New Panasonic camcorders make 4K look brighter, thanks to better sensor and lens

Panasonic is bringing more low-light capabilities to 4K video — on Monday, January 8, at the Consumer Electronics Show, Panasonic announced two 4K camcorders, the HC-WXF1K and HC-VX1K, and the entry level, Full HD HCV-800K. All three consumer camcorders offer enhanced low-light performance over previous models, the company says, with the HC-WXF1K boasting the most features, such as an electronic viewfinder, manual focus ring, and secondary camera.

All three Panasonic camcorders use a new backlit 1/2.5-inch sensor — a design where more of the pieces are behind the sensor, so that it’s able to capture more light — for 1.7-times better performance in low light that older models. That sensor design is paired with bright, newly developed f/1.8 lenses to further boost the shots where lighting is limited. That lens-sensor combination improves the 4K camcorders low-light performance by 70 percent over earlier models, Panasonic says, and the lens is the widest and fastest in a consumer camcorder.

All three consumer camcorders offer enhanced low-light performance over previous models

They also use 24mm Leica lenses with 24x optical zoom capabilities to extend the range — all the way out to a 600mm equivalent. On the 4K models, the lenses are designed to match that 4K detail with coatings to boost contrast while minimizing ghosting and flare. Design wise, the camcorders are also taking a rounder shape than before, although they have the familiar handheld camcorder design of the past few years.

Panasonic is building a reputation for both 4K and image stabilization, and the new camcorders gain enhanced stabilization using a new Hybrid Optical Image Stabilization (OIS) technique. Panasonic explains that the five-axis system combines a new Ball OIS that allows the cameras to better stabilize small movements by reducing the wear on the system (using tiny ball bearings), and an Adaptive OIS that automatically chooses the stabilization settings based on the camera’s movements and shooting conditions. This Hybrid OIS is handy for getting steadier shots while using the long end of that 24x zoom.

Besides the higher resolution, both 4K camcorders have a handful of extra features over their HD sibling, particularly with pro-like controls. 4K cropping modes, new in 2018, allow users to strategically edit the shots down to HD quality to add different effects. For example, the Post Auto Tracking option records a fast moving person, then uses facial recognition to steadily follow the motion and electronically stabilize the shot. A similar Manual Tracking Crop offers similar perks but allows the user to tap on the object they’d like to follow. Other features include focus peaking, custom autofocus, active contrast, and variable white balance.

Both 4K models also have a handful of built-in tools for mimicking special effects including slow zoom and dolly zoom along with slow-motion effects. The two camcorders also include the popular 4K Photo modes used in some of Panazonic’s top compact cameras, allowing for features like fast burst modes.

The priciest of the bunch, the WXF1K takes the new top slot as Panasonic’s flagship 4K camcorder with a few usability features designed to appeal to pros and advanced enthusiasts, including vloggers. An electronic viewfinder with tilt allows for shooting in any condition, including bright sunlight. The new flagship also uses a manual ring that can be used to adjust focus, zoom and iris ( i.e. aperture), with a button switching the ring’s function between the three. Variable white balance and focus peaking are also both included on the high-end model.

Full pricing and release dates are not yet available. We will update pricing information once it becomes available, but we expect the high-end model to be priced around $1,000, with the other two costing below that.

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