I know that some users like to shy away from extremely light camcorders, as they tend to compound issues with shaky video, but I personally prefer lighter devices. So I was happy to discover that despite having a medium-sized footprint (measuring 2.165 x 2.717 x 4.705 inches), the V700M was surprisingly light in my hand; it felt as if I had forgotten to put the battery in or something. Without a battery or SD card in, the V700M only weighs 0.597 pounds.
And on that note, it’s worth pointing out that the camcorder has a balanced feel, too. Despite having a very light frame, the battery of the V700M doesn’t weigh down the back end where it’s mounted.
The arrangement of the buttons and ports is relatively standard fare. The right side of the device is mostly free of any controls, with the exception of a covered charging port, the hand strap, and a switch on the upper edge for switching between video, photo, and playback modes.
The top side features the zoom lever, a dedicated shutter button for the camera (which I always appreciate as it allows you to shoot images on the fly, even if you’re in video capture mode), a speaker, and the stereo microphone toward the front. The front of device, where the lens is located, has two different lights: one is a flash for still photos, and one is a sustained light for video.
As mentioned, the back of the V700M is where the battery is located, as well as the record/standby button. There is also a shoe adapter on the back, as well as an SD card slot located on the bottom (along with the tripod mount), but more on those later.
Finally, there is the flip-out, 3.0-inch LCD screen on the left side. Behind the display, users will find a number of ports, including the mini HDMI port, an AV Multi port, a mini USB port, and a microphone jack. There is also a shoe adapter release, a 60i/60p switch for video, a manual power switch, and the battery release lever, which I wish was accessible without having to open the display.
Ergonomics and Controls
While the V700M sports a mostly standard build with key controls in comfortable places, allowing you to easily shoot one-handed (assuming you’re not doing anything too complicated), there are a couple of design choices that defied logic.
Sure, the zoom controls are easily reachable on the top side of the device, and the record/standby button is comfortably located on the back end of the device where your thumb would be resting anyway. Even the shutter button can be reached on the fly, since it’s located right behind the zoom controls, and the iA/Manual switch and OIS switches are easily accessible on the upper left side of the device.
But then there are things like the SD card slot, which is inexplicably located on the bottom of the device. Typically, the practice is to put on somewhere on the side of the body where it’s more easily accessible (usually behind the flip-out LCD screen), but Panasonic chose to put it on the bottom of the camcorder behind a hinged door. Not only is this inconvenient, I imagine it’s a real pain to swap out cards in the even that you have the camcorder mounted on a tripod, where it’s much harder to see or reach the bottom of the device.
And Panasonic’s way of including an accessory shoe is just bizarre. Rather than just having the shoe somewhere on the top of the device — again, that’s the standard practice — it included a slot on the back end where you slide in a separate piece to mount a shoe. The piece is a long rail that comes in the box, and when you slide it in, it clicks into place and leaves you with the shoe sticking out of the back of the camera. The release lever for the shoe piece is located behind the LCD screen, adding to the inconvenience factor.
To top it all off, now that you have this ridiculous thing sticking out of the back of your camcorder, it’s only a cold shoe, too. Panasonic was remiss to not include a hot shoe on a camcorder that retails for $600.
The one other control design that I did not care for is far less egregious, mostly because I know some people don’t mind it. But the V700M turns on and off automatically when the LCD screen is flipped open and closed, which I could do without (however, I do enjoy the lens cover that automatically opens and closes during this process).
Thankfully, however, there is a manual power switch located behind the screen that, when pressed to turn the camcorder off, prevents it from turning on automatically the next time the screen is opened. It’s a matter of preference, but I would rather not have my camcorder constantly turning on and off whenever I just want to access something behind the screen, like the USB or HDMI port, or the release switch for the shoe rail.
As is typically the case with touchscreen camcorders, all of the menu options are accessed through the touchscreen. I’m not crazy about the way Panasonic sets up its controls, however: there are on-screen menus that you can scroll through that feature various options (touch zoom/record, touch focus, pre-record, video light on/off, fade on/off, etc.), but then there is also a menu button within that on-screen menu. Tap that button and you’re taken to a screen with four separate menus (recording setup, photo setup, media selection, and general camcorder setup/options like language, time, etc.).
Basically, it’s all very fragmented and spread out all over the place, and with the wealth of menu items and controls and features, users are bound to get a little lost with all the menu diving. I, for one, had a lot of trouble remembering which options were where: were they on the easily-accessible on-screen menu? If so, what page (with manual controls enabled, the on-screen menu has five pages you can scroll through)? If the option I was looking for was somewhere beyond the “Menu” button that was on the on-screen menu, then which of the four menus that I saw next did I need to go into? Even once within the recording setup menu, there are seven pages worth of options, so it’s easy to be overwhelmed.
That being said, some of the menu items include, but are not limited to:
- Scene modes: sports, portrait, soft skin, spotlight, snow, beach, sunset, scenery, fireworks, night scenery, low light, night portrait
- Video resolution: 1080/60p, 1080/60i, iFrame (960 x 540/30p)
- Video quality: maximum (HA), high (HG), normal (HX), longest time mode (HE)
- Photo resolution: 6.1 megapixels, 5.8 megapixels, 2.3 megapixels, 2.1 megapixels, 0.3 megapixels
- White balance: auto, sunny, cloudy, indoor mode 1, indoor mode 2, manual adjustment mode
- Aperture: auto, manual
- Shutter: auto, manual
- Face recognition: on/off
- Face framing: on/off
- AGS (pauses recording if camcorder is held in upside-down position): on/off
- Pre-record (begins recording of pictures/sound roughly 3 seconds before recording button is pressed): on/off
- Color night rec (low light shooting): on/off
- Focus: auto, manual, touch point
- Video light: on/off
- Optical Image Stabilization (OIS): on/off
- Fade: on/off
- Tele macro: on/off
- Wind noise canceler: on/off
- Digital zoom (up to 1500x): on/off
- Guide line: on (three options)/off
There are also the standard setting and playback options, like date and time, sound settings, battery management, HDMI and external display settings, language options, media selection, display options, Panasonic’s VIERA link, etc.
The V700M has a 3.0-inch LCD touchscreen display, which I think is enough room to operate touch controls comfortably. Like most flip-out displays, it can rotate 270 degrees and while it tends to show a little noise (especially when viewing photographs), it does have a respectable 460,000-dot resolution. All of the information showed on the screen disappears after a few seconds to reduce clutter, but can be summoned back by just tapping the display.
I also think it’s worth noting that the touch controls are usually very responsive and easy to use. I have had the misfortune of using camcorders with resistive touchscreen displays, which makes for an absolutely miserable experience, but that isn’t the case here. The V700M’s capacitive touch display registers taps well, with maybe the only exception being when trying to scroll through the quick menu left to right (which requires tapping very small arrows that are hard to hit precisely).