The latest camcorder sales figures clearly show that Panasonic made the right choice with its gamble of introducing low-priced 3CCD camcorders. A few years back the market was amazed when 3CCD camcorder prices dipped below the ?magic $3000? price point. Today, with the entry-level hovering below $1500 (in some stores), it would appear that the unthinkable has happened!
If I had predicted even two years ago that you could pick up a new 3CCD camcorder for under $1500 I would have been howled down and accused of taking too many recreational drugs. Yet here we are at the beginning of the second quarter of 2005 and Panasonic has blown the market wide open, with 3CCD camcorders cheaper than many single CCD models with similar feature sets from other manufacturers.
And the good news is that Panasonic is unlikely to be backing away from its market-leading strategy any time soon. Holding leadership not only in the Australian market, but in many markets worldwide is assured as more new 3CCD models roll onto retail shelves. With the 3CCD range now up to four models, expect to still see further innovation in both price and performance over the remainder of the year.
Panasonic has been particularly canny in its pricing too, with the NV-GS75, GS150, GS250 and GS400 positioned to suit a range of budgets. To say there has never been a better time to purchase a 3CCD camcorder is an understatement.
Design and layout
The GS250 has three 4.2 mm (1/6 inch) CCDs, with 800,000 pixels per CCD. 630,000 pixels (times 3) are allocated to video while 710,000 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 ability to develop these tiny 3CCD systems to fit into the body of this camcorder still amazes me. The 3CCD chip blocks take up much more vertical space than conventional single CCD systems, yet the GS250 is really a very small camcorder. Comparatively it?s a camcorder that fits into the ?smaller? category amongst today?s models ? an enviable and remarkable engineering feat by any standards.
Best of all, Panasonic has priced the GS250 competitively at a recommended price of $2199, although if you shop around you are likely to see it for quite a deal less than $2000! This is a camcorder that is designed for the videomaker prepared to pay a little more for image quality, innovation and style while making no trade-offs when it comes to design, size and features.
The GS250?s design features a more elongated shape, but its basic oval profile sits well in the right hand and offers good ergonomics for hand holding, even for long periods of shooting with the important controls within easy reach of your fingers. The balance while handholding will be perfect for a range of users and this should result in stable hand-held shots even at a moderate zoom range.
You would be well advised to use a tripod when approaching the camcorder?s full 10x optical zoom range. A tripod is essential when moving through the GS250?s digital zoom range, which has options for 20x and 500x.
The GS250 is constructed from robust metal and plastic panels, which gives the camcorder a sturdy feel. It has physical dimensions of a miniscule 81 x 73 x 144mm, and weighs in at a healthy 500 grams (without tape and battery). This is around 15 percent bigger than the GS150.
Up front, Panasonic has used an excellent F1.6, 10x variable speed optical zoom Leica Dicomar 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 2.85 – 28.5mm for video and this translates to a 43.8 to 438 mm zoom as a 35mm lens equivalent. In DSC mode the lens has an equivalent focal length of 41.3 ? 413mm. The lens itself is threaded for 37 mm filters and lens attachments.
Panasonic says its Leica Dicomar?s seven-element, multi-coated lens is a major component to capturing true-to-life moving images. According to Panasonic, the GS250?s new lens system features 13 lens elements in nine groups and uses low-dispersion optical glass to reduce chromatic aberration to about one-third the level of conventional lenses. A special multi-coating process is applied to 14 lens surfaces, minimising harmful reflection to deliver crisp, clear images free of flare and ghosting.
The GS250 also offers a TeleMacro zoom mode enabling users to record at distances as close as 40 cm. Usually when you have used the entire optical zoom on images that are too close, it is impossible to focus on the image. By engaging the TeleMacro button, the camcorders make the necessary adjustments and the image can be captured in perfect focus.
To the left of the lens on the GS250 is a built-in flash to be used when taking stills. The flash is programmable in three settings: forced flash, no flash, and automatic. The flash is engaged when a low light setting is detected or can be manually activated.