I’s no secret that the consumer market is moving toward 4K/UHD. Last year, Panasonic introduced its first 4K camcorders, and now follow those up with two new models to start 2016: the HC-WXF991 and HC-VX981. Both camcorders feature a 1/2.3″ BSI MOS sensor with 8.29-megapixel effective resolution that combines with a Crustal Engine 4K processor to capture up to 4K UHD video at 24/30 fps, as well as interpolated still images up to 25.9 megapixels. You even have the ability to pull 4K (8.29 megapixel) still photos from your 4K video frames using the 4K PHOTO mode. High-resolution video recording is further bolstered by accurate and high-speed autofocusing technologies and a 20x Leica Dicomar lens that offers a 35mm equivalent focal length of 30.8mm at the wide end
Where the HC-WXF991 differs from the HC-VX981 is in the addition of a tiltable viewfinder to benefit shooting in bright daylight conditions, as well as a built-in sub-camera located on the flip-out 3″ LCD screen, a feature also found on the HC-W580 and previous Twin Camera models. It also adds built-in cinema-like effects, such as Slow & Quick Video, Slow Zoom, and Dolly Zoom. With these differences aside, the two camcorders are virtually identical, offering advanced functions and features to suit the needs of a variety of shooters, including in-camera 4K editing tools that allow you to extract 1080p-resolution video from your 4K footage, and add effects such as zooming, panning, tracking, and stabilizing.
Full HD Camcorders
Along with the two 4K camcorders, three new Full HD camcorders have also been announced. These camcorders—the HC-W580, HC-V380, and HC-V180—all feature a 1/5.8″ BSI MOS sensor that supports Full HD 1080p resolution video at 60 fps, and an impressive 50x optical / 90x Intelligent zoom lens with a 35mm equivalent wide-angle focal length of 28mm. The HC-W580 and HC-V380 are virtually identical, with the exception being the addition of the built-in sub-camera on the 3″ LCD screen of the HC-W580. The entry-level HC-V180 also misses out on built-in Wi-Fi, a 1080p 50 Mbps MP4 recording mode, and has a slightly smaller and lower-resolution 2.7″ LCD screen.
Wireless Multi Camera
Panasonic’s new Wireless Multi Camera feature is an expansion of the Wireless Twin Camera feature found on previous models, which enabled picture-in-picture recording using a Wi-Fi connected smartphone or built-in sub-camera. Available on all models except the entry-level HC-V180, Wireless Multi Camera lets you link up to three smartphones and record up to two picture-in-picture images instead of one. This makes it easy and fun to capture multiple angles and viewpoints at once.
As previously mentioned, the HC-WXF991 and HC-W580 are both what Panasonic calls “Twin Cameras,” meaning they feature a pan/tilt sub-camera integrated into the edge of the LCD monitor. This makes it easy to capture a second camera angle within a picture-in-picture window without having to link a smartphone wirelessly. A backup function allows you to record images simultaneously with and without the sub-window for greater flexibility during post. These Twin Camera models also have a Narration mode, which emphasizes the user’s voice during recording—a feature that is particularly useful when the sub-camera is capturing a close-up of the user’s face.
HDR Movie Mode
Found on the top three models (HC-WXF991, HC-VX981, HC-W580), the HDR (High Dynamic Range) Movie Mode lets you capture a wider dynamic range with more highlight and shadow information preserved. It does this by capturing and combining two images taken with different exposures for every frame of the video. A dedicated HDR button lets you quickly activate the mode when shooting in high-contrast lighting conditions or scenes that could produce blown-out highlights.
5-Axis Hybrid Optical Image Stabilization
All five models feature both in-body 5-Axis Hybrid O.I.S.+ and Panasonic’s original Level Shot function. 5-Axis Hybrid O.I.S.+ combines optical and digital stabilization to suppress image blurring and jitters caused by hand-shake, while Level Shot detects and corrects for tilted or unlevel shots. The result is clearer, level, and more stable-looking handheld footage.
Additional Wi-Fi Features
In addition to Wireless Multi Camera, Wi-Fi-enabled models are also able to take advantage of remote control and image sharing from a smartphone or tablet using Panasonic’s mobile app. Once connected to your smartphone, you can even live-stream video using USTREAM to share moments and events with your friends and family as they are being recorded.
Built-in Wi-Fi also enables you to take advantage of the Baby Monitor feature of the camcorders, which lets you use your smartphone to quickly check in on a sleeping baby in another room when both the camcorder and mobile device are connected to the same home network. You can even speak to the baby via your smartphone or have a notification sent to you when the camera detects that your baby is crying.