The DS60 is Panasonic’s latest budget camcorder. It’s nicely compact, and follows in the design mould of the previous DS range. Build quality is excellent, and the unit fits snugly into the palm.
For the asking price, the DS60 is impressive. It’s low on gimmicks, but the essentials are present and correct. The camera features a black-&-white viewfinder and 2.5-inch flip out colour LCD screen, DV out FireWire port, external microphone jack, tripod mount, 10x optical zoom (plus 500x digital), a remote control, and an optical image stabilizer.
Unusually, this model also features an LED light at the front, and a Free Style remote controller – a tiny controller that plugs into the camera, giving an additional zoom, photoshot, and record control.
The performance of this model is up with the best of the budget camcorders. Despite having only a single CCD (800,000 pixels), the image produced is excellent, and the camera only really struggles to produce acceptable pictures in low-light conditions, when visible image artefacts start to appear. Obviously, the on-board light helps in such conditions, but the strain low light places on the CCD is obvious. Battery usage is impressive, delivering over 90 minutes of continual recording using the standard battery and the LCD screen as a viewfinder.
The Panasonic photoshot mode is handy if footage is destined for the Web. Photoshot mode records footage progressively, meaning that despite the image having a slightly lower resolution, there’s no need to de-interlace it at the compression stage.
We found no compatibility issues with iMovie or Final Cut (Express or Pro); the DS60 performed flawlessly using the default settings. However, the lack of a DV-in facility is a common bugbear for cameras in this price range. Users wishing to regularly export footage back to the camera are better opting for the slightly dearer DS65 model, which has DV-in as standard.
This model isn’t perfect. It would be nice to have a manual focus ring near the lens, as in its current position (doubling as the white-balance and shutter-speed adjuster), it’s all to easy to push the small wheel in while shooting, causing the shutter speed to change.
We also felt that the zoom rocker to be a little awkward, requiring the camera body to be held in the opposite hand to perform a smooth, effective zoom with the right. The supplied Free Style controller goes someway to remedying this problem, but still requires the use of both hands.