Panasonic PV-GS320 camcorder

The PV-GS320 represents Panasonic’s top of the MiniDV line. It uses three CCD (charge-coupled device) sensors to capture video; most use just one. It’s the only 3-CCD camcorder the company offers in the MiniDV format, and though it’s reasonably priced, its only competition in terms of video performance in our recent camcorder testing came from a high definition model that costs twice as much.

Design and usability

The PV-GS320 replaces the 2006 Macworld Eddy award-winning PV-GS500 (   ), and it looks like a slightly slimmed-down version of that model. It fit nicely in my palm, and both its zoom control and its menu dial with joystick button were right at my fingertips. Carried over from the design of the PV-GS500 is one of my personal pet peeves: The SD Card slot for saving still photos is on the bottom of the unit. If you’re using a tripod, as we do in our testing, you must unscrew and remove the tripod shoe whenever you want to remove or insert a card. Another questionable design decision puts the FireWire and USB ports for transferring video to your Mac under the battery. You must remove the battery and plug your AC cables into the wall in order to transfer video.

The PV-GS320 is also missing a headphone jack and external microphone input—this can be a deal breaker for serious video jockeys. The camcorder has an accessory shoe for self-powered lights and other accessories.

The camcorder’s menus were easy to navigate via the controls. However, they take up the whole 2.7-inch LCD screen, which makes it hard to preview changes to your settings without backing out of all of the menus.

Performance

The benefits of this design were quickly apparent in our testing, as our assembled panel of editors gave the video quality a Superior rating, both in low light and in normal shooting conditions.

Our panel gave the camcorder’s 3.1-megapixel still shots a rating of Very Good and scored its highest marks for color accuracy. The only performance detail that did not rate well was battery life. With just 81 minutes of video captured on a full charge, the camcorder earned a rating of Fair.

performance

Still-image quality Very Good
Video quality Superior
Battery life Fair

Scale: Superior, Very Good, Good, Fair, Poor

How we tested: The image-quality rating of the camera is based upon a panel of judges’ opinions in five categories: exposure, color, sharpness, distortion, and overall. Battery-life testers follow a precise script, including shots with and without flash, until the battery dies.—Tested in conjunction with the PC World Test Center

specifications

LCD size (in inches) 2.7
Optical zoom 12x
Still-image resolution 3.1 megapixel
Size (width x height x depth) 3.3 x 3.0 x 5.8
Weight (in ounces) 15.8

Macworld’s buying advice

Compared with other 3-CCD MiniDV camcorders—including the model it replaces—the Panasonic PV-GS320 is a bargain. Despite some design quirks, the video performance and high-quality video and still shots make this camcorder a good choice for people who want great-looking video without paying high definition prices.

[ James Galbraith is Macworld ’s lab director. ]

Panasonic PV-GS320

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