The more sophisticated sibling of Panasonic's VDR-D210 (both are DVD models), the Panasonic VDR-D310, produces better-quality video and still images.

The Panasonic VDR-D310 uses three CCDs (each assigned to detect red, blue, or green wavelengths), whereas the D210 uses a single CCD to record all three colours. Not surprisingly the Panasonic VDR-D310 earned one of the highest scores we've seen in a camcorder for colour accuracy on still images, although its overall score was a less impressive Good.

The Panasonic VDR-D310 can record photos at sizes ranging from 0.3Mp to 3.1Mp to an SD card.

The Panasonic VDR-D310 has a microphone jack, although its built-in mic isn't too bad. In our lab tests, the Panasonic VDR-D310 earned high marks for audio quality. Playback on the built-in monitor is fairly easy to control. The joystick on the back of the Panasonic VDR-D310's body falls under your right thumb; you use it to select the video you wish to play, and the controls appear on screen.

You can adjust the volume by moving the zoom lever on top of the Panasonic VDR-D310, and the built-in speaker is strong enough to be audible in fairly quiet areas. The Panasonic VDR-D310 has no headphone jack, which would have been useful in noisy environments, but you do get USB and AV-out jacks.

A delete button on the front of the Panasonic VDR-D310 is convenient for disposing of unwanted scenes and stills, and the remote control permits access to all basic functions, including still photos, zooming and file management.

To charge the battery, you must remove it from the Panasonic VDR-D310 and place it in the small charging bay; you can't just plug the Panasonic VDR-D310 into the wall.

You do plug in the Panasonic VDR-D310 camcorder to transfer video or stills to a PC, and when finalising a DVD disc (to make it readable in other devices). This makes sense - given that losing power would result in an unreadable disc - but requiring AC power for transferring files, especially stills from the SD card, seems like overkill; most digital cameras can transfer files on battery power alone.

The Panasonic VDR-D310 lacks full manual control, and there's no built-in assist light for recording in dimly lit settings. Also conspicuously absent from the Panasonic VDR-D310 are any optional wide-angle or telephoto adaptors. But there is a shoe for attaching the optional VW-DC10 video light, which requires a battery pack (also optional).

Panasonic VDR-D310: Specs

  • 1/6in CCD x 3 (800 k x 3p, Total / 630 k x 3 [4:3], 540 k x 3 [16:9] (Motion Picture) / 710 k x 3 [4:3], 540 k x 3 [16:9] (Still Picture) Effective)
  • F1.8 (WIDE) / F2.8 (TELE)
  • 8cm DVD disc recording
  • 10x zoom
  • 2.7in wide LCD (123 kp)
  • Stereo Zoom Mic, Wind Noise Reduction
  • SD / SDHC support
  • USB 2.0 connectivity
  • 66.7x91.1x142.7mm, 510g
  • 1/6in CCD x 3 (800 k x 3p, Total / 630 k x 3 [4:3], 540 k x 3 [16:9] (Motion Picture) / 710 k x 3 [4:3], 540 k x 3 [16:9] (Still Picture) Effective)
  • F1.8 (WIDE) / F2.8 (TELE)
  • 8cm DVD disc recording
  • 10x zoom
  • 2.7in wide LCD (123 kp)
  • Stereo Zoom Mic, Wind Noise Reduction
  • SD / SDHC support
  • USB 2.0 connectivity
  • 66.7x91.1x142.7mm, 510g

OUR VERDICT

If you can accept these limitations, the Panasonic VDR-D310 is likely to please, thanks to its excellent video quality. Besides offering the convenience of instant DVD burning, the USB port supports easy data transfer to a PC. See also: Panasonic PV-GS320 camcorder JVC Everio GZ-MG155 camcorder Sony DCR-DVD408 DVD Handycam camcorder Canon DC50 DVD camcorder

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