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Panasonic HC-X1000 4K UHD Camcorder Review

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Performance & Function

I've had my review sample HC-X1000 on loan for the past few weeks and have had the chance to shoot in a variety of environments both well-lit and dark.

Unfortunately, the New England weather has been less than ideal for shooting outdoors as of lately with continual snow dumping on us and making for a more difficult testing experience as you can only shoot so much of a snowy landscape before the footage looks repetitive.

In the following sections, I'll touch on different performance aspects of this camcorder model and how each area performed within the criteria:

Video Sharpness & Detail

Panasonic's focus on outputting 4K-capable cameras has been very successful and with these extra pixels comes increased clarity and detail. Throughout my testing, I shot primarily in 4K UHD at 60fps and was pleased with the results. Since this is a fixed-lens model, the overall sharpness and detail level is majorly determined by the integrated Leica lens, your camera's settings and any processing done in post.

From my experience, the HC-X1000 shows a significant amount of detail and sharpness for a camcorder price range when under adequate lighting situation and with ample settings. I found the best way to preserve detail without adding harmful artifacts was to shoot in the CineLike D profile with the only profile change being -7 sharpness. This will remove the in-camera sharpening and keep this pre-processing from interfering with your footage.

From there, you can drag your captured footage into Premiere or Final Cut and add your own level of sharpening to make your footage look exactly how you want. Remember, it is typically easier add sharpening in post as opposed to trying to remove prior sharpening that has been done in-camera.

Here are some resulting screenshots of clips that were color corrected using Magic Bullet's Colorista 3 and sharpened using Premiere Pro's Unsharpen Mask tool:

detail 2 detail 3 Detail

In comparison to their lower-priced mirrorless GH4 option, the HC-X1000 is softer overall mainly since the GH4 has the advantage of interchangeable lenses that allows you to utilize higher-quality glass although this can get very expensive. Considering you are getting the benefits of a camcorder for better run and gun style shooting, the difference is marginal.

As you'd expect, the HC-X1000's 4K looks astonishing, but 4K downscaled to 1080P looks nearly as good with the added benefit of being able to crop, and punch in/out to achieve different looks from one master shot.

Depth Of Field

One of the biggest downfalls of modern camcorders and the HC-X1000 is the small sensor size that can make for an assortment of difficulties especially when it comes to depth of field. Most who are in the market for a camcorder will understand this is a limitation and frankly some might not want much depth of field for shooting documentaries, events, landscapes, or sports.

Here's an example of the HC-X1000's depth of field versus the GH4's Micro 4/3 sensor with a Metabones Speedbooster:

HC-x1000 f1-8
Panasonic HC-X1000 Depth Of Field at f/1.8
gh4 f1.8
Panasonic GH4 With Metabones Speedbooster & Sigma 18-35mm at f/1.8

Slow-Motion

Being able to shoot 4K UHD at 60fps was quite an astonishing feat in itself especially at a sub-$3K price-point. Like I stated earlier, I shot most of my time with the camera in 4K UHD at 60fps and the slow-motion result was stellar especially when applying the footage on a 24fps timeline as this allowed for 40% speed playback without degrading any of the smoothness.

Here's an example of a recent sno-cross event that took place near where I live. The footage was all shot in 4K UHD at 60fps in the CineLike D color profile with -7 sharpness. Edited in Adobe Premiere Pro and color corrected in Adobe SpeedGrade:

Low-light

With a smaller sensor like the HC-X1000 has, low-light performance is an area where you'll see a significant performance decrease when compared to competitors with larger sensor sizes. From my experience, the low-light performance was mediocre, and I found the image become noisy relatively quickly especially under your typical indoor lighting.

Due to this, I opted to stay away from the auto-gain control setting (AGC) while shooting indoors although I did appreciate the ability to configure a max gain level for the AGC system should you wish to place a cap on it. The gain options range from 0-30 dB, and there's also an infrared mode although this isn't practical in most real-world uses.

0DB
0DB Example
5db
5DB Example
10db
10DB Example
15db
15DB Example
20db
20DB Example
24db
24DB Example

Optical Image Stabilization

A functional O.I.S. is a crucial element of a prosumer camcorder model as you'll typically find yourself in handheld shooting situations. I was impressed by the built-in image stabilization, and footage shot handheld was pleasantly smooth as if I used a third-party stabilizing device. Even if the O.I.S. were to fail to smooth out a shaky shot, I'd opt to utilize the extra information in 4K to perform extensive stabilization in post on a HD timeline without losing any quality.

Auto-focus

Camcorders certainly have had an edge on mirrorless and DSLRs when it comes to video autofocus in the past although this gap is slowly closing with advancements such as Canon's Dual-Pixel AF that is found in the 70D, 7D Mark II, and C100 Mark II.

Panasonic's AF within the HC-X1000 work very well and most of my shooting was with the AF on auto especially when capturing moving subjects such as the snowmobile race. This system is great for shooting fast-action sports or other scenarios where you'll face unexpected movement as the focus will stay consistent without being any extra work.

Unlike the GH4's AF system, you cannot choose your AF point, so the middle of the frame acts as the sole AF point. Given that the depth of field is wide in most shooting circumstances, the AF performance doesn't have to work too hard as most of the frame is in focus regardless so it was much less of an issue than I expected.

Audio Performance

The integrated microphone from the HC-X1000 was pretty decent, but anyone looking to use it for professional purposes will want to invest in an XLR microphone. I hooked up my Sennheiser MKE-600 and plugged it directly into the included XLR inputs with ease, capturing cleaner, higher-quality audio all while monitoring my sound levels via the on-screen indicators or by plugging in headphones via the 3.5mm audio located on the back rear corner.

Viewfinder & Menu Performance

Panasonic's choice to include both a flip out LCD and traditional eye-cup viewfinder was a smart choice although I found myself using the LCD around 95% of the time. Something I did notice about both is that the screens were both quite dull which made pulling focus hard to achieve based on the screen along so focus peaking is a must if you're planning to use manual focus often.

As for the menus and interface, I wasn't all that impressed. I prefer Panasonic's style menu system over Sony's offering yet I still think the HC-X1000's was more confusing and cumbersome than that of my GH4. Navigating the menus was pleasant via the touchscreen although the bezel's depth made it difficult to touch the corners of the LCD. I appreciated the dedicated button to enable/disable zebras as well as one to show/hide the heads-up display icons on the LCD.

One of the annoying aspects of this camera was the histogram. It is placed right in the middle of the lower-right portion of the screen, and you cannot adjust the location. This makes it get in the way of subjects within the frame and potentially hinders your shooting experience. I found the easiest was to enable the histogram before shooting, verify I wasn't clipping any highlights or shadows then disable it when it actually became time to shoot so it didn't cause any disruption. Following this method works, but is far from ideal at the premium price-point.

Ergonomics & Handling

From a handling standpoint, the HC-X1000's design was excellent to work with. You have two different ways of holding the camera with a traditional side-grip as well as a top handle for lower shots. Both grip options have a dedicated pause/record button as well as triggers for zooming.

While the feel of the camera isn't as premium as I expected, the presence of empty plastic makes it lightweight and comfortable to hold for extended periods of time. I was even able to get some overhead shots that would have been too strenuous with a heavier rig, so there is some merit to the lightweight form-factor.

When it came to mounting the camera to a tripod or monopod, I didn't have any issues with the threaded tripod mount on the bottom of the camera. The over-sized base helped to keep the camera sturdy when attached to my various accessories.

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9H3A68119H3A6810Battery Life

Panasonic includes a single battery with a 5800mAh capacity, rated for around six hours of use. I shot the Sno-Cross event for nearly two hours straight in the cold while returning home with 75% battery life left according to the push-button LED indicator located on the battery itself.

I am not surprised to see the battery life so good as Panasonic's GH4 also handles power consumption extremely well. However, spare GH4 batteries can be purchased for under $50 whereas extra batteries for the HC-X1000 will run you just under $200 each so investing in a few spares will cost a small fortune.

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Final Verdict

Panasonic's HC-X1000 brings forward an impressive feature set with an appealing design to the prosumer video community. For a $2,800 camcorder, this model has many strengths that make it a solid buy for anyone who seeks a pro-level 4K camcorder for shooting sports, landscapes, events or documentaries.

While the HC-X1000 does have its downsides, most are common issues among camcorders rather than being specific to the HC-X1000. These trouble areas include poor dynamic range, weak low-light performance, and a difficulty in achieving a shallow depth of field.

If you are trying to achieve the sharpest image quality or capture subjects in a very cinematic nature with a shallow depth of field, then a DSLR or mirrorless camera is likely a better suit for your needs.

Who would I recommend buy the Panasonic's HC-X1000?

  • Serious amateurs or professionals who are looking for a high-performing camcorder with 4K and UHD capabilities especially if you plan to shoot sports, events, landscapes, weddings, or documentaries.
  • Someone who will be primarily shooting outdoors or in well-lit indoor environments

Alternative Recommendations:

  • JVC GY-HM200 4KCAM – JVC's most recent prosumer camcorder option, shares a similar sized sensor and 4K capabilities at 24/30fps.
  • Panasonic HC-WX970 – a cheaper, smaller, more consumer-friendly 4K camcorder that brings some impressive features at a reasonable price-point. This also offers 1080P at 240fps at less than half the price of the HC-X1000.
  • Sony FDR-AX100 – an affordable 4K-ready consumer camcorder from Sony with a larger sensor and some competitive features for its price-point.
  • Panasonic GH4 – a lower-priced 4K mirorless option from Panasonic with an micro 4/3 sensor and interchangeable lenses. More suitable for a serious amateur/professional who will be shooting a lot of cinematic shots in good lighting conditions and seeks the most detail for the price.
  • Sony A7spopular mirrorless (interchangable lens) camera that boasts a full frame, impressive low-light performance and 4K 8-bit 4:2:2 output via HDMI. Best for a serious amateur/professional who prefers a cinematic style shooting and is capable of a very shallow depth of field.
  • Panasonic LX100an affordable point-and-shoot capable of impressive 4K UHD at 24/30fps. It offers a smaller-form factor and price-point for a more casual shooter.

Get The Best Price On A Panasonic HC-X1000 4K UHD Camcorder