Pros / A 50x optical zoom lens offers a long range without the image-quality compromises of digital zoom.
Cons / Special features come at the cost of a smaller sensor.
Verdict / The Panasonic HC-W580 is one of the more expensive models we tested. While it provides good image quality, it’s not quite at the same level as other similarly priced Panasonics. Whether that’s a worthy trade-off is up to you.
As smartphone cameras continue to progress, image quality alone is rarely a reason why someone might purchase a dedicated HD camcorder – at least not a consumer-grade one. With smartphones now shooting in 4K at 30 frames per second, it’s not difficult to see that this long-held benefit is a thing of the past. Nonetheless, the best HD camcorders still hold their own in zoom range, storage capacity and, of course, the superior recording features.
Panasonic’s HC-W580 HD camcorder provides a superb shooting experience and offers great storage options in the form of SD cards, but its specialty lies with its zoom range. It offers one of the longest optical zoom lenses we tested with 50x zoom power. With this lens, you’ll be able to get close to distant subjects without the image quality degradation associated with digital zoom.
The W580 features a 1/5.8-inch sensor, which is one of the smaller sensors we tested. Despite the sensor’s smaller size, the W580 actually outperformed most other camcorders, including the Canon Vixia HF-R700 with its larger sensor, in our panel testing. Our top two picks remain in a class of their own, but the W580 certainly makes the most of what it’s got.
In most aspects, the design of the W580 is very similar to the other Panasonic camcorders we’ve tested. The exterior of the camera is simple. It features only two buttons, one for capturing video and one for stills. There is also a toggle for zooming in and out. However, unlike other Panasonic devices such as the Panasonic HC-V770K, it lacks a viewfinder and it’s equipped with a secondary, rotating camera.
This camera, located at the end of the display panel, can be rotated to face either your subjects to provide a secondary point of view or back at the shooter so that everyone is included. Although it seems weird at first, we actually really liked the idea of digging up some old home movies that include the reactions of the shooter in real time, along with whatever memory might’ve been recorded. It's definitely a plus for those who use camcorders to document family events and experiences.
- Optical Zoom
- Still Camera Resolution
- LCD Screen Size
In all, we think that Panasonic’s HC-W580 is a solid camcorder with some real benefits over both smartphones and other video cameras, but it is somewhat specialized. If you’re attracted to the idea of having an extreme zoom range and a secondary rotating camera, the W580 is a great choice. While we were impressed with its image quality, you can spend less for better quality, provided you’re willing to forgo the W580s special features.