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Panasonic HX-WA2

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Panasonic HX-WA2 - Camcorder - High Definition - 14.4 Mpix - 5 x optical zoom - flash card - orange

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      05.02.2014 20:29
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      Top quality waterproof upright handheld video camera

      Doesn't tech move on quickly? A couple of years ago, I was going on about this funky new waterproof HD camcorder we'd acquired at work, and how it was state of the art, immense zoom and could withstand a whole load of barrage and abuse. Fast forward and last Summer, this was damaged and the waterproof feature was compromised. Purchasing a replacement, the standard camcorder format seemed to be less popular, instead most newer designs seemed to be the upright handheld 'action' style that this emulates.

      Having purchased this as a replacement, it was down to use. There are a number of impressive features on this. First of is the recording capability, which ultimately is what camcorders are needed for. It couldn't be easier, and on opening up and getting ready to pop the battery in, I found my first brownie point being handed out. The waterproof design is very clever - a couple of flick switches on the rear spine of the device means that the back panel comes open very easily, and within it are contained the battery, SD card and slot for attaching the cable. The battery pops in very neatly and the back panel is closed with even more ease. I was slightly disconcerted that seemed somewhat TOO easy and that the waterproof element couldn't possibly function under such a gentle procedure for making it watertight. We will see...

      Using it as a camcorder once charged (which didn't take long at all from cold) was very easy. The viewfinder flips out and rotates almost 360 degrees. It means you can film from an awkward angle but still see what you're doing. Holding it like I imagine you'd hold a pistol grip gun, your thumb naturally finds its way to the controls on the back, while the rest of your digits and your palm could comfortably support the device. It's easy to reach most of the controls - there are two main elements to this: the record/photo/zoom collection, and the menu control wheel.

      The record collection features a rec button on the right and the camera button on the left, meaning you can actually take a photo while in record mode. Indeed, this is the only way, there is no separate photo mode, it seems this only lies with standard digital cameras nowadays anyway, so this came as no surprise. In the middle of these two buttons, which are shaped rather unergonomically if I'm honest, are two more buttons, one on top of the other, and these allow for zooming in and out. The only thing with these is that in order to be able to zoom at fluctuating pace, the buttons aren't buttons but more pads with sensors underneath and so it feels as if you're not pressing anything, relying solely on the viewfinder to know whether or not you've pressed it. I've been caught out a couple of times with, not sure I like the zoom buttons or the weirdly hexagonal rec and photo buttons. They collectively add an element of uncertainty as to whether you've pressed them or not.

      Transferring your material afterwards is a doddle. Releasing the back panel again and slotting in the lead is so easy, and the other end of the lead is a USB which fits in the back of the plug socket, leaving no need for two separate cables depending on whether you're looking for charging or transferring. Incidentally, if you plug in to the PC, you can use this to charge your device, although is substantially slower than using the socket directly into the wall. Back to transferring though - once the device is connected you get options on the screen, and from choosing the SD card mode of transfer, you can then use the PC to transfer content as per any other attachable digital device. No unnecessary changes there, luckily.

      It being a modern gadget, there are a number of different options for transferring the content. Depending on which recording mode you have chosen, the recording can then be played on PC, TV, phone, even sent wirelessly to a destination of your choice. There's no confusion either, as when you choose from the smattering of recording modes, it visually shows you what compatibility you'll end up with as you toggle between the various different modes.

      The choices between some of the finer recording options aren't as clear, but here we descend into the realms of professional video photography. There are particular options for the scenario and atmosphere you have around you, and while most of us would easily be content with wowing at the zoom and fine clarity with which the potential 1920x1080 video quality and 16mp photo quality presents itself, the professional looking for something different would know in more detail what they'd need and therefore require less spoon feeding. Suffice to say that if you know your way around a digicam, then everything's clear enough.

      It fits well in the hand and is small enough to contain in a small bag. The reduction in size especially in terms of width from what I've used before means I could even potentially cart it around in my trouser pocket, although it's perhaps still a bit too bulky for this to result in much comfort. The buttons may not be the most ergonomic and your fingers may not have the ease and confidence with this for the first few goes, but the comfort in your hand and the design of the contours is very good indeed.

      The waterproof feature is perhaps the more impressive element. You can go up to 3m of depth, which is significant in terms of pressure. Imagine how you've felt trying to go to the bottom of a 2m swimming pool, the pressure in your head from that, and then add a bit more. That's quite impressive for something that's relatively affordable and seems to have a worryingly easy seal function on the back. But it works and the quality is not compromised in the slightest. If there are droplets on the screen then of course these will get filmed too, but that kind of adds to the magic of underwater filming, and sinking under and then emerging whilst filming. Another warning is that extreme water conditions such as salt water and surf are not the ideal conditions and it even suggests that damage from these isn't covered. So swimming pools on holiday are in, extreme Portugese 50 foot waves are out.

      I like the host of extras on it, such as the time lapse feature and the slow mo recording options. They add some extra fun that you can have with experimenting and you can learn a lot of skills by having a play. The burst mode for taking photos is also good and of particular note. The YouTube compatible software goes a step towards intelligent uploading, cutting out the stage between by letting you put it straight on your channel, and the image stabiliser also means you can wave goodbye to blurry filming. The battery lasts for a good couple of hours, which is generally the amount of space you'd have for the footage too if you use a 16gb SD card.

      This one has a big brother with an even more impressive spec of 10m of depth and is also shockproof up to 1.5m, but it would be rare you'd need something up to that depth so this is really good. Relatively well priced and of ergonomic design and top quality, I'd certainly recommend getting this. I'm keen to check the higher spec out, but I'd struggle to find myself in a position where I'd need to do so. So this is fine...for the moment.

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    • Product Details

      Hit the great outdoors and document your adventures with this waterproof, vertical camcorder. Simple controls and a rotating screen make it easy to shoot video and stills with just one hand; while a host of advanced editing features lets you make the most of your footage.

      Technical Data

      Product Description: Panasonic HX-WA2 - camcorder - flash card
      Product Type: Camcorder - 1080p - widescreen
      Media Type: Flash card
      Memory Card Slot: SD card
      Sensor Resolution: 14.4 Mpix
      Effective Sensor Resolution: Video: 14.3 Mpix - Photo: 14.3 Mpix
      Lens System: 5 x zoom lens - 6.8 - 34 mm - f/3.5-3.7
      Focus Adjustment: Automatic, manual
      Digital Zoom: 120 x
      Image Stabiliser: Electronic (Active E.I.S.)
      Camera Flash: Built-in flash
      Display: LCD display - 2.6"
      Supported Battery: 1 x Li-ion rechargeable battery ( included )
      AV Interfaces: Composite video/audio, HDMI
      Colour: Orange
      Dimensions (WxDxH): 4.4 cm x 9.4 cm x 12.6 cm
      Weight: 238 g
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