These days a £700 camcorder is quite a luxury, as you can get a very competent entry-level model with a decent list of features for less than £500, but the Panasonic NV-GS120 offers you plenty for your money.
The stand-out feature is the triple-CCD system, with one CCD for each of the primary colours (red, green and blue). The PAL TV standard has a fixed resolution of 720 x 576 pixels, so increasing the size of the CCD doesn’t do much to improve video quality, although it will help the still picture image quality.
When it comes to movies, however, using three CCDs makes a big difference to image quality, even if the CCDs are the standard one-sixth of an inch (4.2mm) in diameter; so you see that sometimes quantity does make as much difference as quality.
Panasonic has managed to make the NV-GS120 almost as small as a regular single-CCD DV camcorder, although it is about 25mm longer and it weighs 100g or so more. While the NV-GS120 is not exactly heavy at 520g ready to record, neither is it a lightweight.
While the benefit of triple-CCD is mainly in image quality, we can quantify the difference in still photography mode. The NV-GS120 has a rating of 1.77-megapixels, which is comparable with a reasonable digital camera, allowing you to take stills photos up to a resolution of 1,536 x 1,152 pixels.
When you’re shooting movies, the Leica Dicomar lens combines with the triple-CCD array to give a far higher image quality than a regular mini-DV camcorder. Colours are clearer, lines are sharper and the picture simply looks better than you might expect. The lens has a 10x optical zoom, although you can probably ignore the 500x digital zoom rating.
The rest of the camcorder is relatively basic, which is no great surprise given the price point. The ‘focus ring’ is a piece of cosmetic plastic trim and the ‘cinema mode’ gives you a letterbox view, rather than the true 16:9 aspect ratio that you might have hoped for.
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