It's a surprise to see the very consumer-oriented DVD camcorder format – whose big selling point is supposed to be that you can take the disc and stick it in your DVD player to watch it – married to semi-pro three-CCD (charge-coupled devices) optics in Panasonic's VDR-D300.

The VDR-D300 is based around a trio of 800Kp (kilopixel) 1/6in CCDs, similar to the MiniDV-based NV-GS180. However, interpolation is used to bump up maximum still-image resolution to 2,048x1,512.

Video is recorded in Mpeg2 format, with stereo Dolby Digital sound. Unlike most DVD camcorders, the Panasonic is capable of recording to DVD-RAM, as well as DVD-R and DVD-RW.

Reassuringly, the VDR-D300 is not brimming with pointless digital effects. You get a useful soft skin mode and a simple colour fade, both readily accessible via the joystick control next to the Record button. You can use this to access the night view setting, plus a 0 Lux mode, where you reverse the LCD panel to face the subject and it then turns white to provide illumination.

There are no program auto-exposure modes to speak of, although manual controls are comprehensive. As well as shutter speeds up to 1/8,000th, you can vary the iris from f16 to f1.8 and add up to 12dB (decibels) of video gain. White-balance settings include the usual sunlight and tungsten presets, plus automatic and manual.

With a tripod-friendly top-loading disc system, this camcorder ticks all the checkboxes for the video enthusiast. All, that is, except for a manual focus ring. The joystick is used for this function.

As we've come to expect from Panasonic's three-CCD camcorders, image quality was impressive under most conditions. In full daylight, video was sharp, with extremely good colour fidelity. However, video noise became noticeable in really poor illumination.

Panasonic VDR-D300: Specs

  • 3x 800Kp CCDs
  • Mpeg2 recording to DVD-R, DVD-RW and DVD-RAM
  • f1.8
  • 10x optical zoom
  • 2,048x1,512 still resolution
  • USB-in/-out
  • A/V-out
  • S-video-out
  • accessory shoe
  • 3x 800Kp CCDs
  • Mpeg2 recording to DVD-R, DVD-RW and DVD-RAM
  • f1.8
  • 10x optical zoom
  • 2,048x1,512 still resolution
  • USB-in/-out
  • A/V-out
  • S-video-out
  • accessory shoe

OUR VERDICT

With the VDR-D300, Panasonic has successfully combined the manual features and image quality of a three-CCD camcorder with the convenience of DVD. You're paying a slight premium for the recording format, but in return you get the best combination of image quality and manual controls we've seen in a DVD camcorder.

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