For its price tag, you'd hope for some pretty impressive video footage from the Panasonic HC-V700, and it certainly delivers it at times. However, when it comes to it, it's perhaps in its technical aspects that it impresses, more than the image quality.
However, it displays some quite obvious weak points as well, and for casual use, we would even put it lower in the pecking order than the best smartphone video cameras out there. Yep, really.
However, it does have its specialist features: that massive zoom, image stabilisation, a wide-angle lens and recording at 50 frames per second. So we chose an activity to test all of these thoroughly.
The HC-V700 captures some shots (bad pun intended) really nicely in that video, and it's probably no surprise that they're the ones with motion.
The optical image stabilisation is, quite simply, phenomenal. All of that video was done handheld, and shots that would be full of shake in another camera could almost be mistaken for Steadicam shots here. It's honestly astounding, and goes a long way towards the price of admission itself. When you zoom all the way in, it starts to struggle, admittedly, but the fact that it's doing as good a job as it is at 46x zoom is actually testament to its quality.
Speaking of the zoom, that's also pretty damn impressive. It needs the pairing with the OIS that makes it such a good option, and the two together are killer. The zoom itself is smooth, and the image quality is good as you go past the 21x optical limit. When you get right up to the 46x Intelligent Zoom limit, detail is noticeably missing, but it's still hugely better than that level of digital zoom has any right to be.
General motion is superb as well. It's all perfectly smooth, with no blur except in extreme cases (close-ups of golf clubs, for example). It's easy to track the balls as they soar into the sky, and the 1080p detail is often enough to follow them all the way into the distance without a zoom. Having the latest AVCHD spec, capable of 28Mbps bitrates helps as well.
In the shots that are slowed down to 50%, you can see just how clear the movement really is – it looks just as good as full speed. There are rare moments where artefacts come in, and they really stand out when they do, which is a shame. Of course, they only stand out so much because the motion is so good elsewhere, so it's forgivable in the long run.
However, the picture quality itself is a little up and down. The grass is often nicely detailed, especially in close-ups, but other aspects often appear quite soft – especially in the middle distance. The patterns on clothing tends to be a bit soft and flat, especially on jeans. In close-ups of leather shoes, detail is sometimes brilliant, but often just appears soft.
When you look at shots of the sky, pay attention to it and not the ball and you'll notice that it's full of digital noise – it's actually quite distracting. It's not the only noise either; many solid colour objects exhibit it.
Similarly, whites were almost always blown out in these shots. The edge of the white golf ball facing the sun consistently loses all detail, while the striped white shirt often loses its stripes.
Below, we've got comparison stills taken from identical videos shot by the Panasonic HC-V700 against an iPhone 4S. The Panasonic is the top image in each case.
The first thing you'll likely notice is the effect the wide-angle lens has, taking in much more of each scene.
OK, that's probably not what you noticed first. You probably noticed that the iPhone shot looks better in each case. You're not mad – that is simply the case.
The colour in particular is far superior in the iPhone's video, as is the levels of contrast. It has depth in scenes where the Panasonic looks rather flat, and vibrancy where the HC-V700 looks bland. Detail is much more apparent in each of the iPhone's images as well.
That's all a bit damning for the HC-V700, but it did best the iPhone comfortably in one aspect of these videos: all motion was quite obviously far smoother in the Panasonic shots. The difference is as big as the difference in detail above – one doesn't even come close to the other.
Similarly, the image stabilisation was far superior in the Panasonic, with the shots simply appearing smoother than the iPhone equivalent.
And we shouldn't forget that these sets of shots pitch the Panasonic and the iPhone against each other in zoomed-out circumstances – if you want to see anything in the distance with any clarity, the phone won't get you far.
When it comes to low-light shooting, the Panasonic has a small video light on the front that comes on automatically when needed.
It casts rather a blue/purple light, as you can see here, which will almost always be at odds with your main lights if you're filming at home, which are usually yellow. It gives the whole thing a bit of an odd look.
As you'd expect, it's fairly noisy and soft, but the fur on the animals is visible close up, which is good.
With the light turned off, it's even softer, but less eerie. You lose a bit more detail, still – that backlit sensor does well, but can't work wonders.
When it comes to audio, you might have noticed that the HC-V700 picked up a lot of wind on the golf course. It was a consistent issue, and we have to say that it didn't feel all that windy on the day (though you can see the flags going at times).
It picked out other noises fairly clearly, though normal speech became a bit quiet at about 9-10 feet outdoors.
When it comes to stills, the HC-V700 can take 5.8-megapixel images, but they're not up to that much. They capture colour fairly well, but are really noisy, and don't offer a huge amount of detail.