So, what do I want out of my next laptop and what must it include?
- 3CCD sensor delivers quality video, easy-to-use menus, 2.3 megapixel still capture
- Relatively poor low-light performance
Although it has some weaknesses, the GS150 delivers quality video via its 3CCD sensor, in a tidy package that is very easy to use.
Price$ 1,539.00 (AUD)
When it comes to digital handycams, the tag 3CCD usually means high end and high price. The Panasonic NV-GS150 is unusual in being a 3CCD camera at such a low price.
The advantage of 3CCD systems is they capture colour that is more true to life than standard single-CCD systems. A 3CCD system uses a separate sensor to capture each of the red, green and blue light channels. In the NV-GS150's 3CCD system the three sensors capture a full 400,000 pixels of information and each set of pixels is combined to get the RGB value at each pixel. This creates, in theory, a more true-to-life image.
It works, too. The NV-GS150 produces sharp, natural colours, even in indoor lighting conditions. Auto white balance worked well and the camera handled transitions in lighting conditions with ease. The 10X Leica Dicomar zoom lens isn't as powerful as some found on competing cameras, but it gets the job done.
The NV-GS150's clean menus and joystick controller are welcome features. Unlike other handycams, which are often festooned with buttons used to access features, the NV-GS150 has very few on its case. But a lack of buttons doesn't mean a lack of features. Instead, a press of the centre button on the joystick controller calls up an onscreen dial that relates to the four-way positions on the joystick. These context-sensitive menus, which change depending on which mode you are in, let you access features like fade, night modes, white balance and macro mode. If you are in manual mode you can also adjust shutter speed, iris/gain, and use it to manually focus.
Once you become familiar with the various options, it is a fairly efficient way of adjusting them, although you need to be precise in your thumb movements as it is a little too easy to move the control in the wrong direction. I'd also prefer a dedicated manual focus ring (don't be fooled by what looks like the focus ring on the front of the camera, it's actually a dial that opens and closes the built-in lens hood).
Connection options include a DV (FireWire) port, a USB 2.0 port, S-Video and an AV/headphone jack. Although you can connect to another digital camcorder to do dubbing, you can't connect to an analog device such as a VCR to do analogue to digital conversion. There's a hot shoe to connect a dedicated microphone or video light.
The NV-GS150 comes with not one, but two remotes: a standard wireless remote and a wired remote with built-in microphone.
The NV-GS150's video weak spot is low light conditions. Even though it has "night view" functions, including a 0-lux function for recording in total darkness, the results are grainy at best. It also lacks a built-in video light. It has what the manual describes as a "video flash" but in fact this is just a flash to be used when taking still images (The GS150 captures 2.3 megapixel still images to a flash memory card). To get round this it has a somewhat bizarre feature whereby you flip the colour LCD around to face your subject and the camera lights it up to use as a video light, but the results are patchy--LCD just wasn't designed for this purpose.
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