Panasonic HC-X1000 Review: Camera Makes Shooting 4K Easy as HD - GovernmentVideo.com

Panasonic HC-X1000 Review: Camera Makes Shooting 4K Easy as HD

Affordable HD today -- 4K for tomorrow
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The HC-X1000’s small size and light weight give you lots of latitude with camera support products.

Really, it’s too soon to start thinking about upgrading to 4K, right? It probably is, except for the pesky thought that professional 4K gear can be purchased for a nominal increase over the cost of similar HD products.

Take for example the Panasonic HC-X1000 4K camcorder, which brims with professional features and has a street price that competes with HD cameras targeted at the government and educational community. Although it’s actually in Panasonic’s consumer line up, it bears a strong resemblance to the company’s professional products — and it operates just like you expect a pro camera to operate.

FEATURES

The Panasonic HC-X1000 has multiple 4K Ultra-HD recording formats and bit rates, including both 3,840 x 2,160-pixel and 4,096 x 2,160-pixel varieties. The highest-quality 4K recording is done at a bit rate of 150 Mbps (60 fps), and files can be saved in either MOV or MP4 format. There’s also a setting for 4K recording at 100 Mbps/30 fps. Regardless of how the file is saved, the HC-X1000 uses MPEG-4 encoding.

In addition to shooting at 4K resolution, the HC-X1000 can be set for HD (1,920 x 1,080 pixels), in which case it records in the AVCHD format at bit rates up to 28 Mbps. The camera uses a single 1/2.3-inch (approximately 0.43-inch) sensor.

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The Panasonic HC-X1000 has a 20x lens and a tiltable 3.5-inch display that pulls out of the camera’s body.

Recordings are made onto SD cards, for which there are two slots. If you are recording in 4K, you should record onto the new SD cards that are rated at “U3” speed, which works out to 240 Mbps record speed capability. The fastest speed at the old standard (“C10”) could record at speeds up to 80 Mbps—too slow for 4K.

At the front of the Panasonic HC-X1000 is a Leica 20x lens that goes from a wide angle of around 30mm to telephoto of 600mm. I say it this way because the focal length of the lens changes slightly depending on whether you are shooting in the 4,096 x 2,160 or 3,840 x 2,160 format.

The lens is rated at f1.8 at the wide end and f3.6 at the telephoto end, which are pretty good numbers for a camera in this price range. At the front of the lens is a removable hood that has a nifty integrated lens cap.

The HC-X1000 can shoot in total darkness with an infrared setting and a small built-in IR light. The resulting video is monochrome, but it will give you video in no-light situations. Getting a more powerful IR emitter than the small built-in LED will greatly extend the reach of IR shooting.

In one of many seemingly professional features, you can set the HC-X1000 to record audio in either linear pulse code modulation (LPCM) or advanced audio coding (AAC) formats, with LPCM being uncompressed and therefore higher quality. Also on the audio side, the camera has two XLR audio inputs that can be set for either mic or line levels, and even provide phantom power for electret microphones. The camera comes with a shotgun mic mount, which provides shock isolation from the body.

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Several important controls are available on top of the HC-X1000.

In addition to a fully automatic setting, the HC-X1000 can have virtually all settings (audio and video) set for manual control. This includes zoom, focus and iris on the lens, as well as an integrated neutral-density filter. To help get sharp focus, the camera has focus peaking, which puts colored fringing around the object in focus.

Speaking of getting good focus, the HC-X1000 has a 3.5-inch touchscreen monitor as well as an eyepiece viewfinder. Both are clear and bright, and the touchscreen has more natural response than I have previously experienced on video cameras. The 3.5-inch display docks completely into the body of the camera, and it pulls out and rotates to let you shoot at any angle. The eyepiece viewfinder tilts up and down to achieve a comfortable shooting angle.

Everywhere you look on the Panasonic HC-X1000 there are more features. Some that I’m not going to address include WiFi capability, HDMI, USB2 and USB3 ports, adjustable shutter speeds, multiple presets, and a comfortable carrying handle with camera-top controls for zoom and record start/stop. If this is a “prosumer” camera, it’s positioned much closer to the “pro” end than the “sumer” end.

IN USE

I did a lot of shooting over several weeks with the Panasonic HC-X1000 and loaded several projects onto YouTube in 4K resolution. (YouTube supports 4K uploads, and will playback at 4K resolution if you have suitable display equipment.) You can see them by visiting my user YouTube “channel” at www.youtube.com/user/pvreditor.

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The author captures a 4K holiday shot at the National Botanical Gardens in Washington.

If you’ve never handled a 4K camcorder for any time before (and I hadn’t), the first thing to know about the HC-X1000 is that it handles exactly like most HD camcorders I’ve used. All the controls are where you expect them to be and they work exactly as you expect.

I bought a 64 GB U3 SD card for about $40, which will record about two hours of 4K video at the 100 Mbps/30 fps rate. The HC-X1000 will hold two SD cards, so $80 will get you four hours of 4K video.

The Leica 20x lens on the camera works smoothly and has minimal distortion. At the telephoto end of 600mm (35mm equivalent), the HC-X1000 is good for wildlife videography. I tested this on “Eagle Day” at the Conowingo Dam in Maryland, where there were several eagles to be seen, as well as plenty of other wildlife. The HC-X1000 acquitted itself well with its ability to get well-framed shots at reasonable distances, in addition to working perfectly for close interview shots.

To handle long focal length shots, the HC-X1000 has effective optical image stabilization. I have used cameras with better image stabilization, but the HC-X1000 OIS works well and kept handheld shots usable.

Like most cameras with an autofocus setting, the HC-X1000 tends to have a wandering eye. Many times as I shot scenes in a park or even in a crowd with faces, the focus would wander for no apparent reason. Thankfully, the HC-X1000 can be easily set to manual focus, which works well. If you need help determining precise focus—and I found that the eyepiece viewfinder was good for getting sharp focus—the camera has a focus peaking setting that helps get the lens set correctly every time.

And that brings up the subject of the Panasonic HC-X1000 as an ENG camera, at which it is pretty darn good. The lens goes wide enough to allow you to stand close to interview subjects and the built-in shotgun mic holder keeps the mic in the right spot for good interview audio.

I particularly liked the way that the HC-X1000 let me use the shotgun mic on one channel and kept the built-in mic on the other channel, something that consumer camcorders don’t do and more expensive professional gear is fussier about.

This let me operate the camera while I interviewed a subject, with my voice recorded strongly on the built-in mic and the interviewee’s audio picked up by the shotgun. A little bit of channel adjusting in editing made it sound like we’re both on the same two channels. The cameras OIS kept handheld interview footage steady and professional looking.

4K video from the HC-X1000 is good, especially outside in the sun. It is nicely detailed with strong contrast and natural colors, and there’s plenty of resolution. Indoors without adding light or for nighttime scenes, video from the HC-X1000 is noisy.

However, if you set the HC-X1000 for HD, it cleans up some in low-light shooting. It’s actually quite a good HD camcorder, so it might be best to think of it as an HD camcorder (capable of 1080p/60) that can also provide 4K video when you need it for higher-end requirements.

MORE INFO MODEL: Panasonic HC-X1000 4K camcorder

PRICE: $3,500

CONTACT: shop.panasonic.com

Battery life with the Panasonic HC-X1000 is outstanding. The included VW-VBD58 battery (7.2V, 5,800 mAh) lasts for five hours of shooting, and there’s good on-screen feedback as to how much battery life remains. I never came close to running down the battery during a shoot, and I used the camera for several hours at a time.

I was curious about editing 4K files and found that to be a mixed bag. My preferred editing software is a prosumer package from Corel called VideoStudio Pro x7. It can handle 4K editing, but it did not like the files from the Panasonic HC-X1000. (VideoStudio Pro x7 also doesn’t like 4K files from the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH4 4K camera, so perhaps there’s something about how Panasonic is treating the 4K files.) I also could not get Sony Vegas 12 Pro to edit 4K files from the HC-X1000.

The 4K video from the HC-X1000 could be handled perfectly by Adobe Premiere and even by the video editing tool in Adobe Photoshop CC, so there are common tools that will happily edit 4K video from the HC-X1000. Moral of the story is that you need to be sure your editing system will work properly with 4K files from the HC-X1000. Editing HD video from the HC-X1000 was not a problem on any editing software I used.

SUMMARY

The Panasonic HC-X1000 looks, feels and works like a professional camcorder. With its long and capable lens, high-quality audio settings and extensive manual controls, it is something of a bargain even when used as an HD camcorder.

Once you switch it over to 4K, it still works just as you expect, only it records images that go well beyond HD in terms of clarity. It is particularly good as an ENG and documentary camera, especially if you’re shooting 4K in plenty of light. If you back the resolution off to HD, you have additional latitude with low-light shooting.

I liked the Panasonic HC-X1000 very much and think it makes sense for any government, educational and even corporate operation that is shopping for an HD camera in the same price range. If you can handle HD now, you will like the HD you get from the HC-X1000. And when you need to step your game up to 4K, the HC-X1000 is ready to be your partner.

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