Having grown up with hydrophobic electronics, there’s always a perverse pleasure that comes with dunking £200-worth of unreleased equipment in a vat of water. Thanks to the waterproof and shockproof Panasonic HX-WA10 camcorder, that joy is now linked to the excitement of full HD recording in a cool, fun form.
Panasonic invited us to try the new HX-WA10 (alongside its little brother, the HM-TA20) at the Go Ape adventure activity centre where we agreed to give it hell. Rain? It was fine (it can be submerged down to 3 metres). Mud? No problem. Dropping it? No impact (although we’re told the safe limit for drops is 1.5 metres – keep that in mind!).
Of course, a rock can also do all of these things. The real question with the camcorder is: how does it record?
The shadowy realms of the Go Ape jungle were an ideal setting to test the camera’s ability. And even in the difficult recording environment – one that swaps quickly from bright sunshine to dark, under-the-canopy close-ups – the HX-WA10 performed admirably. The good low-light performance comes thanks to a backside-illuminated sensor – a technology you’ll recognise from the iPhone 4.
Auto-exposure adjustment was rapid, while video noise was minimal in the dark areas. Even flying down a zip-wire, the focus kept up with our frantic camera-wielding. With a 16 megapixel sensor (that can record at 1080p), we noticed no artefacting or motion blur in typical fast-moving situations – even at 60fps. The full range of recording options are 1080/60i, 1080/30p, 720/60p, 720/30p, 540/30p and 480/30p.
Much has been made of Panasonic’s Advanced Zoom, which claims to record at 12x with no drop in image quality. We were dubious before we saw it – and are still unconvinced. We’ll admit that it’s undoubtedly much better than traditional digital zoom (which we wish would die), but it’s not quite at optical zoom standards (5x on the WA10). It’s actually usable, though – something digital zooms have never achieved.
We come to this camera from the old Sanyo Xacti VPC-CG10 pistol-grip, with its 720p recording. The Panasonic bests the two-year old Sanyo in every department – except controls. The Xacti has a thumbstick exactly where your thumb rests on the back of the camera, for super-quick menu navigation and menu options.
The Panasonic has this horrible little d-pad on the side of the camera that makes it difficult to fiddle-and-video at the same time. It’s a real shocker – but not a deal-breaker. As this is our biggest complaint about the camcorder, you can probably understand the quality of the rest of the device.
As we said in the video (look at one minute in – that’s us!), it’s great for families. It’s tough – it can cope with the beach, the sea – even the drops and scrapes of letting the kids play with it. And it manages all this while providing excellent video quality. Recommended!