Panasonic NV-GS300

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Panasonic NV-GS300
  • Panasonic NV-GS300
  • Panasonic NV-GS300
  • Panasonic NV-GS300

Pros

  • Excellent quality video, simple to use, full range of manual options

Cons

  • Only average still pictures

Bottom Line

An easy to use and well-designed camcorder with excellent quality images.

Would you buy this?

Panasonic's NV-GS300 is a high quality Mini DV camcorder, with all the bells and whistles that we usually find lacking from mid-priced models. It's nice to finally see a manufacturer including functional extras on mid range units.

As a tape-based Mini DV model, and with triple CCD technology on board, we were expecting the GS300 to produce some extremely high quality video, and we weren't disappointed. The benefits of the three separate CCDs for red, green and blue are immediately apparent in the excellent colour reproduction. Our shots of grass and flowers were near perfect, with vivid reds and blues complemented by accurate tones across the greens. This colour balance was impressive both indoors and out, with good performance in low light levels too.

As we are accustomed to seeing with Mini DV, there was very little, if any, sign of compression or other image aberrations. The picture was crisp, smooth and blemish free even when filming rapid pans or fast-moving objects. We really had a hard time picking up faults in the video.

Unfortunately, this isn't the case with still images. Like most camcorders, the video quality far outstrips that of the stills. Although the 3 megapixel shots are just about good enough for 6 x 4in prints, pictures had a slightly blurred look with fringing along edges. The colours also failed to impress as much as in the video mode. The GS300 stores shots on an SD card, with the slot located on the underside of the unit.

Design-wise, Panasonic has done an excellent job with the GS300. The camcorder isn't the smallest we have seen, but is still small enough and light enough to be held comfortably for long periods. Access to all the various features is provided through a multi-directional toggle and wheel on the back of the camera. This brings up Panasonic's simple interface, granting access to manual features and allowing the user to scroll through menus easily. The 2.7in widescreen LCD is clear and easy to view, even in direct sunlight, and while the 10x optical zoom is nothing exceptional, it is typical for a camera with a high quality lens such as this. Overall the camera has an uncluttered feel, with few buttons to get in the way.

Panasonic has done an excellent job of the manual controls. Most of the features we expect to see are present, with manual focus, white balance settings, iris adjustment and shutter speed. The inclusion of a microphone input is extremely helpful too, and a feature that is often left out. Wind cut for the microphone is also provided. The GS300 makes use of optical (rather than digital) image stabilisation, which is another excellent feature. We didn't have any problems with camera shake even at the furthest range of the telephoto lens.

People hoping for dozens of arty controls, such as the sepia or waveform modes seen from manufacturers such as Canon, will be disappointed however. Panasonic don't include any digital filters on the GS300, so if you want these kinds of effects you'll need to add them afterwards in an editing program.

As a DV camera, it's relatively simple to transfer the video from the GS300 using a firewire cable (this isn't included). Photos can be transferred using the bundled USB cable, but as is the standard with DV tapes, this won't work for video. Battery life is above average, and we managed to get well over an hour's worth of recording time out of the camera.

The standout feature of the GS300 is undoubtedly video quality, which is excellent for a camcorder in this bracket. A full range of manual controls and an intuitive interface round out the package, making it ideal for beginners and seasoned directors alike.

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