Remember when video camcorders cost thousands of dollars? Now they’re in the hundreds – at least the budget models are. The asking price for the GS60 is $499 but you’ll probably find one for at least $50-100 less with careful searching.
The Panasonic GS60 is a good example of a bare bones camcorder: well built, squat in format, it comfortably fits into the right hand and weighs less than 500 grams with tape and battery loaded.
As an ideal video camcorder for all the family to use, it’s simple to operate, has few external controls to bamboozle beginners, the LCD menu is concise and useful – yet the 30x optical zoom lens has immense pulling power, so you can shoot wide interiors, distant scenery and pull in closeups of sports action. The zoom is stabilised electronically, so your bumps and wobbles are smoothed out.
You can set it up so that, as you open the LCD screen, the camcorder powers up. Touch the rear joy stick and you enter the LCD menu. Roll the dial to choose ‘shoot’ or ‘replay’. Simple.
The GS60 has dual shooting functions: use it as a straight digital video capture device, recording to Mini DV tape – or connect it to a Windows computer via USB and employ it as a live web camera.
You can transfer the final video to a computer via a FireWire connection, then engage in the joys – or horrors! – of editing and polishing your efforts to produce a finished TV programme.
The GS60 shoots digital video and stillsÂ – but stills are recorded onto tape for a running time of seven seconds. You’ll have to retrieve the stills images from tape via a computer link.
The 6.4 cm LCD screen swings outwards and can be pivoted forwards so you can take movies of yourself, talking to the screen.
Extra modes: a backlight compensation is on tap; the night shooting mode enables capture of video in colour with light levels close to near darkness; the soft skin mode removes facial blemishes; you can choose to begin and end each scene with a fade in and out.
When you need more precise control over your shooting there is manual access to white balance and focus; even the shutter speed can be adjusted for fast moving subjects.
If you want to replay your video efforts on a wide screen television, select Cinema mode and the top and bottom of the screen is cropped to that screen ratio.
While there are no digital effects, as found on higher priced camcorders, you can select a shooting mode to best capture scenes which are spotlit, portraits, surf and snow scenes, low light situations and sports action. These tricky situations often confound newcomers to video – this may be your answer!
For such a simple to use video camcorder, the picture quality is quite surprising, with a better than average performance in low light. Noticeable also is the excellent picture capture in LP mode, thanks to Panasonic’s MPEG2 image processing.
Value for money
Ease of Use
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Budget video camcorder. Fold-out 6.4 cm LCD screen. Useful shooting modes for beginners.
Records stills to tape. No software CD-ROM. No microphone input.