Panasonic HC-V700 Camcorder Review
Handling & Portability
The Panasonic HC-V700 suffers from numerous minor design flaws, none of which are inexorably bad, but are annoying none the less. Let's start with the hand strap. It's thin, uncomfortable, and it doesn't provide much of a grip. It seems with the shrinking in camcorder size manufacturers have decided that hand straps can be downgraded in quality (this is something we've seen from nearly all manufacturers). We'd appreciate a better hand strap for the V700, but the one Panasonic provides is certainly adequate. It's just not that comfortable.
Getting a good grip on the V700 wasn't difficult, despite the shoddy hand strap. Wrapping our fingers around the top of the camcorder resulted in a tight hold on the V700's body. Our fingers fit snugly with the shape of the camcorder, and our thumb and index finger lined up with the record button and zoom toggle respectively. One problem, though: our pinky finger seemed to rest on top of the built-in microphone whenever we gripped the camcorder in this manner. This is not good, especially if you're trying to record clean, un-muffled audio.
The V700's touchscreen interface is another... ahem... touchy subject for us in terms of handling. It's not that Panasonic's screen is terrible, in fact, it's not really much different than that of the competition. But Panasonic's simplified menu system can take a long time to navigate using touchscreen buttons, and anyone that is used to a streamlined touch interface (like what you get on an iPhone or other high-end smartphones) isn't going to be impressed.
The Panasonic V700M was able to record continuously for 95 minutes on a fully-charged battery pack. That's in the same range as last year's HDC-TM90 camcorder (107 minutes) and it's a few minutes longer than the HC-X900M from Panasonic lasted int his same test. Frankly, it's not a fantastic showing for the camcorder, especially compared to the Canon HF M52's 128-minute battery performance. More on how we test battery life.
The HC-V700's rechargeable battery pack is the same kind of battery you're likely to find on most mid-range or high-end consumer models. The pack is removable and rechargeable, although we hate that you need to open the LCD panel to get access to the battery release switch. At least the battery compartment isn't enclosed, so you can use larger battery packs with the V700 if you so choose (and if you pay extra for them). Like most camcorders, the V700's battery must be inserted into the camcorder in order for it to charge. The camcorder does not come with a separate battery charging station.
Just like the previous HDC-TM90, the Panasonic V700 comes with a 3-inch LCD screen that uses touchscreen technology. Panasonic did, however, double the pixel count on the V700 up to 460,800 pixels (as opposed to 230k pixels on the TM90). These extra pixels make for a sharper image when you use the camcorder, and it should help people who like to use manual focus to fine-tune their videos.
The camcorder does not have a viewfinder, so you need to be aware that the LCD is the only way to frame and record your videos on the HC-V700. If you want a viewfinder you have to upgrade to Panasonic's flagship HC-X900 camcorder (or pick a flagship model from Canon or Sony).
The Panasonic HC-V700 has optical image stabilization, which is turned on and off via a dedicated button on the top of the camcorder. The feature worked very well for a mid-range camcorder, as it was able to reduce the shakiness of our test video by more than 50% in both our high-shake and low-shake tests. More on how we test stabilization.
In low shake, the HC-V700's OIS setting cut down the shake by 57%. In high shake, the mode reduced the shakiness by 69%, which is a very respectable score. These numbers aren't quite as strong as what we saw from the Panasonic HDC-TM90 last year, but they're in the same ballpark. If you want an extra boost of stabilization support, the HC-V700 has an additional Hybrid OIS setting that can be turned on in the menu system (if the regular OIS is already engaged). But we found the regular OIS worked well enough that the Hybrid option isn't really needed for most situations.