One of the most exciting things about the action camera market is the fact that you can take all sorts of approaches when it comes to execution. GoPro is the undisputed leader in this category but not everyone wants to buy one. More choices means more pressure on the leader and that’s what makes products better. Panasonic looks like a company that can do the job simply because the company makes awesome digital camcorders. Rather than taking GoPro head on, the Japanese giant threw a curveball in the form of the Panasonic HX-A500H – a 4K action camera with an unconventional design. It was a bold move but the $399 price was a bit too much. A year later, Panasonic is back kicking off 2015 with the Panasonic HX-A1.
About the Panasonic HX-A1
The Panasonic HX-A1 is a 1080p action camera with a cylindrical design just like the HX-A500H. The most notable difference is the lack of a connected control console as it is now part of the camera itself. This makes the Panasonic HX-A1 a single component system that is more compact and far less quirky. It only weighs 45 grams and feels rugged. The camera is IPX8 compliant right out of the box so you don’t have to add a waterproof case. It is also shockproof, freeze-proof and dustproof. More importantly, the HX-A1 is half the price of the HX-A500H. The action cam is available in two colors – orange and black.
Versatility is the main focus of the Panasonic HX-A1 and it hopes to win action cam fans left and right. Included in the package is the Multi Mount which encourages the user to mount the HX-A1 to any ideal spot. This could be your helmet, board or other piece of mountain gear. A tripod mount is included as well opening up even more mounting possibilities. Because the Panasonic HX-A1 feels so light and looks so small, it is easy to record video on a tripod or monopod.
The rest of the official Panasonic accessories have to be purchased separately and they are quite useful. The head mount accessory could be useful if you want to do some POV recording without wearing a helmet. You just attach the HX-A1 to the mount and then put it on like a headband. The clip mount adds even more versatility as it lets you attach the camera to your bag, hat or backpack. Clipping this mount to the waist area might be a bit comfortable but the multi belt mount should solve the problem and you can wear it on your shoulder too. If you want to use the action camera while driving, boating, kayaking and biking, you should consider getting the suction cup and handlebar mounts. Finally, there is the twin mount which is ideal for dark conditions where you need an IR flashlight. The mount takes care of this by allowing that IR flashlight to be mounted in addition to the Panasonic HX-A1 itself.
The HX-A1 has a built-in Wi-Fi module that allows the action cam to connect to your smartphone for easy transferring of media. This makes it easy to get those videos and post them on Facebook, YouTube or some other social site. Because the Panasonic HX-A1 lacks a screen, you’ll have to take out your Android or iOS smartphone or tablet whenever you need frame up your shots.
Leveraging on Panasonic’s strong selection of digital camcorders, the Panasonic HX-A1 also has the twin camera capability so you can link the action camera up with a Wi-Fi-enabled Panasonic camcorder. When both devices are recording simultaneously, you will get a nice picture-in-picture result.
The lack of 4K recording capabilities and separate control panel explain the big price cut. For those looking for something different, these cuts are definitely worthwhile. It is far less intimidating to use as the top of the camera only consists of three buttons – the record button, mode button and power button. There are also some light indicators that show things like the Wi-Fi status.
Panasonic’s 2.6mm F2.8 lens and 1/3-inch MOS sensor does a pretty nice job recording 1080p Full HD video at 30 fps or 720p if you want 60 fps. Slow motion video recording is only available in the non-HD 480p resolution. You can also have the HX-A1 continuously take 2.7-megapixel snapshots at a set interval. The Panasonic HX-A1 relies on a microSD card for storage supporting up to 128 GB.
The second lens that is included in the package has to be the coolest thing about the Panasonic HX-A1 swap out the main lens with this second lens and the HX-A1 will be able to see in the pitch black darkness.
To make the Panasonic HX-A1 feel real light, it had to use a small 480 mAh battery which can only handle about 90 minutes of continuous HD video recording. Fortunately, the camera charges quickly and uses the micro-USB standard so you can charge it using a powerbank or solar panel.
The HX-A1 can be even more useful if you purchase other accessories like the wind jammer and strap adapter. The wind jammer can come in handy during windy conditions as it helps make the audio clearer. The Panasonic HX-A1 is so small that it can be pretty easy to lose but you can use the strap adapter to connect the camera to a flotation strap, neck strap or key ring.
• Very light, rugged and capable.
• Plenty of ways to mount the camera
• Night vision IR lens is a fantastic addition.
• Only costs $200.
• Limited slow motion and recording modes
• Still image quality only average.
• Short battery life.
When you consider both the size and price of the HX-A1, the minor drawbacks are completely understandable. Panasonic created a fine budget action camera that can see in the dark and has plenty of ways to mount. No matter what activity you like doing, you can record POV video without the Panasonic HX-A1 ever getting in the way.