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They've given up on the consumer level (but maybe not: see Final Edit)
on July 25, 2013
Actually, its kinda sad that Panasonic and some of the others have seemingly given up on consumer camcorders. I think they've incorrectly ceded the territory to smartphones. Five years ago I purchased a Panasonic SD9 and at that time it was a tremendous consumer level camcorder. 3mos, Leica lens, screw lens for filters (don't use) and lens hood (do use) and very nice build. I paid around $430. Unfortunately, it broke and although I don't shoot so much anymore, I felt naked without a camcorder. So I purchased this model and I was disappointed with the fit and finish, and the cheapness of the components. Also the small sensor and the low number of pixels is troubling. People shouldn't be fooled by extremely long (30-50x) zooms. Most people will never need anything that long and even with the better image stabilization, the video will look like junk. One clue to a small sensor is the high zoom. Usually high zoom equals small sensor. I'd love to get something from Panny around $600 with 3mos, Leica lens with screw ring, 60fps progressive, large sensor and pixels (12x zoom is more than enough) and the modern image stabilization. Now THAT would be a winner.
P.S. fearing the V500 would be lowly, I bought a manufacturer refurbished one for $200 (which it is well worth). But I would be very upset if I had paid full boat for a new one. This one will be my stop-gap camcorder until I find a really good one around $600.
Edit 8/8/2013. I see more evidence that Panny has given up on consumer camcorder market. Just got an email from Panasonic about their LUMIX ZS30 still camera with video ability. It is incredible and at only $370 it just blows away their comparable camcorders. I wish I had seen it before buying this V500K. The sensor size is almost 3x the V500k, it shoots 60fps 1080p and the pixel count is much higher and it has a Leica lens (and keeps the great stabilization of the camcorders!). All of this as a bonus in a still camera from the same company. Wow. The only drawback I can see is the LCD doesn't swivel so it may be a problem in shooting video.
Edit 11/22/13: I just shot about an hour long video of the Philly Marathon. It was a fun shoot with a river of runners going by my apt house on 6th street. However the video is adequate at best. I shot at 60fps progressive at the highest bit rate but it the image quality just isn't very high. As I said, I bought a refurbished model for $200 and at that price it is a steal; well worth it. But eventually I'm going to find a reasonably priced camcorder with excellent image quality. Then my Pany 500 with be my backup/emergency camcorder.
Final Edit 12/22/13: I may have to change my opinion about Panny giving up on consumer camcorders. The 720V looks like a really good camcorder and is getting excellent reviews. I've narrowed my camcorder list to these 2: Panny 720v and the Sony CX430v. I'm leaning towards the Sony because of their revolutionary Image Stabilization. I've found that in practice, I have to delete about a third of my clips because of unsteady shots (and I take a lot of care).