Panasonic tackles an action camera, is it enough to take on GoPro?

There certainly are quite a few action cameras out there, and there might even be room for one more, as Panasonic embraces its inner Iron Man and brings its ruggedised knowhow to a Go Pro competitor.

If you’ve been thinking of grabbing a GoPro or something not far off one, hold on partner, because there might be something else to take a look at.

Announced this week, Panasonic will also have something for that sports-friendly arena, launching its first camera geared at people who tackle extreme sports with pride, and anything else a little outlandish they’re keen to get some footage of.


The camera is almost a cylinder, reminding us of a torch only with a camera inside, and is called the HX-A1.

Sure, the name isn’t overly complicated, and it does send a message that it likely won’t be the only one in there series, with an A2 and A3 likely coming later down the track, but for now, we start with 1.

With version 1, Panasonic is attempting to get filmmakers thinking out of the box, and while it is including support for the things you’ve come to expect out of an action camera — things like Full HD 1080p video capture, a degree of slow motion support, and WiFi control — it is also going to feature something no other action camera has: night vision.

It’s one of those things older camcorders once had, and while it was a neat feature, seeing in the dark kind of got lost in transit as sensors and low-light sensitivity improved.

Glass lens on the left, IR on the right. The IR kind of gives itself away with the term "IR" on the casing.
Glass lens on the left, IR on the right. The IR kind of gives itself away with the term “IR” on the casing.

This year, however, it’s back, and Panasonic’s take on the concept will have owners of the HX-A1 change the front element of their camera to use an infrared lens filter, and then capture footage while painting or lighting up subjects in pitch black using an infrared light.

The light that does this is optional, and Panasonic suggests owners can pick them up online for a good hundred bucks or so, but when they do, they will be able to capture subjects in pitch black, with the camera catching the footage in the typical glowing green imagery you see from night vision when it’s used in movies and TV shows.

Panasonic's HX-A1 will have a sort of customisable mentality, allowing you to screw in elements you're keen to change.
Panasonic’s HX-A1 will have a sort of customisable mentality, allowing you to screw in elements you’re keen to change.

Panasonic is also planning to bring some strong resistance to the elements to the camera, something it has learned from years of making ruggedised compact cameras.

As a result of this research, the HX-A1 will be waterproof down to 1.5 metres, shockproof for drops of up to 1.5 metres, dust-proof, and freeze-proof down to -10ºC, and it won’t need to be stored in a case like some other action cameras for these ruggedisation to work.

The battery should also be decent, running for 1 hour and 15 minutes on its standard battery, and offering as much as 2 hours 45 minutes with an optional extended battery, or more when plugged into a USB source.

And there will even be accessories. Lots of them, even, consisting of two included in the box — a mount attachable to helmets (multi-mount) and a tripod mount — as well as a bunch of optional accessories allowing you to mount the camera to a strap, mount it to your head, clip it to a helmet, attach it via suction to a surface, mount it to bicycle handlebars, strap it to a belt, and even run two cameras connected to the same mount allowing capture from two devices simultaneously.

If that’s not enough, it will even include a mount adapter in the box for GoPro accessories, as Panasonic aims to get people who already have a few GoPros over to its camera camp.

“The HX-A1 is built for action,” said Doug Campbell, Senior Product Manager for Imaging at Panasonic Australia.

“Its cylindrical shape and lightweight 45g form factor means it’s truly wearable. Users can take advantage of a range of Panasonic accessories to mount it on their head, cap, backpack strap or sports gear from bikes to kayaks, and shoot exciting Full HD scenes.”


As for whether Panasonic’s A1 can truly take on the GoPro, that remains to be seen, but the night vision and high degree of ruggedisation could both help to win people over. We’re not sure how far off 4K capture support is, however, which is something two of the competing GoPro models offer, found in the GoPro Hero 4 Silver for $549 and Hero 4 Black for $649.

At least Panasonic appears to be aware of this, and is targeting its HX-A1 for a different price point, with the camera landing at stores in late June for a recommended retail price of $299 in black and orange.