After 8 days around Yellowstone/Wyoming, I’ve come to a few more conclusions about how the Panasonic camera handles HD video. First off, the format they use sucks. The AVCHD Lite codec they use isn’t common enough that most media programs can open and convert it. I spent half an hour searching for a program because Handbrake (which used to be good) couldn’t convert it correctly. I ended up using Format Factory (which thankfully supports batch processing) after reading through recommendations in forums and blogs.
The video quality itself is decent. It’s clearly in HD, though I wouldn’t try using still frames from it as a picture. It’s not exactly perfectly crisp either, but what can you expect with a pocket camera. We don’t all have James Cameron-sized budgets. For an upgrade from DVD quality footage and pretty much every camcorder before 2004, I give this camera a thumbs up.
The video mechanics, however, are a bit lacking. In several clips I took, the camera is noticeably trying to find the focus of the scene, which results in wobbling zoom. The image stabilization also makes you feel like the camera is lagging. If you start to pan, the camera will try to stay focused on the original scene. Keep going, and the scene might jump to catch up, when it realizes “oh damn, he actually wants me pointed *that* way.”
There’s also noticeable motor noise when the camera’s zooming in… and trying to autofocus. It will be audible in your video. If you’re a basic consumer, you probably won’t care. If it bugs you, you can probably throw the audio track into Audacity and remove the motor’s whirring by subtracting the noise profile from affected parts. If you actually do that… You’re a huge nerd and should probably look to getting a “real” video device, either SLR or better. Not even I went that far.
You can see the video here… even though it’s also in a previous post. This is a tweaked version where I played with color saturations to enhance the video: