Panasonic HC-X900 Camcorder Review$1,199.00
Panasonic beefed up the HC-X900M a bit compared to last year's TM900, and by doing so the company made the camcorder a bit more uncomfortable to wield. It's still not that bad, though. Panasonic kept an ergonomic design on the right side that fits your palm decently (but not as good as the smooth TM900 or TM700 camcorders from Panasonic's past). The hand strap is adequate, but not amazing, and it certainly doesn't offer the plush support that we saw from the Canon HF G10.
Panasonic cleaned up the LCD panel by removing the awful membrane buttons that populated this area on last year's TM900.
The LCD on the X900M is great. It's got a good size, a decent touchscreen interface, and the resolution is excellent. The glasses-free 3D view mode, which is only useful if you purchase the 3D conversion lens for the camcorder, has the same issues and problems that all glasses-free 3D screens have—the images simply don't look very good. It's not the worst 3D screen we've seen, though, and we think it is on par with ones from Sony 3D camcorders (the HDR-TD10 and HDR-TD20). The most annoying thing we noticed about the X900's LCD had nothing to do with the screen quality and had everything to do with the construction of the LCD panel. Here's the gist: the panel swings open too freely because it doesn't have a good locking mechanism. It's not the worst thing ever, but it definitely got to the point where the LCD was repeatedly flipping open unwantedly and unexpectedly.
The camcorder is a bit bulkier than its predecessor, which makes it a bit harder to grip.
We've never been huge touchscreen fans, so we're happy that the HC-X900M comes with Panasonic's patented manual lens ring for adjusting controls. This limits the amount you have to deal with the touchscreen, although you still have to use the screen to access menu systems and the such.
The cooling fan inside the LCD cavity never got loud enough to interfere with our recordings, but it may bother some who are looking for crystal-clear audio recording.
Like most Panasonic camcorders, the HC-X900M doesn't offer the smoothest or simplest recording experience. The controls and features are extensive, and Panasonic includes a lot of "auto" controls as well, but the camcorder is at its best when certain functions are set manually. This makes it a bit harder to figure out, but it also makes the camcorder a lot of fun for control enthusiasts. There's a lot of tricks up the camcorder's sleeve, and that's one of the reasons the X900M takes a while to get used to.
The strap on the camcorder isn't that thick or plush, but it is adjustable.
Flagship camcorders are the largest, heaviest, and most feature-laden of consumer camcorders, and the Panasonic HC-X900M definitely falls into this category. The camcorder is lighter and smaller than the Canon HF G10, but it has more bulk than the Panasonic HDC-TM900 from last year. We don't mind the size of the X900M, but we did like the compact, tight design on the HDC-TM900 more—it was one of the smallest flagship models we've ever seen, while the X900M has an average build.
The Panasonic HC-X900M did not impress in our battery life test, as the camcorder lasted for just 88 minutes on a freshly-charged battery pack. This is a good 16 minutes less than the HDC-TM900 lasted with its provided battery pack, and it is close to a half hour shorter than the Canon HF G10's battery pack went for. Luckily, you can use larger battery packs (that can be purchased at an additional cost) with the HC-X900M if the provided battery isn't good enough for you. More on how we test battery life.
Panasonic features a slightly awkward battery compartment, only because the battery fits into the camcorder sideways. This isn't a big deal, but it may be confusing the first two or three times you remove or insert the battery pack. We don't like that the battery release switch is inside the LCD cavity, as that requires you to open the LCD panel to remove the battery. Other than those minor issues, the battery on the HC-X900M is essentially normal for a flagship camcorder. The compartment is also open, which means larger battery packs can be used with the camcorder—always a good thing.
The provided battery fits sideways into the battery compartment.
LCD & Viewfinder
If you were hoping to see an increase in screen size on the HC-X900M, you won't find what you're looking for. The camcorder has the same 3.5-inch LCD as its predecessor (the HDC-TM900), but Panasonic did beef up the resolution of the new screen, as it now tops out with a killer 1,150,000 pixels. This puts it in a similar range with the LCDs on Canon's and Sony's flagship camcorders.
Panasonic also added a glasses-free 3D viewing capability to the X900's screen. This function is only useful if you go out and purchase the VW-CLT2 3D lens converter. With the 3D lens attached (or when viewing 3D content recorded on the camcorder), you can watch your footage in 3D without the aid of 3D glasses. The effect isn't great, and it's the exact same technology we've seen on the Sony HDR-TD10 and JVC GS-TD1 3D camcorders released last year.
The 3.5-inch LCD uses a touchscreen interface.
Are viewfinders making a comeback on consumer camcorders? Probably not, but Panasonic still chose to include one on the HC-X900M. It's still somewhat common for manufacturers to include a viewfinder on flagship models, so having an EVF on a camcorder like the X900 isn't that unusual. The viewfinder extends out from the camcorder by half an inch or so, but the viewfinder cannot be pivoted upwards or rotated. Overall, the viewfinder isn't all that comfortable to use either, mainly because of its rigid, hard-plastic eyepiece.
The viewfinder isn't that comfortable, but it helps when recording on a sunny day.
Panasonic flagship camcorders have some of the best stabilization features we've seen on consumer models. The HC-X900M continues in this tradition with a killer performance in this test. At its best, the camcorder was able to reduce 83% of the shake with our stabilization rig set on its lowest setting (similar to shooting with a shaky hand). With the rig cranked up to its higher setting, the camcorder's OIS system was still able to reduce the shake by 78%. More on how we test stabilization.
Both of these numbers were achieved using the X900M's Hybrid OIS setting, which is the stronger of its two OIS options. With the regular OIS, the camcorder did nearly as well. It reduced 77% of the shake in our low shake test and 72% of the shake in our high shake test—so either OIS setting will give you a top-notch stabilization performance.