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Lifewire / Jonno Hill
Tons of Wi-Fi based features
Easy to operate
Lackluster video quality
Max 1080p video resolution
Not the greatest touchscreen
The HC-V770 is positioned at a price point that doesn’t make it an instant sell, but it brings enough to the table to win over a shopper on a strict budget.
The Panasonic HC-V770 is a feature-packed camcorder at a reasonable price point that would have made it an attractive option in 2015. Today, however, the HC-V770 sits at very difficult crossroads. It’s just below the price point that gets you 4K video in a name-brand camcorder, in an era where 4K is increasingly common. Does the HC-V770 do enough to still justify being purchased today though? The answer for many buyers will still be yes, but you should take a close look at whether this is the right product for your needs.
The Panasonic HC-V770 is a bit on the heavier side for its class of camcorder at 12.5 ounces, although this is still quite lightweight compared to professional consumer camcorders and even DSLRs. It’s still light and small enough to easily pack away and carry. Panasonic doesn’t stray too far outside the familiar body design of most modern camcorders. Users that have any experience handling similar devices should feel right at home operating the HC-V770. Nonetheless, there are still a few quirks here and there that are worthy of note.
One of the first things that stands out about the Panasonic HC-V770 is the significant bump where the microphone sits. Also on the top of the device is the zoom rocker, and a dedicated still photo button. Around to the left side is the camera function wheel, which is used for navigating through some operating functions of the camcorder. We liked the functionality that this wheel provided, but weren’t necessarily in love with how it feels to operate. While the wheel provides a fair amount of resistance, it doesn’t 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 to the right of the lens behind a hinge, and all the way towards the back of the device, a sliding door that reveals the power port. On the bottom, you will find the SD card slot behind a pivoting door. The rear of the camcorder contains a shoe mount adapter to enable the use of a myriad of accessories.
Open the LCD to reveal 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.
As for the LCD touchscreen itself—you get 180 degrees of forward tilt (for self-recording) and 90 degrees of backward tilt (to do things like holding the camcorder over your head and filming above a crowd). The touchscreen didn’t perform all that well in our experience, requiring multiple presses to get it to respond. This further complicated the menu system, which was already not our favorite layout.
Buyers that wish to maximize the functionality of the Panasonic HC-V770 have an array of accessories to choose from. The bad news is that these accessories don’t come cheap. A larger battery for the camcorder (VW-VBT380), for example, will run you close to $120, although cheaper third-party options are available online. A 0.75x wide-angle conversion lens will set you back nearly $250. Also, the pocket-sized shotgun microphone (VW-VMS10-K) will cost you roughly $100. All this is to say that you can expand the HC-V770’s functionality quite a bit, but not for cheap.
Out-of-box setup is quick and simple. Charge the camera with the included charger, insert an SD card, and start filming. If you don’t want to fiddle with any settings, this is all that you will need. For more picky shooters, however, it will likely require a lot of manual reading and menu digging.
The most notable setting for those concerned with video quality is changing recording modes. When first set up the camcorder defaults to a very compressed recording preset. There are better options to choose from if you know where to look. We’ll cover all the different recording modes in the software section below.
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The Panasonic HC-V770 features a 1/2.3-inch BSI MOS Sensor that captures a total of 12.76 megapixels, of which 6.03 megapixels are used for photos or videos. For those that don’t want to do all the math, a full HD 1920 x 1080 image is roughly 2 megapixels, and a 4K image is about 8.3 megapixels So what is Panasonic doing with all that extra sensor spec since the HC-V770 only records at a maximum of 1920 x 1080?
First, the camcorder leverages the extra sensor wiggle room to enable hybrid optical image stabilization (OIS), combing normal optical stabilization with digital stabilization for a more stable result. Second, the camcorder uses the extra pixels for its intelligent zoom function, which extends the 20x optical zoom lens to reach 50x zoom without technically losing any pixel information like you would with a normal digital zoom, which merely crops and scales an image.
The HC-V770 also features a slow-motion video mode, which records 1920 x 1080 footage at 120 frames per second (fps), which is then interpolated up to 240 fps, and then played back at 60 fps. This all just adds up to 0.25x speed slow motion, which is definitely a good deal. That said, we noticed that slow-motion videos were noticeably softer, likely losing some clarity due to all the post-processing happening.
Capturing slow motion video is also somewhat strange, requiring the user to enter the dedicated slow-motion mode, and then press and hold a button marked “slow” during the duration of the portion they wish to capture. Users can select up to three slow-motion moments in a single clip before they need to stop and restart capture again. It works fine once you get used to it, but it’s definitely a cumbersome implementation on Panasonic’s part.
While Panasonic loses marks on image quality, they gain a lot of ground on Wi-Fi functionality.
The image stabilization as supported by the Hybrid OIS performs very well, letting you capture fairly steady footage at just about every zoom level. This, of course, assumes you’re filming while trying your best to remain still. If you’re walking around, you will still get a bit of shakiness.
All this said, what really matters at the end of the day is image quality. By this metric, the Panasonic HC-V770 is, sadly, not a full success. The footage from this camcorder is serviceable, but a ways off from a lot of competitive options available. In daylight conditions, when capturing detail-filled scenes, the compression on the image made details hard to make out. The video quality suffers from a lack of sharpness overall, but this is particularly notable at the edges of the frame where a large amount of detail is lost.
The Panasonic HC-V770’s captures still images at 12.6 megapixels, taking advantage of the full sensor. Photos were marginally sharper than the video footage in our testing, but overall you’re getting largely the same performance you see on the video side. We don’t imagine most users are buying these camcorders with still images as the key selling point, nonetheless, it should serve your more basic needs for photography.
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While Panasonic loses marks on image quality, they gain a lot of ground on Wi-Fi functionality. The HC-V770 supports a dizzying amount of Wi-Fi-based functions.
There’s Twin Camera, which displays an image transmitted from a remote source (like a smartphone) and records that image in addition to the actual camera’s image. Link to Cell lets you control recording and playback from a smartphone. Baby Monitor allows users to set up their camcorder one, and even sends notifications to a smartphone when a baby cries. Home Cam operates similarly, allowing you to turn the camera into a security device. When it’s time to transfer your footage off the camcorder, you can also use Wi-Fi to send files to a PC or smartphone, and also supports NFC with the latter.
Using this and other functions require using the Panasonic Image app, which, despite containing a good deal of functionality, isn’t much of a triumph in UI/UX or stability. The same app is used for most Panasonic cameras and users who have owned or operated other cameras and camcorders in Panasonic’s product portfolio will already be familiar with it.
The value you get out of these features will vary depending on what device you are using and how well it plays with the app. When it works, it covers a lot of bases, handling file transfer, full remote operation, playback, and more. We found the app to be a mixed bag though, with UI elements that are cumbersome and unintuitive.
Buyers that wish to maximize the functionality of the Panasonic HC-V770 have a wide array of accessories to choose from.
If the Panasonic HC-V770 had 4K video capture or significantly sharper image quality, it would be an easy recommendation at its price of $599.99 MSRP, but normally $100 less on Amazon. With the camcorder’s current specs, however, it’s not an instant buy. Users trying to make high-quality videos will want to spend more money to get better image quality. However, buyers looking to shoot 1080p video on a budget will get good bang for their buck due to the suite of Wi-Fi features.
If you are willing to spend double the price of the HC-V770, you can step up to Panasonic’s 4K camcorder solution, the HC-WXF991. This camcorder offers significantly improved image quality, along with unique features like a swiveling smaller second camera attached to the LCD display that can be used to display picture-in-picture of a second angle simultaneously. But this is a completely different price tier and if you’re on a strict budget, the HC-V770 does have a fair bit to offer.
Good features for the money.
Overall, the Panasonic HC-V770 is a fairly priced camcorder that offers a broad collection of functions that will make it compelling for certain buyers. 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.