I love electronics sales. I try to get the best value for my dollar and will spend hours searching both the web and town looking for the best value and the best product for what I am looking for. I do research on the web when I am looking for something and then look around town seeing what is on sale and what is available at the major stores in my area.
And I always research what I buy. This time it’s the Panasonic PV-GS9 digital video camcorder. Walmart was having a clearance sale on the model along with a couple of others from the other major camcorder manufacturers and I did my usual research.
I found out that the Panasonic model had about the same features but a couple of the things that stood out to me were not small things to me. The camera is pretty much point and shoot. There are manual modes for things like zoom, focus, shutter speed and exposure but for the most part I was interested in the automatic features. I would get to the manual stuff later on.
The camera works great with it’s quick start feature. You literally press this button and the sensors check light levels and sets things on the camera like auto focus and auto exposure and you are ready to shoot. Just press the record button and away you go.
I liked the idea of not having to figure out all kinds of settings and modes to get filming. Another feature I like are some add on things. You can get an additional battery that is larger than the one that comes with the camera. There are several sizes that you can purchase separately if you need the additional battery life.
The one that comes with the camera, according to Panasonic will last about seven hours give or take. Personally I have not run the camera long enough to drain the battery. When I use it out taking video, I come home and any playing around copying video to my computer I do with the battery charger hooked to the camera so I don’t unnecessarily drain the battery.
The more you use batteries the less life they have. So on things like my laptop and camcorder I use the battery only when I need to. That is another feature I like. When you want to run the camera on external power instead of the battery you take the battery off and plug in the charger with the supplied cord. You cannot charge the battery at the same time though. This is a trade off for the lower cost of the charger. It doesn’t do both, power to the camera and charge at the same time.
One of the important features of any camcorder is the zoom. On this one it is a 20x optical and 800x digital. Which means that the lens itself with zoom in 20 times and the cameras electronics will zoom in 800 times for you. That is pretty good for the price.
It works out well when you are trying to catch images like your kid on stage when you got stuck in row fifty of the auditorium.
The LCD screen is nice to use and is a good size. The buttons are kind of small for the manual features and video playback but that is to be expected in a small camcorder. The screen opens out from the body to about 100 degrees and swivels both upward and down. You can hold the camera over your head and look up with the screen flat facing down or facing the front as you are looking at the lens and the screen at the same time.
The playback controls are almost exactly like the ones on a remote control or VCR. There’re just a little small for larger fingers like mine, but I can get it to work just fine.
I have used some of the manual settings and they all work to the camcorders operating instructions. You can manually focus to get the shot you want and not the tree next to it and do things like change the exposure for some odd looking shots or things like the train racing by behind the house.
There are things that you can change and have fun with while recording. Fade is a neat feature, it makes the picture and sound fade to black video and no sound when you press it.
The camera has a magic pix feature that works well. It records things in a darker background so that it is lighter. This is handy for recording in semi-dark that you want to capture. The book shows a cow in a field but things like around the camp at dusk to catch the kids playing would be a good use.
There is a soft skin feature that kind of works like a filter to tone down skin colors. The white noise feature works well, getting rid of things like surrounding noses that the mic is not pointed near, wind, yelling and such off in the distance.
The camera includes some editing functions and things like titles but these are some things that I will not be using. I have a better program with these things on it and it is easier to use on my computer than the camera.
The camera has a lot of menus and such to go through when you want to change settings and do things like change the date and time. All of it is spelled out in the instruction pamphlet and is pretty easy to use.
My camera does not include a card, you have to use the tape to record images but this is a feature that I did not necessarily want with my camcorder. I have a very good camera and use that for stills. I use Pinnacle Studio 8 video editing for my editing right now. It is a versatile and very easy to use editing program that came with my ATI All-In-Wonder video card.
I used this program to capture the picture that accompanies this article. It is not altered any and is a standard size from the camera. It is not a great quality and like I said, I will use my digital camera for stills. And yes that is my sons silly dog sitting in a flower pot in our yard.
The camera does not include much in the way of accessories, a camera strap and the hand strap, an AV cord to go from the front of the camera to your computer or VCR and the power pack with it’s cord. You will need to buy the tapes to record onto and any other cables like USB or fire wire.
I use the fire wire for quick recording to my computer through my ATI video card. The video card I bought separately came with the program I use to edit and record movies. The camera does not come with any program for video editing.
You can however plug the camera right into a VCR or TV and play and record that way. I have tried it out and it works fine playing on your TV. I recorded some things while at my mother in laws and showed her the playback on the TV.
Using the camera as a VCR is a handy feature. And you can play to a VCR or DVD media using the AV cord. I do not use the available USB connector on mine, the fire wire is a little better quality. I edit and such all on my computer.
There are several good quality programs for sale that you can find out about at CNET.com. Some have trial versions that you can play with to see if you want to purchase the retail version.
The camera also has the usual screw hole in the bottom to connect it to a tripod and the hand strap is comfortable to use with the camera. The buttons are in strategic places when you are holding the camera and have the hand strap over the back of your hand.
You use your thumb to turn on and off the camera, press the record button and hit the quick start button. The button for switching from camera to playback mode is a little above what my thumb can reach so I just use my left hand to switch this. You use your pointer finger to use the zoom. It is a handy slide switch and adjusts nicely.
The tape, a mini DV, goes into the side that you hold in the palm of your hand by the press of a button on the top of the door. You push the button and move the door open. The tape will slide up with a small motor in a few seconds. To insert the tape you just slide it in with the door down and the reel holes toward the body of the camera and push where it says to. The motor will move the tape down and then you push on the door to close it.
I purchased my camera for many uses, quick recording of things like my family on vacations, recording things like school events and my kids performing at their activities and to help them record and watch themselves practice at magic. I wanted an easy to use and simple camera for less than five hundred dollars.
I did get what I wanted in the Panasonic PV-GS9. It is an easy to use camcorder with a few extra features. I am happy with it and have been using it for what I wanted. It compares better I feel than the other cameras in it’s price range and I think it is a good camera.