12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on June 2, 2014
Color Name: WhiteVerified Purchase
I bought this camcorder on a last minute decision before going on my pacific island vacation and I love it! From out of the box, I immediately started playing with the camcorder since I already have the same batteries on my other camera.
Let me give some background info: I have several DSLR, SLR cameras (35mm), and a few point and shoot. Photography has been my hobby for the past 33 years. This is not my first underwater capable camera/camcorder.
1. The videos in all the setting are incredible, including the underwater video.
2. The picture resolution taken while the video is running may only be 3MP but its clear, sharp, and the color is fantastic.
3. The pictures are fantastic in all the setting (including IA and creative)
4. The controls and menu are so easy, I was surprise how user friendly they are. I even tried the controls underwater in a pool without goggles to see if I can do it. No problem on the controls but the screen is hard to read.
5. No problem aiming my shot at all, the swiveling screen keeps me on target all the time.
6. The indicated depth is great but I found out that this camera can go deeper, I will not do it again but it's good to know just in case you forget and go deeper while snorkeling.
1. The battery life is only 45 to 55 minutes depending on how you used the camcorder. (Get extra batteries and high capacity)
2. The screen should have a brighter mode in underwater setting, its a little dark. Above water in normal used the screen is just fine.
3. Get a floatation strap.
4. The charging time for the battery is too long in the camcorder (2 to 3 hours depends on the battery) get a fast charger.
5. No lens cover
1. Follow the cleaning procedure and underwater used to the letter.
2. I bought two high capacity batteries that allowed me to take longer videos. It can used generic batteries.
3. Buy memory cards for HD/1080p (important: make sure that it's a class 10, with a READ speed of 50mbs and a WRITE speed of 40mbs or higher to take full advantage of the 1080p. The card will be more expensive but worth the pictures and video results.
I love this camcorder, it did not disappoint. I love all the videos and pictures I took. I will try to post the video in You Tube. I will use the camcorder brand and model as the title.
I love this camcorder.
Bump by a stranger while taking a picture of my Niece and drop the camcorder on cement
Found the camcorder inside a cooler full of cold water, ice, soda, and beer after a party
My Niece decided to bury the camcorder in the sand, the same Niece put the camcorder in a water bowl to clean the sand and place it inside the fridge, it was inside the fridge for few days before I found it looking for food
It is still working like new!
14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on March 21, 2014
Color Name: WhiteVerified Purchase
See the update at the end.
First off - I see this on Amazon for WILDLY different prices. At $250 it is a dog; at $150, well, that's what this review is about.
I cannot help but compare it to the (now replaced, but apparently not significantly improved) Sony GW77, which took unbelievable videos comparable to a $10,000 professional movie camera but suffered from poor low-light stills and the unfortunate Sony marketing gimmick of claiming its still camera capability was larger (many, many times larger) than what it really is. I had a number of issues with the Sony, but the reason it went back was it had an actual bug that caused it to die in the middle of use. If not for that, I would have kept it because its performance was better in every way than the Panasonic WA03. It was also a good deal smaller.
But it was also FOUR TO FIVE TIMES the price!
The WA03 is certainly a good looking camera, and its pistol grip is very comfortable (much more so than the Sony, which while much smaller had to be held somewhat awkwardly, perhaps like you would hold a candle in front of you). I love that it is NOT a touchscreen, which is a major disadvantage of the Sony - in bright sunlight, or underwater, you can see these screens barely if at all, so having old-fashioned manual controls is the way to go. You can also assign four functions to external buttons, but bizarrely the camera's software restricts you as to what button can be assigned to what function (for me, being able to quickly switch to panorama and underwater modes would have been helpful on vacation). Speaking of which, it is very problematic in panorama mode - three out of four attempts failed with an error, and for God knows why, horizontal panoramas are only 720 pixels high. Unusually, the camera can also do vertical panoramas and they're 1080 pixels wide, so here's an undocumented trick I learned: tip the camera over into portrait and shoot a "vertical" panorama, then use Paintshop or Photoshop to rotate it 90 degrees. Now you have a "horizontal" panorama that's a more typical 1080 pixels high. Unlike the Sony, the Panasonic was in fact able to shoot panoramas underwater (the Sony simply refused to even try) but they don't really work out very nicely. Also unlike the Sony, the Panasonic's flash works underwater but I quickly discovered that using a flash underwater is like turning on your high beams in the fog.
The Sony shot fantastic video in any light, and very good (albeit small by modern standards, their marketing B.S. notwithstanding) stills in bright light, only stills in low light suffered and the Sony solved that with an excellent little flash. The Panasonic is terrible at both video and stills in low light, and does not have a shutter or aperture (according to the owner's manual, which covers both Panasonic models, its more expensive sister the WA30 apparently does) so "low light" and "candlelight" settings are simply boosting the gain - and therefore, the graininess. Stills in bright light are good but with definitely odd colors. Unlike the Sony, flash brightness is not settable, and it is very powerful - often too much so. Flash needs at least ten feet and it does not set its white balance for the flash, so colors come out even odder. Again, I figured out an undocumented workaround: lower the ISO setting when taking flash pictures. A lower ISO gives a final result similar to having reduced the flash intensity (except, of course, your subjects will still be blinded).
The tripod socket was a pleasant surprise (the Sony lacks one) and combined with an octopus mini-tripod and the fully reversible LCD displaying a countdown timer, very useful for self-portraits.
You've read reviews with scary statements about rinsing with running water and immersing in clean water and blow-drying in the middle of a desert wearing surgical garb before opening the battery compartment. Don't worry, Panasonic is just being a bit paranoid. Run it under fresh water for a few seconds with the LCD open, shake it off, and you're fine. Which is a good thing, because you WILL buy a second battery (shop around on Amazon and you'll find a knockoff for a fraction of the price, you want a generic VBX090, not an "HX-WA2" which is just Panasonic's internal and more expensive designation for the exact same battery - hey, I just saved you $30 or $40 right there) because you will be lucky if you get 20 minutes of actual recording out of a charge, and if you have the quick turn-on feature active - a must when using underwater, where the camera is always on in a low-power mode and wakes up instantly when you open the LCD - it's more like 45 minutes, period, even if you're not recording. (Even in low-power mode, the camera still wakes up when you open the LCD, certainly a nice feature; but it takes a couple of seconds and by then that big sea turtle has already swam away.)
As others have mentioned, the autofocus sometimes gets confused. This can be EXTREMELY frustrating underwater, because you have to turn the camera completely off and back on to reset it. The one saving grace is that you can, with the brightness turned all the way up, at least sort of see the LCD underwater (the Sony was invisible underwater) so you can generally tell that the focus has locked up.
One other exceeding frustrating thing, which I didn't realize until my vacation in Hawaii was almost over, is that when you close the LCD (which you will do all the time, you can't put this in you pocket or for that matter swim around with it open) it resets the zoom to [very!] wide-angle. This is useless underwater unless you are filming fish a foot in front of you. To be honest, I don't know if it still does that annoying zoom reset in the aforementioned quick-power mode but be aware that when another fish swims out in front of you, not only will you have to open the LCD and frame the shot, you might have to zoom in again. In fact, you want to check occasionally that it is still in underwater mode (otherwise your underwater shots will comes out bright blue) and that your LCD brightness is still turned up because those settings also seem to reset themselves once in a while when opening the LCD. BTW the zoom motor is jarringly picked up by the microphone, especially underwater, although it is almost silent to your ears during operation.
Speaking of putting it in your pocket, you'll need a fairly big one. It is about 50% higher and deeper than the Sony, so about 2.5 times bigger all around (still just as thin as the Sony). And cheap, creaky plastic which I doubt would survive a fall - but then again, perhaps it's precisely because it's made out of creaky (rather than rigid) plastic that it WOULD survive a fall.
So in summary: mediocre still camera. Lousy low light video camera. Decent, but not great, regular video camera by current state of the art standards, and the Sony pretty much sets that - and my four year old Canon Vixia runs rings around it, but it's also three times as big, five times the weight, and not waterproof.
But at around $150, quite the bargain for taking on a vacation. Two stars as a modern video camera irrespective of price, three and a half stars for what you get compared to what you're paying.
7/4/14 UPDATE. While on the second vacation after purchasing, the unit died. Won't turn on, won't even indicate charging, tried two batteries and multiple chargers. Parts technically under warranty but labor only 90 days; and to make matters worse, Panasonic's repair websites (note plural) lead me from one "That model is not serviced through our regular warranty network" message to "Service Center not found" messages. (The first one looks for service at a minimum of 100 miles, so that must be their factory service; the second one looks through a maximum of 25 miles, so that must be their authorized repair contractors.) In short, nobody fixes it, warranty or no (and I live fifteen miles from Panasonic USA headquarters). I won't drop my review to one star since while it worked it did a decent job, and it did last an entire Hawaii vacation and most of a Caribbean vacation; but I cannot give more than two stars to so something that died and I cannot even get fixed.
8/5/14 UPDATE: I call shenanigans on Panasonic's "warranty service." Big time.
I received an email from them stating that they would be sending me an authorization to ship me a refurbished unit. To be clear: not to repair my unit, but to send me somebody else's. No phone number, no email (the email was one of those "automatic message, do not respond"). Okay, so I am going to wind up with someone else's camera and I have no way of knowing what condition it is going to be in. I can live with that, I guess...
...except a few days later I get an estimate in the mail requesting I fax it back with my credit card number. Parts: in warranty, no cost. Labor: $90. Hold on. First of all, that's more than half of what I can buy a refurbished unit on Amazon for, and almost exactly half of what I can buy a brand-new unit for. Not such a good deal. But then I thought: Labor? For what, exactly? They're sending me somebody else's unit - there IS no labor involved, they are not actually fixing my unit (or if they are, they are going to sell it to somebody else). I considered informing them they are violating federal law (specifically, the Moss-Magnuson Warranty Act, 15 USC 2301) by not disclosing in the original warranty that I could be charged labor on somebody else's unit - but they won't even give me a contact to inform! Now I have to make a decision whether to pay up and aid them in their violation, or to leave it with them so they can send my unit to somebody else. Either way, I'm facilitating the continuance of a federal violation. Or I could send them $15 to have them ship the broken one back, after I already spend $7 to send it to them.
14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on August 3, 2013
Color Name: GreyVerified Purchase
OK THIS THING is really nice, it feels great in the hand and is well made, it is water prof and dust, boy this thing does it all, great and clear pics and video is so clear, its easy to use yep even my wife who is electronicly chanlenged can operate this thing, it fits in a phone holder that is large, fits on the waste with no problem, the instructs are the best, look anything that is Panasonic is the best out there, you wont go wrong, I would like a little more recording time it will do only 40 mints but it is portable , water, dust , sand so froth prof so for its size you gotta give up something for this, its perfect, price is excellent too.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on April 13, 2014
Color Name: WhiteVerified Purchase
I am in love with how easy this camera is to use. There is no power button - opening the LED screen powers the camera on; then, within seconds, you can be shooting, which is my favorite feature. I also love that it shoots panoramic photos, and is waterproof (I have not tested this yet), which is one of the primary things I was filtering my search by while shopping around. The fact that this camera is waterproof and has an LED screen is what sold me, especially after reading reviews of the crappy audio quality picked up by Go Pros and other waterproof cameras. This camera picks up pretty decent audio because it doesn't have to be encased in plastic housing.
- Video and still images can be shot without switching modes, because each has a separate button.
- The menu is easy to navigate with the thumbstick, which makes changing options a breeze.
- It's comfortable in your hand, and everything is within comfortable reach of your thumb.
- The thumbstick on mine is a little loose, resulting in sometimes having to press in a direction a couple times.
- The port to plug it in is right near where the battery/card/port cover hinges, which makes me feel like that cover can be broken off at the hinge by the cord rather easily if I were to knock it while it's plugged in
You will notice, however, that these cons have not impacted my star rating of this product. I'd buy it again, I'd buy it for friends, and I'd recommend it to anyone. Great little camera!
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on May 26, 2014
Color Name: GreyVerified Purchase
For the price, not sure if you could do any better. Bought this for an upcoming trip to Hawaii. So far, I've been trying it out around the house and outside, and the video quality is actually pretty good. At least outdoors and in normal lighting it is good. In low light, it gets very grainy, and pretty much not watchable in my opinion. Panasonic has always made pretty good camcorders and this one is no exception. The LCD screen is not the best, but it is usable.The "digital" and "i.zoom" is overrated. Even though in the manual, it says "i.zoom" doesnt degrade the video quality, in my opinion it does. I have both options turned off, and only using the 5x optical zoom. The "Active" Image Stabilization option also will degrade quality a bit, so I don't use it. I only use the regular I.S. option. I would also recommend buying at least two additional batteries and also a microfiber lens cloth to clean the lens.
*Good quality fairly sharp video.
*Audio quality acceptable for vacation videos.
*Lightweight but good construction.
*Easy to use pistol grip.
*No lens cap. Come on Panasonic, include a built-in lens cap!
*Digital zoom and "i.zoom" is a gimmick.
*The Joystick to navigate menus feels cheap and loose.