They say good things come in threes. Although they also say that bad things happen in threes, so maybe they should stop shooting their mouths off until they've come up with some kind of centrally ratified, definitive decision vis-à-vis the positive or negative qualities of the three situation. Panasonic will no doubt be interested in the result, as it launches the HDC-HS700, HDC-TM700 and HDC-SD700, three high-definition camcorders.
The HS700, TM700 and SD700 all offer Full HD 1,920x1,080-pixel resolution at 50 frames per second. Each boasts a 35mm wide-angle F1.5 lens with a 12x zoom and twiddly manual zoom ring. Colour capture is taken care of by the 3MOS system, which involves an individual CMOS sensor capturing red, green or blue.
The distinguishing feature between the three 700s is the memory. They all support SD, SDHC and SDXC memory cards, but two of the cameras offer built-in storage as well. The TM700 offers 32GB of flash memory, while the HS700 includes a 240GB hard disk drive -- matching the Sony Handycam HDR-XR520.
Each model captures 14-megapixel stills, with 13-megapixel snaps possible even when recording video. Face recognition works in both video and still mode, allowing you to register up to six friends' phizzogs and even display their names on screen as the camera tracks them wandering, dazed and bemused, across your mise en scène. There's even a decent take on the usually ridiculous smile shutter feature, as the cameras automatically grab frames in which the subject is smiling, giving you a happy still to use as a thumbnail or cover image. Aww.
On the outside, each 700 sports a number of top-end features: an electronic viewfinder, hot shoe and microphone input. The cameras themselves include five mics each, for 5.1-channel surround sound, linked to the camera's zoom so what you hear with your ears matches what you see on screen. They all include HDMI connections for 1080p playback on high-definition TVs. They also look the same except for having slightly different tiny numbers painted in the corner, so to save time we've just posted one picture. To see what the other models look like, squint a bit.
The new models arrive in March, like the tender warming fingers of spring. Amazon UK is listing the HS700 and its enormous hard drive for £1,200.