I havent bought/used a camcorder in 10+ years. However, I do enjoy digital photography as a hobby of mine. For the past 2.5 years I have been shooting with a Pentax K-X DSLR, with either the Tamron 28-75mm f2.8 lens or the Pentax DA 50mm f1.4 prime. The K-x does HD video also so my main comparisons and thoughts will be based on what I had seen the K-x do in terms of video. Decided to ultimately buy a dedicated camcorder b/c the lack of active auto-focus in the K-x was a deal breaker in terms of shooting video of my baby girl
Comparisons to other camcorders in price range:
This HC-V700K is Panasonic's mid-range camcorder, its so-to-speak "top of the line consumer" camcorder (next step up being prosumer, Panasonic X900MK). The HC-V700K is for all intents and purposes the 2012 version of the 2011 TM-90K, a very highly rated camcorder in 2011.
The two main camcorders i was considering in this price range was this Panasonic V700 and the Canon M500. The Canon M500 is Canon's 2012 successor to 2011's M400. The M400 was probably the best rated mid-range camcorder of 2011, most notably touted for its awesome pro-level sensor and low-light capabilities. The Canon M500 retains basically the same sensor and good low-light capabilities.
Why did I end up choosing the Panasonic over the Canon? To be honest, one reason was price. Currently, the Panasonic could be had for about $100 cheaper than the Canon. I think if both were the same price, I would have gone with the Canon. But $100 is a lot of dough these days, and I felt like from my research the differences in video quality between the Canon and Panasonic were probably not great enough (in my needs) to justify the extra money. Second (now I am just going to rationalize my decision more :) ), the Panasonic has a higher resolution LCD than the Canon. Third, the Panasonic is capable of greater zoom than the Canon. Fourth, based on reviews and comments online I have read, the image stabilization in the Panasonic slightly edges out Canon's. Based on my own personal experience, the stabilization is VERY good, especially when zoomed in.
Like I said i havent really handled a camcorder in a very long time. I was shocked to see how small and light this thing is. It seems well built enough, although the lack of heft does make it feel a tiny bit "cheap" or "plasticky." However I can tell that it is a quality product. This camcorder is so small it fits in the side pocket of my DSLR bag. Buttons seem to be in ergonomic areas, and i never found it awkward to use the camcorder. The touch screen LCD seems responsive enough. Yes, in direct sunlight it may be a little hard to see the LCD and a viewfinder would have been nice, but i never found it impossible to shoot outdoors.
Compared to the video my K-x has taken (and note that the K-x has been heralded for its low-light capabilites, and also I am using very fast lenses), I am VERY impressed with the video this camcorder is capturing. I have compared similar scenes (say, bathtime with my baby) and in all circumstances I prefer the V700's video over my DSLR's video. I will note that I am shooting in the highest quality setting on the V700 (AVCHD 1920x1080/60p), a resolution that my DSLR is not capable of. The image stabilization on the V700 is fantastic. The low-light performance is great as well, and very suitable for any indoor (household) lighting situations i have come across. If you are going to be filming primarily in low-light (think dim restaurant lighting, bar lighting, or nightlight) then maybe spring for the Canon. But typical household lighting conditions, this camcorder will be good enough.
Typically Panasonic camcorders have been dinged for less than stellar white balance performance. I have seen some minor issues. For example, take a typical problematic white balance situation: household tungsten light (your typical slightly yellow light bulbs) are on, and there is also a window in the room letting in natural light. The light bulbs are outputting light at a very different temperature than the natural light coming in through the window. The camera will get confused and you will often see your recording change white balances throughout: sometimes your video will be good, sometimes it will be overly yellow, then it will be overly washed out, etc. You can remedy this pretty easily by just setting the white balance manually, if you run into this problem. I set my white balance manually quite frequently when taking pictures with my K-x, so this was a non-issue for me. But if you are the "set it and forget it" type, maybe this will bother you. I will note that even if I didnt adjust the white balance, none of these "issues" would make me want to return the camera. The video is still good, just sometimes the color will be off slightly.
This camcorder does not have any memory internally. You will HAVE to buy a memory card. I found a lot of people get confused by SD card nomenclature, so let me clear it up: SD cards, SDHC cards, and SDXC card are basically all the same thing. The "HC" and "XC" just let you know the SD card holds more than a typical SD card (GB size).
I am using this card and highly recommend it:SanDisk Extreme 16GB SDHC Flash Memory Card SDSDX-016G-X46,Black
16GB holds almost an hour and half of 1080/60p video. Please ONLY buy from Amazon.com because there is an abundance of fake SD cards out there and buying from a reputable dealer is the best way to protect yourself (i wouldnt even buy a SD card from anything "fulfilled by amazon" ... only Amazon!!)
The 700M version of this camcorder comes with internal memory --- but for the price difference I would recommend just buying this camcorder and separately buying an SDHC/SDXC card.
To transfer videos from the camcorder to your pc (i am using Windows 7, 64bit) just plug in the camcorder to the USB port and transfer like it is a flash drive. No software install needed. I do not use the included camcorder software.
I am using this software to edit my videos:Sony Creative Software Vegas Movie Studio HD 11.0
I am very pleased with my purchase and hope this review was helpful to someone.