The Panasonic HC-V770 is a feature-rich camcorder with a reasonable price tag, making it an appealing option in 2015. However, the HC-V770 is currently at a fork in the road. In an era when 4K video is becoming more common, it’s just below the price point that gets you 4K video in a name-brand camcorder. Is the HC-V770, on the other hand, good enough to justify a purchase today? Many buyers will still say yes, but you should consider whether this is the right product for your requirements.
Design and Features: Small but functional
At 12.5 ounces, the Panasonic HC-V770 is a little on the heavy side for its class of camcorder, but it’s still light compared to professional consumer camcorders and even DSLRs. It’s still light and compact, making it simple to store and transport. Panasonic doesn’t deviate too much from the standard body design of most modern camcorders. Users who are familiar with similar devices should have no trouble operating the HC-V770. Nonetheless, there are a few oddities worth mentioning here and there.
The significant bump where the microphone sits is one of the first things that stands out about the Panasonic HC-V770. The zoom rocker and a dedicated still photo button are also located on the device’s top. The camera function wheel is located on the left side of the camcorder and is used to navigate through some of the camcorder’s operating functions. We liked the functionality of this wheel, but not so much the way it felt to use. The wheel has a reasonable amount of resistance, but it does not click or provide any haptic feedback.
There are some shortfalls in video quality, but it boasts a good set of features for amateur videographers to try out without breaking the bank.
The headphone jack is hidden behind a hinge to the right of the lens, and a sliding door reveals the power port all the way to the back of the device. The SD card slot is hidden behind a pivoting door on the bottom. A shoe mount adapter is located on the back of the camcorder, allowing it to be used with a variety of accessories.
The Recording/Playback button, shoe adapter release lever, level shot function button, Wi-Fi button, power button, battery release level, USB terminal, micro HDMI port, A/V port, and microphone port are all visible when the LCD is opened.
The LCD touchscreen has a forward tilt of 180 degrees (for self-recording) and a backward tilt of 90 degrees (to do things like holding the camcorder over your head and filming above a crowd). In our testing, the touchscreen didn’t respond very well, requiring multiple presses to get it to respond. This added to the complexity of the menu system, which wasn’t our favorite layout to begin with.
Buyers who want to get the most out of their Panasonic HC-V770 can choose from a variety of accessories. The bad news is that these items are not inexpensive. A larger battery for the camcorder (VW-VBT380) costs around $120, though there are cheaper third-party options available online. The cost of a 0.75x wide-angle conversion lens is nearly $250. A pocket-sized shotgun microphone (VW-VMS10-K) will also set you back around $100. All of this is to say that the HC-functionality V770’s can be greatly expanded, but not for a low price.
Setup Process: As easy as it gets
The setup is quick and easy right out of the box. Start filming after charging the camera with the included charger and inserting an SD card. This is all you’ll need if you don’t want to mess with any settings. More picky shooters, on the other hand, will almost certainly have to do a lot of manual reading and menu digging.
Changing recording modes is the most notable setting for those concerned with video quality. When the camcorder is first turned on, it defaults to a very compressed recording mode. If you know where to look, you can find better alternatives. In the software section below, we’ll go over all of the different recording modes.
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Video Quality: Room for improvement
The Panasonic HC-V770 has a 1/2.3-inch BSI MOS Sensor with a total of 12.76 megapixels, 6.03 of which are used for photos or videos. A full HD 1920 x 1080 image is roughly 2 megapixels, and a 4K image is roughly 8.3 megapixels for those who don’t want to do the math. So, given that the HC-V770 only records at a resolution of 1920 x 1080, what is Panasonic doing with all that extra sensor spec?
To begin, the camcorder takes advantage of the extra sensor wiggle room to enable hybrid optical image stabilization (OIS), which combines traditional optical and digital stabilization for a more stable result. Second, the extra pixels are used by the camcorder’s intelligent zoom function, which extends the 20x optical zoom lens to a 50x zoom without losing any pixel information, unlike a normal digital zoom, which simply crops and scales an image.
Slow-motion video mode on the HC-V770 captures 1920 x 1080 footage at 120 frames per second (fps), which is then interpolated up to 240 fps and played back at 60 fps. All of this adds up to 0.25x slow motion speed, which is a great deal. However, we noticed that slow-motion videos were noticeably softer, indicating that the post-processing had lost some clarity.
Slow motion video capture is also a little strange, requiring the user to first enter the dedicated slow-motion mode, then press and hold the “slow” button for the duration of the segment they want to capture. Before stopping and restarting capture, users can select up to three slow-motion moments in a single clip. It works fine once you get used to it, but Panasonic’s implementation is definitely clumsy.
While Panasonic loses points for image quality, they make significant gains in Wi-Fi functionality.
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The image stabilization, which is aided by the Hybrid OIS, works admirably, allowing you to capture relatively steady footage at almost any zoom level. Of course, this assumes you’re filming while trying to stay as still as possible. Even if you’re just walking around, you’ll feel a little shaky.
Having said that, image quality is what matters most at the end of the day. Sadly, the Panasonic HC-V770 does not meet this criterion. The footage from this camcorder is serviceable, but it falls short of many of the competing options. When photographing detail-rich scenes in daylight, the image compression made it difficult to see fine details. Overall, there is a lack of sharpness in the video, but this is especially noticeable at the edges of the frame, where a lot of detail is lost.
Photo Quality: Somewhat expected performance
The Panasonic HC-V770 uses the entire sensor to capture still images at 12.6 megapixels. In our testing, photos were slightly sharper than video footage, but overall, you’re getting essentially the same results as with video. Although we don’t expect most users to buy these camcorders for the sole purpose of taking still photos, they should suffice for your more basic photography needs.
Software and Connectivity: Useful but unintuitive
While Panasonic loses points for image quality, they make significant gains in Wi-Fi functionality. The HC-V770 has a bewildering number of Wi-Fi-based features.
There’s also Twin Camera, which shows an image transmitted from a remote source (such as a smartphone) and records it alongside the image from the actual camera. You can control recording and playback from your smartphone using Link to Cell. Users can set up their camcorder with Baby Monitor, and it even sends notifications to a smartphone when a baby cries. Home Cam works in a similar way, allowing you to use it as a security camera. When it comes to getting your footage off the camcorder, you can use Wi-Fi to send files to a PC or smartphone, with the latter supporting NFC.
Using this and other functions necessitates the use of the Panasonic Image app, which, despite having a lot of features, isn’t exactly a UI/UX or stability triumph. Most Panasonic cameras use the same app, and users who have used or owned other Panasonic cameras and camcorders will be familiar with it.
The utility of these features varies depending on the device you’re using and how well it works with the app. When it works, it handles a wide range of tasks, including file transfer, full remote control, playback, and more. However, we found the app to be a mixed bag, with clumsy and unintuitive UI elements.
Buyers who want to get the most out of their Panasonic HC-V770 can choose from a variety of accessories.
Price: Appropriately priced, but not a steal
At $799.99 MSRP, but normally $100 more on Amazon (), the Panasonic HC-V770 would be an easy recommendation if it had 4K video capture or significantly sharper image quality. However, given the camcorder’s current specifications, it’s not a no-brainer. Users who want to create high-quality videos will be willing to spend more money in order to achieve better image quality. Buyers looking to shoot 1080p video on a budget, on the other hand, will get a lot of bang for their buck thanks to the Wi-Fi features.
Panasonic HC-V770 vs. Panasonic HC-WXF991
If you want to spend twice as much as the HC-V770, you can upgrade to Panasonic’s 4K camcorder, the HC-WXF991. This camcorder features a swiveling smaller second camera attached to the LCD display that can be used to display picture-in-picture of a second angle simultaneously, as well as other unique features. However, this is a different price range, and if you’re on a tight budget, the HC-V770 has a lot to offer.
The Final Word
Overall, the Panasonic HC-V770 is a reasonably priced camcorder with a diverse set of features that will appeal to a wide range of buyers. Although the video quality isn’t perfect, it has a good set of features that amateur videographers can try out without breaking the bank.