I?d have to admit bias here as this is the camera I chose for our family?s domestic unit. Its 3CCDs make it stand out from the crowd (for the price) and it has a large 3.5in LCD. Add the excellent still facility (4 meg) and it?s a brilliant all-rounder. I added the wide angle lens (screw mount) for $280ish and have been very happy with results. It doubles as my spare backup camera for when the big guys fail (hasn?t happened yet?)
The good stuff
This is a miniature professional camera in many ways. The fact that it has 3CCDs puts it up a class straight away. It?s a bit technical so here?s how the Panasonic website explains it – In this system, a prism splits the incident light into its three primary colours (red, green and blue) and each resultant colour signal is collected by a separate CCD. The 3CCD system reproduces colours with exceptional fidelity and captures even subtle gradations. That means its good but don?t expect miracles.
Its manual features are easy to get at and use. Once switched to manual the front ring becomes multi-functional – press a button and it can be the focus, zoom, iris, or shutter control. I like this a lot and once you?ve tried it a few times it does become easy to use and is much better than opening the screen and going through menus.
The LCD screen opens past 90degs so you get at the menu buttons more easily and switching from video to still camera is a breeze. While rambling about the still side, it has no lag when you hit the trigger. Add the long optical zoom (12x) and a good stabiliser and it?s a superb still camera.
The GS400 has an excellent night shooting capability including the great idea of having the LCD screen turn white and put out a nice soft light ? great for shooting sleeping kids for instance.
If you like to mess with video effects then on this camera you can preserve the precious original images. It can output the video with effects such as black and white, sepia, solarizing, and many others. The difference is that it does not affect the original recording so you can mess to your heart?s content knowing the original recording is OK. The camera also has professional stuff like colour bars and a neat little clip on microphone that doubles as a remote zoom/rec controller.
Another nice idea is the quick-start function which fires the camera back to life really quickly to capture that passing moment (much like your TV being on standby the camera is not fully powered down). It drains the battery faster but I use it while I carry the camera around in my hand then switch it off when I put it back in the bag.