Panasonic WX970 Camera Is a w850 on Steroids!

PanaWX970

Last year’s CES star camcorder marvels were the W850 and the V750 from Panasonic. Both cameras were capable of 1080p at 120fps progressive with a 240p interpolation mode that looked pretty good with low motion and high shutter speed.

This year we get the replacements in the line the HC-VX870 retails for $899US and the HC-VX970 will be $999US.  Both shoot 4k video yes… let me say that again… both shoot 4k! They are carbon copies of themselves with one differentiating feature.  The VX970 has an integrated selfie picture in picture camera attached to the flip screen. This is the same feature the W850 introduced last year.  The VX870 has no selfie camera but allows a phone to connect and feed the secondary image to record in tandem.   It is kind of gimmicky but for filming parents wanting to film their reaction when their toddlers take their first steps it can be a pretty priceless feature.

What interest us however are the 1080p 120p and 240p slow motion modes which keep interpolation at 240p in both the Panasonic WX970 and VX870.  But first the specs:

Panasonic HC-VX970  Handycam:

  • 4K Video Recording
  • 120fps at 1080p with 240p 1080p (interpolated)
  • Twin Camera Operation***
  • LEICA Lens 20x Optical Zoom  30.8-626mm  f1.8 to f3.6
  • 1/2.3″ Back-Illuminated MOS Sensor
  •  Crystal Engine 4K – Reduced Rolling Shutter
  • 5 Axis Hybrid O.I.S.
  • HDR (High Dynamic Range) Movie Mode
  • Weight 360g 0.794lb

Panasonic HC-VX870  Handycam:

  • 4K Video Recording
  • 120fps at 1080p with 240p 1080p (interpolated)
  • Phone Wireless Selfie Camera Connection***
  • LEICA Lens 20x Optical Zoom  30.8-626mm  f1.8 to f3.6
  • 1/2.3″ Back-Illuminated MOS Sensor
  •  Crystal Engine 4K – Reduced Rolling Shutter
  • 5 Axis Hybrid O.I.S.
  • HDR (High Dynamic Range) Movie Mode
  • Weight 360g 0.794lb

As you can see the cameras are pretty much clones of each other much like last year models. The only real feature difference seems to be the selfie camera. If you don’t need this feature you can save $100 bucks and get the same video performance.

Panasonic Camera Launch Sample Video:

Looking at the sample video it is clear the cameras perform admirably and are delivering probably the best image quality of any camcorder ever produced.  4k is here to stay and these cameras democratize it for the masses.  At under $1k both of these tech marvels are ready to shoot daylight scenes with impressive jaw dropping detail.  The only caveat is that the sharpening seems to be on the high side and why cameras like the Panasonic GH4 or the NX1 from Samsung are still the ideal for shooting for production. Sharpening is cool for a baked in image but good luck color correcting and adjusting such a graded image in an editor.  However the quality of output is undeniable.

Interpolation at 240p 1080 is not true slow motion as it is doing software trickery in real time to morph and combine frames together. It does a good job but for those looking for real frames this is not really above 120p 1080.

Don’t expect low light performance on par with larger sensors due to the relatively tiny 1/2.3″ Back Side Illuminated sensor. The 20x is a good surprise considering it retains the zoom in 4k all optical.  We would have prefered a 1.7″ sensor with a 12x zoom however.   No word on 1080p performance or scaling artifacts when 1080p slow motion is selected.  Looking at the W850 last year with it’s great performance it could be just a continuation of a stellar image quality pedigree for the consumer.

HDR Mode Demo Video:

It is clear that HDR Mode is tying with the S curve and it is delivering a less processed image. It looks overly soft and flat which in post could yield a better image.  Panasonic claims that two simultaneous images are being combined to produce it: “world’s first integration to the consumer full-HD camcorder*. By combining two images taken with different exposure, blown highlights and blocked shadows are suppressed even in backlighting.”

Picture in Picture Video Mode:

Camera features video with a possible slow motion shot included at the beginning:

 

We’ll keep you informed of slow motion samples of these exciting cameras as they become available. It is to early to tell what the quality will be in slow motion but considering these are top of the line consumer camcorders it shouldn’t disappoint.  Too bad the slow motion is still interpolated at 240p.  120p is nice but it was a feature from last year. Innovation in slow motion is on par here.  This means that if you own last year’s W850 or v750 then you can rest assured in slow motion you are covered.

The w850 is on sale for a reasonable price of $621 with free shipping at amazon.com and just to refresh here is a slow motion sample from last years camcorder champ the Panasonic w850:

Stay tuned for more news at HSC!

 

 

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23 thoughts on “Panasonic WX970 Camera Is a w850 on Steroids!”

  1. Interesting. I bought the v750 last month, but ended up returning it. The slow motion was really nice, although you lose like half the image due to cropping. Still, being able to autofucus and zoom during slow mo recording made it a pretty fun device!

    I just wasn’t blown away by the video quality of the v750 in comparison to my little Sony wx350, and I didn’t think it was worth it to keep just for the slow mo alone. I really want a camera capable of slow motion, but it has to have other features as well that justify me having it along side the Sony. They were too similar.

    Something like the fz1000 is on my mind because the video quality in general would be a huge upgrade for me, and it would take excellent photos as well. Although I don’t think it auto focuses or zooms in slow mo?

    If all I cared about was slow mo, I would have kept the v750 though. It was fun! And the silent movie feature was pretty unique ; ) I think this new vx970 will have the same heavy cropping in slow mo that the v750 had. And the tiny sensor is something I want to move away from.

    Thanks for the news!

    1. Small sensors are notoriously bad in certain areas like dynamic range and low light. The FZ1000 is a good camera but in the 120fps slow-motion mode you need to focus before to starting recording the clip; auto focus is inactive during recording. Same for manual focus so focusing on the action prior to starting the clip. Also use a tripod or be steady because image stabilization does not work in slowmo either.

      The Slow motion quality is also a little on the aliasing prone side which means information is taken away. It works but it will cost image quality not a real buy for it’s slow motion capability. The camcorders are do it all Swiss army knives of family videography so if you want something more professional and feature specific it will cost you.

      For slow motion on a budget it remains to be seen how the fps1000 cameras will perform once shipped. For the money it will be the best bang for your buck in quality real high frame rate slow motion.

      1. I’m trying to find out what features the WX970 has compared with X920. can you please list what the WX970 doesn’t have compared to the X920.
        Example X920 has:
        Histogram
        Face recognition
        AF Tracking
        Focus Peaking
        3 second Pre-record function
        luminance function and a few more I can remember
        I live in Australia Panasonic said it’ll be late March early April before they arrive here.
        Is it worth the wait or should I go out and buy the X920 any advice would be greatly appreciated
        Best Regards
        Phil
        PS hope to hear from you soon

        1. The X920 lacks 4k and also slow motion. It is a camera that has 3 sensors to get accurate color instead of 1 sensor in the WX970. If you need high frame-rates or 4k video you need the WX970. If you don’t need the selfie camera you can also get the VX870 when available as it is almost identical to the WX970 but without the dual camera selfie feature.

          We do not cover or recommend the X920 camera at HSC.

          1. Thanks for the info, what about the other features I mentioned,on the X920 does WX970 have the same features if not what’s missing if any that’s if you know thanks.

            Reading on the net the X950 is highly recommended thanks

            Phil

          2. The WX970 is the most advanced camcorder Panasonic has ever made. I suggest you wait for a manual to get all the feature comparisons you need from both cameras. We specialize here in Slow motion frame rates so you should compare features either with PDF manuals or by trying in the store. Both cameras are very good and the X920 is an excellent HD camera. However you are better off with a newer model if you can afford it. If not and you need a camera now the X920 is not a bad option for regular HD frame rates. Be advised that the low light quality is much worse than something like an FZ1000 or GH4.

          3. One last question in your opinion would get better low light with X920(3 senors) where the wx970 has (sensor) and can you fix the low light problem with a good led video light?

            Thanks Phil

          4. The 3 sensor array may perform better or worse than a single sensor because of differences in the circuitry and pixel size.

            For example the X920 has 3x 20.4 Megapixel 1/2.3″ MOS Sensors
            The WX970 has a 18.91 Megapixel 1/2.3″ MOS Sensor

            If going head to head on a single chip the WX970 should be better in low light just by sensor pixel count specs. The lower the pixels the larger they are for the same size which makes it better for light gathering.

            If you light a scene you will get better performance from any camera but a camera with a 1/2.3″ sensor will not be ideal for any low light work. No matter if you add a LED light. The sensor is just too small. see this sensor size chart and why a m43 or APS C camera is such a big deal. http://cdn.cameradebate.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/sensor-sizes-comparison.png

            For daylight and outdoors a 1/2.3 inch camera should perform well.

          5. Should make no difference but the 1080p downscaled image from 4k would average the noise creating a cleaner and more detailed image. In other words if you reduce the video from 4k to 1080p the quality of image including noise and color will improve considerably.

          6. Thanks for all the info, you have convinced me to wait a little longer. I’m not a professional photographer, however, I’d like a camcorder that will give good quality so I can take it on holidays and family/Xmas videos and our first grandson.
            I have a Panasonic NV-GS400 (I’ve had for about 10 years)and after seeing my daughters 1080P video clips she took while she was in Fiji with a little coolpix camera, I can’t bring myself to use mine any more as she calls the (The dinosaur) T-Rex.

            Thanks once again

            Cheers
            Phil

          7. We understand Phil, the GS400 was a great camera in it’s day and it is hard to part with great gear. We don’t expect a lot of more shake ups in the camcorder market this year. Most any mirror-less camera in the APS C or Micro 4/3s systems would deliver a great value for 1080p recordings. However 4k is the new thing and it will be for the next 10 years. We recommend you start on what you feel comfortable with. Be aware that most 4k cameras offer 1080p recording in order to ease the transition. It looks like a camcorder is what you are looking for. However the x920 is not a particularly good one.

        2. I downloaded the manuals for the WX870 – no mention of focus peaking in either the short or the 250page manuals. Disappointing as I depend on that feature.

          1. Peaking is most useful on manual focus cameras with specific rings to do it. You can pre focus and adjust to achieve desired focus on these cameras. This is after all a handycam not a mirror-less camera or SLR. Please share some of your footage in slow motion when you have time.

      2. When you say the X920 is an excellent HD camera and then you say the X920 is not a particularly good one.

        In what way?

        When the WX970 arrives here in Australia it’s going to be around the same price as the X920 so they say.

        Cheers

        Phil

        1. Not particularly good in low light or dynamic range which is based on its small sensor. What we meant was an excellent hd camcorder compared to options in the same price range. The wx970 will be about 1000 usd. Good day.

          1. With a great interest I was reading the dialogues between admin and Phil. I have to say thanks for both of you – now I’ve decided to buy my first in my life camera – and it will be Panasonic HC-VX870.
            Greetings.

          2. Glad we can be of help! We are here to try to make dialogue and discussions of slow motion cameras which is a topic rarely discussed on the net. Thank you for all your support, we really appreciate your kind words! Good luck with the new camera, maybe you can send us a few video samples when you can so we can rate the camera quality!

  2. First of all, thank you for maintaining this very interesting website.

    I own a V750 from the day that it entered the market and I am very happy with the video quality. The only drawback is that when I film in slow motion something that is near the camera the autofocus has a tendency to fix on something in the background. Even when the screen is covered about half with something near the camera, just the smallest gap and the focus is 4 meters away again. Very annoying and this needs attention while filming.
    Otherwise I think that for the price it is the best option for slow motion filming.

    The 4K on the new models is exciting but I will wait with the next purchase when cameras appear on the market that can do a 600 fps at decent quality. Higher framerates I dont really see the point with my interests.

    1. Thanks, we try to stay current and it is hard as this is a labor of love and hard to fit in the time with full jobs. Your support is appreciated.

      I agree, the v750 is a great camera. It remains to be seen how good these new Panasonics are and if they warrant any sort of upgrade for current owners like yourself. I think this is a 4k play, if you don’t need 4k at 20x optical zoom then you can keep waiting for something more. The camera should be capable of real time 240fps in full HD considering it’s 4k processing but they had some limitations in either hardware or marketing. Frame interpolation is not counted as real slow motion here at HSC.

      Stay tuned for the fps1000 developments, we may see samples soon of the most promising low cost HD slowmo cam ever.

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