Hands On Review
With three sensors and a five axis image stabilization system, the Panasonic X920 is all about video quality, but is this camcorder worth the price tag?
By Hillary Grigonis
- HC-X920 Big Picture
This product is ranked:
6th of 17 in Advanced 15th of 73 in High Definition 12th of 47 in Media Card 4th of 14 in Panasonic 3rd of 8 in Over $750
Last updated on 06/25/2013
Panasonic's popular X900 camcorder received a big upgrade in the X920, going from three 1/4.1” sensors to three larger 1/2.3” sensors. The value is all in the X920's three backside-illuminated sensors, optical image stabilization and wind noise reduction systems, instead of extras like flash memory and a high capacity battery. Coming in at around $1,000, the Panasonic X920 is definitely worth a look for those looking for a boost in video quality without breaching the four figure price point.
Panasonic X920: Body & Design
Larger then most mainstream models, the Panasonic X920 is still fairly compact for an advanced model, considering there's not one but three sensors inside. Weighing in at just under a pound, the X920 is comfortable to grip and isn't too bad at packing up for travel either.
The zoom, photo capture and mode slide are all at the top and comfortable to operate with one hand; the record button sits at the back, right at the thumb for easy access. Besides the record button, the only other thing at the back of the camcorder is an optical viewfinder, which pulls out for more comfortable use.
|The Panasonic X920 makes it easy to take quality video and stills.|
At the left side is the 3.5” touchscreen LCD. When folded, the touchscreen hides the on/off and optical image stabilization buttons, as well as the HDMI, A/V and USB ports. An Intelligent Auto button sits at the top left to easily switch to the most used mode. Wi-Fi options are also accessed through a button near the top of the camcorder.
The front of the X920 features a nice manual ring, plus a lens hood for the f2.8, 34.1 mm Lecia lens. Options for an accessory shoe, microphone and headphones sit just in front of the grip on the right.
The most commonly used controls can be accessed with one hand on the X920, while the other options are modified using the touchscreen menu. A quick menu gives easy access to a few top options, while the rest are in a well-organized menu. As with any touchscreen camcorder, the screen takes some getting used to and a few missed options, but is easy to use otherwise.
Both the screen and viewfinder are solid and high quality. The viewfinder tilts and can rotate to the front. The colors in the optical viewfinder seemed a little over saturated, but the footage is otherwise clear and the optical option is nice for different scenarios, like bright sunlight or closing the screen for a narrower profile.
Panasonic X920: User Experience & Performance
The Panasonic X920 is an advanced video camera that doesn't require advanced understanding to use. The camcorder has several features that make it easy for beginners, like a level gauge and other screen indicators, including a warning when the user is panning too fast. But as an advanced camcorder, the X920 has plenty of features for the professional too, like manual modes and an accessory shoe mount.
The X920 does pretty well left in the intelligent auto mode, but there are plenty of other options for difficult shots or creative effects. The manual settings were great for adjusting to low lighting scenarios. The variety of scene modes proved pretty useful as well, like picking up the colors in a sunset. Panasonic also included a few creative effects to make the movie look aged or to take time lapse shots.
Speed is also a plus with the X920. Start-up, image recall, focus and exposure adjustment were all up to par. Taking stills on the X920 is rather sluggish, but the dedicated photo button also works in playback to pull images from the video when the photos can't be shot fast enough. The wi-fi seemed okay speed-wise as well.
|Wi-fi allows for remote access to the Panasonic X920, including zoom.|
Setting up wi-fi from the X920 to a smartphone was simple—just use the phone to scan the QR code that pops up on the screen, no need to type in a series of letters and numbers to find the right signal. Panasonic's imaging app includes quite a few features, like the ability to zoom in remote access. Some of the navigating through the app didn't come quite as easy at first, but the in-app help center answered the question in less then a minute.
The X920 really impressed with its ability to easily take great shots, even within the manual modes. Operating the camera and navigating through the menu really didn't cause many frustrations. The initial wi-fi set up was also simple, and while the set up happens once, it was nice not to spend 20 minutes getting everything figured out.
For a $1,000-ish camcorder, though, the X920 is blatantly missing flash memory. Most models at this price point have some memory included (albeit fewer features in many cases). SD cards are getting larger and cheaper to buy, but 1080p HD video tends to fill them up fast. We also weren't too impressed with the battery life of the X920 either, which drains in under 2 hours, faster when using features like wi-fi. Better battery packs are available, but add to the cost significantly.
Panasonic X920: Video Quality
The three sensors and optical image stabilization system on the X920 make for some pretty sharp videos. The multiple sensors (which are larger than the older models), plus the flexibility of manual modes and the fast f1.5 maximum aperture lens gives the camcorder a big boost in the low light category. Indoor shots with poor lighting and outdoor shots at sunset were sharp with little grain to the footage. The optical image stabilization reduced quite a few camera shakes in some challenging situations.
Colors are bright and accurate, plus the scene modes are useful for enhancing particular colors, like in a sunset. Edges in general were clean, though towards the end of the 25x intelligent zoom lines were a bit fuzzier, which is somewhat expected. Still shots also left little for complaint, turning out sharp and colorful.
At 50 fps, panning could see a little improvement, but isn't a big issue. Action was otherwise recorded without complaints—the autofocus, for example, adjusted efficiently on moving objects. The zoom on the X920 is very smooth and can get in up close quickly or slowly at a wide range of speeds.
The built-in mic on the X920 picks up sound quite well, though sometimes picked up background noises like birds chirping better than the main sounds like voices. The wind noise reduction system is fantastic; the test footage didn't have a single incident of loud wind noise. While recording quiet scenarios, however, there was a very obvious white noise on the playback.
Panasonic X920: Conclusion
For the price point, the X920 has an exceptional sensor system for picking up light and detail, a quality five-axis optical image stabilization system, a great wind noise reduction system and an easy-to-use wi-fi feature. The X920 is lacking in flash memory and could use a better battery, but upgrades there would certainly mean an upgrade in price (or downgrading the other features, which we happen to really like).
|With three sensors, the Panasonic X920 excels in low light scenarios.|
The ease of use makes the X920 a great option for video enthusiasts on a budget, or casual shooters who simply want better video quality. The multiple sensors and fast lens also make the X920 ideal for low light shots; plus the image stabilization system is great for shooting on the go. This model is also versatile enough to be a solid all-purpose shooter.
Comparing similarly priced models, the competition has a few features the X920 doesn't, but lacks in other areas where the X920 shines. The Sony PJ710 comes in at a similar price point and offers flash memory and a projector, but lacks wi-fi and uses one sensor where the X920 has three. JVC's PX100 has a similar feature set but is capable of faster frame rates for action, but appears quite a bit bulkier with the shape of a DSLR camera and uses one sensor with half the megapixels for still shots.
The X920 is a compact, advanced camcorder that delivers high quality video and it's definitely worth a look.
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