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Product: Panasonic’s PV-GS34
Relevance: The Panasonic PV-GS34 is a medium end consumer camcorder with a surprising number of upscale features.
Review: Panasonic’s PV-GS34 is an only slightly less capable digital camcorder than its more capable sibling, the PV-GS35.
There are two main differences between these closely rated models. On Panasonic’s PV-GS34, the camera is limited to 28x optical zoom and 1000x digital zoom. The PV-GS35, on the other hand, maxes out at a slightly more powerful 30x optical and 1000x digital zoom. The second important difference is that the PV-GS34 does not come with Panasonic’s LSSQ0992, a powerful handheld remote control unit that is included with its more upscale sibling.
These two features aside, the cameras are virtually identical in both form and function and sport the same software enhanced video recording, light adjustment and other features.
If given our druthers, we would prefer spending a little extra to get the PV-GS35 for the remote control unit, but we know the PV-GS34 is capable of using the remote as an optional after thought. The two other cameras in this product family, namely the PV-GS19 and the PV-GS31, are not remote-capable.
The significance of the remote control capabilities can come in during semi-clandestine photography or long range photography. Given a little amount of shake or shimmy on a long shot can result in physically moving the camera lens such that it is no longer pointing at your objective, we highly recommend opting for the remote. If you don’t think you have a need for the remote at this stage, we would recommend the PV-GS34 as this lets owners upgrade seamlessly.
Both the PV-GS34 and PV-GS35 fit well in the hand and have been engineered to be tripod functional. By tripod functional we mean that most or all of the camera’s features can be operated whilst the camera sits atop the tripod. Surprising though it may seem, we still see digicams being sold that require the removal of the camera from the tripod to change the tape or charge the battery. Obviously in real life shooting conditions, either of these problems might create significant problems in getting the footage you need.
Although the scene modes do an impressive job at using the available light to the best of their advantage, we found that often leaving the camera on Auto seemed to produce the best shots. We also found that the software involved in some of the scene modes tended to pixelate some of our videos when shot at extreme distance.
Consumers, of course, look at specifications such as “1000x digital zoom” and assume they can actually shoot something legible at 1000 times magnification. Professional photographers and videographers, however, know that 1000x digital zoom produces nothing but grainy pixilated images.
We found in our real life test that camera pixelation often maxed out around 60 or 70 times after which images became totally unusable. Even these magnifications are optimistic unless the best shooting conditions are present.
This is not to say that the scene modes or other digital enhancements are not worth it: they are. It’s just that aspiring videographers might be disappointed that this class of camera can’t produce broadcast quality at extreme distance.
Overall: We liked both the PV-GS34 and PV-GS35 very much as their hand feel, weight, menu interface and other important ergonomic factors are quite impressive for this level of camera. The camera could certainly be used as a back-up for off-duty work and in the proper light and other conditions for more high end work, assuming your broadcast expectations are relatively low. Recommended.
End of Review
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