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.