Panasonic HC-V500M Camcorder Review
Manual focus, like most controls on the V500M, can only be adjusted using touch buttons on the LCD. This is a rather cumbersome method and it doesn't result in precise focus adjustment. If you stick to the autofocus controls, you'll find the camcorder is equipped with face detection and AF tracking features to keep you locked onto the specific subject you want to keep in focus.
The V500M has a full set of manual exposure options that includes shutter speed and aperture control (iris). You can also set gain on the camcorder, but the only way to do so is by opening up the aperture all the way first (gain is tied to the aperture control on the camcorder, and all Panasonic consumer camcorders for that matter). Having all this control is excellent, but, as we said with manual focus, there's no good method for setting these controls. The LCD touchscreen is your only option, and, while it is easy to use, it doesn't give you the fine, precise tuning that a ring or dial offers. In addition to all these exposure options, you can also bump the general exposure on a -5 to +5 scale, but the feature is buried in the camcorder's Picture Adjust submenu.
Besides all the manual functions mentioned above, the Panasonic HC-V500M has a full set of white balance controls (presets, auto, and manual modes), a few picture adjustment options (color depth, sharpness, exposure, and color temperature), and a grid line setting for displaying grids on the LCD to assist with framing.
AGS is a gimmicky control on the camcorder that stands for Auto Ground Standby. This feature shuts the camcorder off automatically when the camcorder is pointed towards the ground for a long period of time. Basically, the V500M stops recording when the camcorder thinks you've accidentally left the recording on.
The Tele Macro feature sets the camcorder to its max optical zoom and lets you focus on close-up subjects with ease. If you zoom while this mode is turned on, then the Tele Macro function will automatically turn off. Finally, there's the Digital Cinema Color function, which is also known as XV Color. This has the camcorder shoot with the xvYCC expanded color gamut for a more robust array of colors. You'll only notice a difference if you view the video on a compatible television, though.
In auto mode, we were impressed with the V500M's ability to adjust focus, aperture, shutter speed and white balance automatically. The results weren't always perfect, but we felt the V500M did better than the HDC-TM40 with each setting. In addition, the V500M offers face detection, auto slow shutter, backlight compensation, zoom, and a variety of scene modes (sports, portrait, spotlight, snow, beach, sunset, landscape, fireworks, night, twilight, and night portrait).
There are a variety of ways to control zoom on the camcorder: there's the zoom toggle on the top of the camcorder (this is the best way to zoom), there are buttons on the touchscreen LCD, and there is a bar on the LCD that can be dragged to zoom quickly. The toggle is the most handy way to zoom, and it offers you the most control, but the V500M's onscreen zoom options are better than some touch-button zoom controls we've seen on other camcorders.
The Panasonic HC-V500M does not have a microphone or a headphone jack, but offers a few audio functions. The recording level can be set manually, the camcorder has a wind reduction feature, and there's a zoom mic option. The built-in mic records stereo audio, and is located prominently on the front of the camcorder (just below the lens).