Panasonic’s HC-V 500M full HD camera might fit the bill for someone looking for a small, unobtrusive , easy-to-use and yet highly capable device. It’s lightweight and fits easily in your right hand.
The camera itself has very few buttons – just a zoom lever & snapshot button on top, a slider to switch between playback, photo and video, a record button and a quartet of buttons on the left (which hide under the screen when closed). Most of the advanced controls are via the touchscreen.
As expected, the screen flips out and also powers the camera on/off with this action. You get 16GB of built in memory and a SD/SDXC card slot for expansion. Also present is a mini HDMI out port (no cable supplied), a proprietary A/V out (cable supplied) and mini USB for data transfer. Anyone can get started with video in just a few seconds – it’s as simple as powering on and pressing the record button.
Advanced users will enjoy built in effects like fade in/out, manual shutter, aperture, focus & white balance. The intelligent zoom setting is useful – it combines the 38x optical with some digital zoom to give you 50x zoom which doesn’t degrade quality. The resolving power of the lens is remarkable – which you can clearly see when you zoom into small details from a distance.
Under most adequately lit conditions, the video quality is very pleasing. It struggles under low light and the still photographs are comparable to what a basic cameraphone can capture (which is to say, not very good).
Downsides are the all-plastic construction, weak LED photo/video light and poor quality still photos . Ultimately, this is a good camera for someone looking to record hassle-free HD video. You can also consider the cheaper Canon HF R205.