Don't let the familiar form of the Panasonic HC-WXF991K fool you; it comes fully equipped with some very unique and interesting features.
Let's start with one of this camcorder's best feature: 4K, or to be precise, UHD 4K. Currently, there is just one other camera that shoots 4K, which is the Sony AX33. The Panasonic costs around $900, while the Sony costs more like $800.
There are just 2 main differences between the two models. The Sony AX33 has a 10x optical zoom, while the Panasonic HC-WXF991K comes with a 20x optical zoom. The Panasonic also comes with a second camera on its flip-out display that may be pointed towards the camera user, forward or to the side for a picture within a picture recording. There is just a single traditional lens on the Sony model. For professional videographers.
Panasonic 4k Camera Review
Break Downs And Thoughts
Built In Functions
Another noteworthy option is you can track, zoom, stabilize, and crop a 4K shot in HD directly from your camera. The Panasonic HC-WXF991K takes the 4K shot and allows you to zoom in on a section, choose the speed of zoom and then take a new clip all inside of the camera. This same thing may be done for a pseudo-dolly shot, tracking, or stabilization. You also shoot a 60 fps HD clip and slow down in camera to 24 fps to provide you with a slow-motion shot; it is nearly 3 times slow-mo. Those are very useful options if you are not wanting to use a computer to do your editing.
We are video professionals, so using a consumer camera is somewhat of a drag. However, that doesn't mean that it isn't a decent camera, just that we would like to have more manual control over it. With the Panasonic WXF991K, focus and exposure cannot be controlled manually. The capability for adjusting the gain is the camera's only exposure tool. Unwanted noise can be introduced into the picture by gain. Therefore, we wanted to test the sensitivity while shooting in darker conditions.
We conducted a low light test on it, where we tested all of the gain levels from 0 to +18 db. We discovered that all of the gain levels over +6db were too noisy. In order for an image to look its very best, there needs to be a sufficient amount of light so that it is not necessary to go over +6db. That is recommended if you are wanting to achieve professional results. If your camera will be used for capturing memories then it is okay if there is some noise, and it might be acceptable to increase it to +10db. If you simply want to capture the moment and get your event recorded, the other gain levels can work for you. +18db allows you to shot in very dark situations, but will also look very noisy.
Severe moire is another issue that we experienced. In a majority of the situations that we shot, this moire was distracting and very obvious. The moire was powerful enough to cause your eyes to work harder when tested on coarse fabric. There was one wide shot of a building, where all of the fine lines were dancing on the screen. It can a really problematic issue, depending on which device it is viewed on. The shot will still suffer even when it is provided with enough light.
Finally, we tested its rolling shutter. Fast tilt or pan movement is caused by a rolling shutter to make the straight lines appear like Jell-O or rubber. The Panasonic WXF-991K did not suffer from rolling shutter effect too much. Since it comes with a rolling shutter, it will likely suffer some. However, it could be a lot worse.
Extra Useful Functions!
The 20X Optical Zoom Is A Very Nice and Valuable Feature
It has a really long throw that goes from an effective 30 mm focal length up to 626 mm. This means that if you are really far away, then it isn't a big issue, except for the increased level of difficulty of holding a steady shot. That is a major competitive difference over the Sony AX33, that has just half of the performance with its 10x optical zoom. This means you will only reach something that is half as far away. When shooting a sporting event from the stands, using a 10x optical zoom may not be sufficient for the subject to fill in the frame
Our Shooting Experience
On the first day that we went out with this camera, it was windy. It was so windy, in fact, that when we mounted the camera onto the camera, it was almost blown over the wind. This camera is not heavy or robust; it is made out of plastic and is quite basic. Since it has a touchscreen for operating the focus, the lack of mass does make it very easy to bump when attempting to select the focus point. It was cloudy, so there was a very nice diffused light during the first part of our shooting day, and this camera performed beautifully. Even soft lighting made the pictures really shine if you are able to look beyond the moire.
Because it was very windy, it was the ideal time for using the built-in microphone for testing the wind reduction option. Without the reduction on, the audio was completely unusable due to the wind. However, when the reduction was turned on, you could hear the wind still going b the diaphragm on the microphone, how the problem was significantly reduced. It doesn't cure all windy situations, however, it does an adequate job.
We were shooting another time when there was abundant sunlight, no wind, and no clouds. That is when we noticed the dynamic range of the camera - or it's lack, that is. The sun at the time was high in the sky, which created prominent and dark shadows. In the shadows, the camera did not have a lot of information and there was some detail that was left within the highlights. Since it comes with auto exposure, just a light framing change, the camera would drastically change its exposure, depending on the number and size of dark places within the shot. We don't think that anybody considering buying this camera will be concerned about the amount of its dynamic range since it is a consumer camera. It is not a viable option if you need dynamic range.
Value in your Workspace
At this point, there is a fairly small market when it comes to 4K dedicated camcorders. The Sony AX33 and Panasonic WXF991K both are part of this space currently. Both of them have a similar MSRP, with Panasonic at around $900 and Sony at $800. Their specifications are similar except for the second camera and optical zoom.
We would say the twin camera is actually worth the additional cost. However, the optical zoom does make the Panasonic WXF991K more flexible. Is this one option really worth an extra $100? That depends on what your needs are. You need to decide whether a long zoom range is something that is important for you or not. If it is for you, then $150 isn't too much for twice the focal length. Its twin camera is at best a novelty and only fits a very small group of users. It isn't worth it to pay extra unless you have a use for it to begin with.
Who is the Panasonic WXF991K for?
There is a wide range of individuals who this camera may be good for. Beginner filmmakers who make simple stories from home with no or little crew wanting 4k production may be a good fit, a home video shooter would be also. Due to its options and design, it fits in well with vacation and family shooting. For YouTubers wanting to create but don't want to have to use manual controls, or the social media enthusiast needing something for creating topical daily content, then this camera's resolution and simplicity will be a good fit. The Panasonic WXF991 will be a good fit for the travel videographer who is in need of something small and quality but not the high value that professional cameras have but they still need high resolution. Finally, for educators, the cameral would also fit in well with the classroom, as a learning and teaching tool.
One group of people we highly recommend the Panasonic WXF991K for is parents who are wanting to purchase a camera for their young children. A child can shoot video and record themselves that will be a lot of fun and provide them with valuable memories for the future.
Is the Panasonic HC-WXF991K the best value for cameras costing around $800? Actually, no it is not. However, it may provide the best options within its category - high-resolution, but a simple-to-use camera. Outside of the camcorder market, there are numerous detachable lens cameras fit within this space as well but a lens has to be purchased. If your thing is plenty of manual control, then this isn't the camera for you. However, if you are searching for something basic that makes nice pictures then it will fit for many different types of users. It isn't the camera we recommend for excellent storytelling, but it may be decent for capturing the moment.
Features and Specifications:
Sensor – 1x 18.91 Megapixel 1/2.3" MOS Sensor
Backside Illumination – Yes
Focal Length – 4.08 – 81.6 mm, 35mm Equivalent Focal Length, 30.8 – 626 @ Aspect Ratio: 16:9 4K, 37 – 752 @ Aspect Ratio: 16:9 Full HD (Level Shot Function Off or Normal)
Maximum Aperture – f/ 1.8 – f/ 3.6
Zoom – Optical: 20x
Filter Size – 49 mm
Recording Media – SD/SDHC/SDXC Video Format – MP4
3840 x 2160p / 30 fps (72 Mbps)
3840 x 2160p / 24 fps (72 Mbps)
1920 x 1080p / 60 fps (50 Mbps)
1920 x 1080p / 60 fps (28 Mbps)
960 x 540p / 30 fps (28 Mbps)
Audio Format – AAC
Touchscreen – Yes
Screen Size – 3"
Pixel Count – 460,800
Viewfinder Screen Size – .24"
Pixel Count – 1,555,200
Shutter Speed – 1/24-1/8000 sec
Image Stabilization – Optical & Digital
Built-in Mic – Yes
Built-in Speaker – Yes
Built-in Light – Yes
Wi-Fi – Yes, 802.11b/g/n
Accessory Shoe – 1x Cold
Tripod Mount – 1/4" – 20
Outputs – 1x HDMI D (Micro), 1x A/V, 1x USB 2.0
Microphone Input – Yes
Headphone Jack – Yes
Charging Method – AC Adapter, USB
When diving in to which product is best for you, you find, 4K is shot by the Panasonic WXF991K and comes with a camera that you can use for filming yourself while you are shooting. Its in-camera tool allows for slow-mo shots and zooms after a shot is taken and creating dolly-like in-camera moves. The Panasonic WXF991 does suffer from significant moire. It is also more expensive compared to its competitors but does provide some unique value within its category.This camera has been made by Panasonic that can be used to shoot high-resolution, nice video creation with no or little knowledge of camera settings and controls. It simply may not be right for everyone.
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