Panasonic HC-VX980 review - capable 4K camcorder

Richard Easton
26 Jan 2016
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Panasonic HC-VX980 front lens
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It's not a massive departure from older models, but the HC-VX980 is a great update to Panasonic's 4K camcorder range



Optical zoom: 20x, Sensor: 1/2.3in BSI MOS, LCD screen: 3in, 460,800 dots, Dimensions (HxWxD): 73x65x139mm, Weight: 351g

Camcorders are undeniably a shrinking market. A simple visit to any tourist destination is indicative of just how rare traditional camcorders have become in this day and age, as most people are now happy shooting video on their smartphones, which have become more and more capable with each passing year.

You can now shoot in high resolution and slow motion, all from devices that you carry around with you anyway and fit in your pocket. For other, more niche occasions, action cameras have come into prominence, allowing you to shoot video where you couldn’t shoot before. Still, that hasn’t stopped a few mainstays from continuing to release new camcorders, and Panasonic is one such company that’s staying the course.

Panasonic HC-VX980 side

I was actually rather fond of last year’s HC-WX970, as this brought 4K resolutions to a light and compact camcorder. This is one of the areas where dedicated camcorders still have a distinct advantage over smartphones for video, as the ergonomics of a camcorder not only make for a far more comfortable shooting experience, but it also puts an end to the blight of vertically-shot video footage.

This year's HC-VX980 is a fraction lighter than the HC-WX970, weighing 350g. It’s nicely weighted and balanced, too, ensuring your arms don’t get fatigued from shooting for long periods of time, and it can be easily supported for stable footage. Otherwise, it looks very similar to its predecessor.

Panasonic HC-VX980 LCD

The main difference between the two models is that the HC-VX980 lacks its predecessor's second camera, which accounts for the 10g weight difference and, more importantly, a much cheaper launch price of £650 as opposed to the HC-WX970's £800. The second camera was built into the flip-out LCD screen allowing you to shoot a picture-in-picture secondary view. Panasonic’s use case examples typically involved shooting a ‘reaction’ video, so you could record a selfie video of your own commentary about what was being recorded from the main sensor.

In reality, I always found this a bit of a gimmick, so it's not a great loss in this case, particularly when you can get round the issue by using the HC-VX980's built-in Wi-Fi Direct support. With this, you have the option of pairing the camcorder with up to three smartphones using Panasonic's Imaging app, giving you those all important additional angles and perspective using devices you already own. You can then switch between your paired smartphones to record up to two extra pieces of footage with its two PIP overlays. It’s a fun thing to try out, and works well enough, but the secondary footage is a bit jarring, especially as it’s dependent on whatever smartphone you record on. Chances are most people won’t be using this feature very regularly.

Panasonic HC-VX980 side controls

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