Panasonic HDC-Z10000 First Impressions Camcorder Review
Handling & Use
Ease of Use
Obviously, the HDC-Z10000 isn't the easiest camcorder to use—it is a model geared towards pros, after all—but we do like the fact that Panasonic went ahead and included the dedicated auto mode (iAuto) on the camcorder anyway. For serious videographers, the Z10000 probably won't be all that much of a challenge to figure out, but there were a few design flaws that we found problematic. Primarily, we were surprised to find the camcorder lacked a dedicated button to switch between 3D and 2D recording. We understand that the target audience for the Z10000 may not need such an easy-to-locate button, but we feel it should have been included. Instead, the option for switching to 3D mode is found in the camcorder's menu system, which isn't the easiest to navigate.
We should also note the Z10000 comes equipped with a touchscreen LCD, which is something you more commonly see on consumer models rather than camcorders that cost over $3000 dollars. The touchscreen is fairly responsive, but we still don't like using it for adjusting controls. Thankfully, most of the important controls on the Z10000 can be altered using lens rings, dials, and buttons rather than the touchscreen. There are a few controls, however, that you need to use the touchscreen for (shutter speed is one of them), and we didn't find this to be the most precise method for setting such controls.
For a big, pro-level camcorder, the HDC-Z10000 feels balanced in the hand. The handlebar is decent too, especially for transporting the camcorder. As a pro model, the camcorder is equipped with a ton of buttons, three lens rings, and an extensive menu system loaded with controls. The lens rings are our favorite of the camcorder's handling features, and they work well for adjusting focus, aperture (iris), and zoom. What bothered us, however, was the fact that other important controls—like shutter speed—had no dial or ring that could be used for adjustment. We don't like having to resort to using the touchscreen LCD to set important controls, as it simply doesn't provide the accuracy or speed that a lens ring offers.
Our biggest problem with the Z10000's interface is the hassle of using the touchscreen interface to navigate and adjust options on the camcorder's extensive menu system. The menu is easy to figure out, as it's just a page-by-page list of options, but there are so many options that it is easy to get frustrated trying to find the setting you're looking for. This is more of a problem with the Camera Settings menu than anywhere else on the camcorder. This menu contains the professional-grade controls, like gamma adjustment and color temperature options, that you won't find on most consumer models. There are so many controls here, and many of them are meant to be adjusted in correlation with each other, which makes the page-by-page menu structure difficult to use (you can't see the big picture).
Overall, the Z10000 is a good camcorder in terms of how it feels and how it is constructed, but we wish there were more dials, more switches, and a better interface than a touchscreen for adjusting many controls.
Panasonic has a brand new stabilization system on the HDC-Z10000 called Hybrid OIS +. The "plus" means that Panasonic added a new feature that corrects for horizontal roll of the camcorder (if you tilt the camcorder from side to side). The stabilization system also corrects for vertical tilt, as well as x and y-axis shake, but those were all part of Panasonic's previous Hybrid OIS system. Unfortunately, the Hybrid OIS + only works for recording 2D video. In 3D mode, the camcorder utilizes a Powered OIS system, which allows you to provide a boost to the OIS with the touch of a button.
Like most camcorders in its price range, the Z10000 is a big camcorder that weights over 3.5 pounds (1600g) without a battery pack. It's a hefty load to carry in your hand, but the grip on the camcorder is quite good, so it remains well-balanced even after your hand gets a little tired. The overall dimensions for the camcorder are 145 x 195 x 350mm (5.7 x 7.7 x 13.8 inches). Obviously, this is a camcorder that will require a carrying case or some kind of bag to transport it comfortably, but we felt the handlebar on the top of the camcorder worked well as a grip.
The battery compartment for the HDC-Z10000 is cavernous, but that's a good thing because it means the camcorder can accommodate very large battery packs. The battery pack we used with the camcorder was huge, as you can see from the photo, and it added a significant amount of weight to the camcorder. We can't attest to how long a battery pack like this would last with the Z10000, but Panasonic claims you can record for over five hours with a fully-charged battery (at the highest quality setting).
Our only problem with the battery has to do with Panasonic's inane decision to place the DC-input for the camcorder deep inside the battery compartment. This means you a) can't access it when a battery pack is loaded in the camcorder, and b) it's still a pain to get to even when there's no battery loaded in the camcorder in the first place. It's an awful placement decision in our opinion, and we wish Panasonic had put the DC-input on the side of the camcorder instead.
LCD & Viewfinder
The specs and features for the LCD on the Z10000 are great: glasses-free 3D display, 3.5-inch screen, and a 1,152,000-pixel resolution. The screen also features an interesting "tuck-in" design that has it slide into the a portion of the camcorder's handlebar when the screen isn't in use. This design, while kind of cool, wasn't something we were head over heels about. The sliding mechanism on the LCD panel didn't feel that strong, and we occasionally had trouble tucking the screen away when we were done with it. We'd rather have a simple hinged LCD panel like you get on a consumer camcorder because, at least to us, that design feels less likely to break.
The electronic viewfinder on the camcorder provided a crisp image with its 1,226,880-pixel resolution, which just so happens to be an even more resolute image than is shown on the camcorder's LCD. Unfortunately the viewfinder did not extend or move side to side on the Z10000, but it did pivot up and down adequately. We also liked that it jutted out from the camcorder far enough that even a large battery pack shouldn't be in its way. The viewfinder on the Z10000 we got to play with at the Photo Plus Expo (shown in photos) didn't have an attached eyepiece, but Panasonic does ship a large eye cup with the camcorder.