Panasonic AG-DVC15

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Panasonic AG-DVC15
Following in the footsteps of sister company JVC, Panasonic's broadcast division is making a play for the ever-growing number of DV video makers wanting professionally-featured, shoulder-mounted DV camcorders. Its entry-level machine, the DVC15, caused some genuine interest when it was first seen at Digital Media World in November, but closer inspection left us a little bemused about its advantages over a domestic three-CCD machine.
While a good many three-CCD camcorders are available at much lower prices, a common complaint from freelance professionals is that clients expect video photographers to turn up with large, impressive beasts, rather than small hand-held 'toys'. It's a sad situation, but for many, first impressions are made according to the size of the camcorder.
But, a camcorder that looks impressive won't necessarily produce impressive results. For a start, any camcorder is only ever as good as its operator. Also, a professional machine must make picture and sound quality of paramount importance, and provide the high level of control we'd expect of it. If Panasonic Broadcast can deliver all this with the DVC15, at a price point just over £3,000, then it stands to make an absolute killing.
We're left very bemused by this offering from Panasonic Broadcast. For a start, its lens and manual controls are not of the level we'd expect from a company specialising in professional tools for broadcast. And the choice of an electronic image stabiliser over an optical one is just plain wrong for this machine. So far, Panasonic Broadcast has succeeded in establishing an excellent reputation for quality products, and we're sad to say that this entry-level camcorder does that reputation little justice. Aside from the addition of balanced XLR mic inputs, the DVC15 is little more than an overgrown consumer camcorder. We expected more from Panasonic Broadcast, and much more for the price. Panasonic's consumer division seems to have done its homework more thoroughly, having blessed its latest three-CCD model, the MX300, with an optical image stabiliser and analogue-video input. Sadly, that machine is a bottom-loading model, so we can't fully recommend it either.
If looks truly are everything, then the DVC15 may prove to be quite a good buy. If, however, you need a shoulder-mounted DV camcorder that gives good results, a better choice may be Sony's VX9000, which adds an optical image stabiliser and support for full-size DV cassettes. The VX9000 is permanently nEUtered, but the price difference between it and the Panasonic cam is roughly the same as a Sony DV Walkman deck. If XLR inputs are the swaying feature, we strongly suggest test-driving the Sony PD150 before making a decision. And if you really want a professional MiniDV camcorder, then consider the JVC professional range, or ask Panasonic about its more costly DVC200 model. As it is, the DVC15 is sitting in an uncomfortable middle ground. It may not look like a toy, but it's not a professional's machine either.

More in the June 2001 issue of Computer Video Magazine

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Reviewed in June's issue:
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ATI All-In-Wonder Radeon
Sony DSR-11
Panasonic AG-DVC15

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