The smallest, lightest and most versatile 3CCD camcorder ever released. This is a significant title for such an unassuming little camcorder but it really is a seminal model in camcorder history.
Panasonic has managed to cram a 3CCD head block with all its associated technology into a camcorder not really very different than a conventional single CCD model. While many of the exciting manual features and functionality are missing, as are some of the refinements (like Leica lenses), the GS75 offers the best 3CCD point-and-shoot basics ever seen in the camcorder market.
As an entry-level 3CCD camcorder priced at a very competitive $1539, expect to see the GS75 on backorder for as long as it is available.
Design and features
The GS75 is significantly smaller and more compact than either the GS150 or GS250 models. It is, in fact, some 30 percent smaller than the GS250, but like the other models in this range the camcorder?s CCD (charge-coupled device) plays a critical role picture quality, offering natural colour tones, intricate detail, and smooth gradation.
The camcorder design is more snub-nosed and it virtually disappears when handheld. The combination silver and grey body makes it look rather smart.
The GS75 has three 4.2mm (1/6-inch) CCDs, with 800,000 pixels per CCD. 540,000 pixels (times 3) are allocated to video while 340,000 pixels (times 3) are allocated to still images. As most readers would know, three chip systems use an individual CCD image chip for each of the three video colours ? red, green and blue.
The GS75 is robust and feels solid in your hand. It has physical dimensions of a miniscule 76 x 77 x 120 mm, and weighs-in at a mere 420 grams (without tape and battery). This is around the same size as the GS150.
Up front, Panasonic has used its own (rather than a Leica Dicomar) F1.8, 10x variable speed optical zoom lens. The variable speed zoom is pressure sensitive and moves from slow (around 15 seconds across the zoom range) to full speed. At full speed it moves the lens from wide-angle to telephoto in 1.1 seconds.
The lens has a focal range of f=2.45 – 24.5mm and this translates to a 42 to 420mm zoom as a 35 mm lens equivalent. The lens itself is threaded for 37mm filters and lens attachments. The GS75 also offers a TeleMacro zoom mode enabling users to record at distances as close as 40 cm.
Button clutter on the camcorder has been dramatically reduced by moving almost all the controls into the camcorder?s menu system, accessed on the crystal-clear LCD screen. Navigation is via a great little four-direction joystick controller found in the centre of the mode dial on the back of the camcorder.
Like the GS250, the GS75 uses an excellent 2.5 inch LCD screen, which works exceptionally well, even when used in daylight.
To the right of the colour eyepiece viewfinder is a mode dial, which has the option to move the camcorder into several modes: Movie record mode (tape), Movie playback mode (tape), Still record mode (SD card) Still playback mode (SD card), MPEG-4 movie record mode (SD card), and PC connect.
The GS75 offers manual control, using the mode joystick, for aperture, shutter speed and white balance, depending on the ambient conditions.
Good flexibility is offered by the GS75?s manual settings, making it easy to adjust the Gain, Shutter Speed (1/50 to 1/8000 in video mode and 1/25 to 1/500 in DSC mode), Backlight and White Balance.
Panasonic uses proprietary Crystal Engine technology, which it developed for its still cameras in the GS75 as well as the other 3CCD models in the range. The Crystal Engine deploys a noise reduction system uses a noise-shaping filter to remove the rough, highly visible noise. Next, it extracts and analyses data from several adjacent pixels in the horizontal and vertical directions and removes any parts that it determines to be noise. Finally, the process is applied to the time axis where it extracts and analyses several frames, and again removes parts that it determines to be noise.
The result is a better noise-reduction performance than provided by conventional systems. The noise reduction is particularly effective when shooting at low illumination, so you can capture clear, sharp images even at night or when lights are low.
The GS75 also uses Digital Signal Processing. A new configuration consists of two separate image processing circuits, one for moving pictures and one for stills. Using the optimum circuit for each type of picture makes it possible to record both with excellent quality.
On the software side, Panasonic bundles a USB driver along with a copy of Motion DV Studio 5.0 LE. This application makes it easy to edit DV footage, so you can create your own polished, professional looking movies. Like the GS250, the GS75 offers USB2.0 and i.LINK connectivity and Video Class compatibility, which allows the real-time transfer of DV moving picture data over the same USB cable.
The GS75 captures still photos with approximately 1.7 megapixels, providing resolutions of 1520 x 1152 and 640 x 480 (VGA) pixels. The photos produced by the GS75 are reasonable, with good clarity and definition. They work best as 10 x 15 (6 x 4 inch) prints with A4-sized prints not really appropriate at this resolution. The camcorder offers PictBridge direct printing technology so they can work seamlessly with any of the new PictBridge compatible printers.
The GS75 performed well in all aspects of field-testing and on the test bench. It works extremely well in low light and delivers excellent results. The ability to manually add gain made all the difference and the good news is that the increase in gain only caused a marginal increase in picture grain or video noise. This is one of the best low light performances we have seen on the test bench from a camcorder of this price.
Missing from the GS75 is the excellent OIS found on the GS250. The electronic SIS system isn?t nearly as good at removing camera shake and is one feature sorely missing from this model.
As an entry-level model Panasonic?s GS75 is a great offering and brings 3CCD performance and features well into the grasp of the average videomaker for the first time. While it lacks a Leica lens, high megapixel stills output and OIS, most point-and-shoot videomakers will be more than happy with the results this camcorder delivers.
Panasonic has certainly changed the camcorder landscape dramatically with this new range of 3CCD models.