Panasonic can be seen by many critics as the current leader in the consumer and prosumer camcorder market. Several years back, the Japanese-giant launched the Panasonic HDC-TM300 which featured a great set of features and had excellent performance. This particular prosumer model turned out to be the blueprint for its successors. Even the Panasonic HC-X920 features the same design but it adds several new features that may not convince existing HC-X900 owners to upgrade but may tempt others that are looking for a feature-packed camcorder to fork over $1,000.
The Panasonic HC-X920 is a simple-looking camcorder that doesn’t have any gimmicky design elements. It may not be the kind of camcorder to show off to folks but it does have that professional look. A bland design isn’t a bad thing though because the Panasonic HC-X920 feels very comfortable to hold. While it would have been nice if Panasonic made some improvements to the hand strap, it is refreshing to see Panasonic not attempting to fix anything that isn’t broken. Even though this camera primarily targets prosumers, ordinary users should feel very comfortable with the control layout. There is also a special attachment that makes the camcorder look more futuristic while adding the ability to shoot 3D video. However, the accessory costs $300 and it isn’t worth the money unless you really need to shoot 3D visuals for your 3D display.
The 3.5-inch LCD touch display is a bit larger than the other Panasonic consumer models. While a 0.5-inch difference may not sound like a lot, the display itself is higher quality because of its higher resolution of 1,152,000 dots. This means that visuals shown on the screen whether you are recording video or reviewing videos look sharp and vivid. It works wonderfully as a viewfinder although it might be difficult to see when there are visible glares. This is where the EVF or electronic viewfinder can be useful. Many professionals go for a high-end camcorder because of the EVF so the HC-X920 can be a great pick if they want something compact.
The internals of the Panasonic HC-X920 are nearly the same as its predecessor. This includes the impressive 3MOS system which helped past models do a great job in making the colors more accurate while reducing noise. This trio of 1/4.1-inch CMOS sensors works alongside the Panasonic Crystal Engine Pro II which is also responsible for improving video performance. Compared to the previous model, the HC-X920 does a little bit better under low light conditions which is nice. You can basically turn on a flashlight to illuminate a very dark area and still get exceptional visuals. The only tradeoff you get from this camcorder is slightly worse sharpness levels although this very minor flaw isn’t deal breaking.
The Panasonic HC-X920 comes with its own optical image stabilization technology called HYBRID O.I.S. and it is special in the sense that it boasts 5-axis correction. This helps eliminate blurring that is normally caused by shaky hands while video recording. This is a great feature to use since the camcorder features a 23x zoom lens and recording video at high zoom levels is very difficult without good optical image stabilization.
Because the HC-X920 is a prosumer camera, it has to have manual controls too so you can manually attain the desired visual quality. Adjusting these controls is simple as there is a manual ring that can do many things like adjust the focus or set the zoom or aperture. Playing around the manual controls can be rewarding because attributes like the white balance can be significantly improved if you try to make manual adjustments.
To keep the price at $1,000, Panasonic did not add any form of internal storage in the camcorder. Panasonic doesn’t really have to because the Panasonic HC-X920 already has an SD card slot. Any SD card slot should work although it is better to get those Class 10 SDXC cards so you have more capacity (64 GB and beyond) and better recording and data transferring performance. There are plenty of cheap SD cards too so storage shouldn’t be a problem.
Perhaps the biggest improvement of the HC-X920 over the older model is the built in wireless LAN. This feature allows the camcorder to connect to an Android or iOS device to enable many cool features. Once the free Panasonic Image App is installed in the mobile device, you can use the mobile device as a separate viewfinder for the camcorder. The interface of the app also allows you to perform certain camcorder functions remotely. The nice thing about this feature is that you can turn your camcorder into a Wi-Fi hotspot so you can connect the mobile device to the camcorder without an Internet connection. If your mobile device is connected to the Internet, it is also possible to upload any stored videos to the Internet. An Internet-connected Panasonic HC-X920 is also capable of streaming live video to the Ustream.tv service. Setting up the Wi-Fi can be a pain for new users but it is a great first start by Panasonic.
Other cool things you can do with the HC-X920 include taking 20.4-megapixel still images. If the manual controls are too complicated, you can still use the various Scene Modes to enhance the shooting conditions if the scene mode properly matches the scene. The iA mode will attempt to figure out the scene mode automatically. For more creative control, you can also try out some filter effects like the miniature effect or time lapse recording feature. Playing back videos can be fun too with the Highlight Playback feature which adds some cool transitions and background music to better present a collection of recorded videos.
There are several good 2D and 3D camcorders that cost $1,000 but the Panasonic HC-X920 has to be one of the best camcorders to get if 3D recording isn’t your thing. The added Wi-Fi features are a great improvement and the design and overall video performance remains the same making the camcorder truly a joy to use.