording capability are easier to achieve with the compact, light unit. Features may take a bit of practice, but the resulting professional product is well worth the time it takes to master them.