If you were to compare the video industry to the car industry, you would find that like Toyota and General Motors, Canon and Panasonic are clearly the market leaders for professional videographers.
One might expect a comparative review of the Canon XH-A1S and the Panasonic AG-HMC150 to be a long drawn-out affair and if we were a video magazine that needed 3,000 words, we’d probably do just that but when you look closely at each camcorder, you find there is very little difference between them.
The Panasonic, for example offers a-third inch three-mode image processing capability but so does the Canon A1S. Further, you would find that both of them shoot in high-definition mode, though the Panasonic has the edge in that it shoots at 1920 by 1080 or native high-definition mode, while the Canon shoots in 1440 by 1080 resolution. This is still high-definition mode, but with just a slight difference in resolution.
The Canon, though, offers a proprietary processor engine called the DIGIC DV II while the Panasonic doesn’t list its processing engine, although since it is a very capable camera, we would suspect there’s a specialized engine hidden somewhere in the camera body, as well.
Looking closely at modes, the Canon will shoot at three speeds 60i, 30 and 24 p, which the Panasonic also offers. However, the Canon does take this about six steps further by offering six resolutions and speeds at which you can shoot. The Canon also offers, thanks to its DIGIC processor, Optical Image Stabilization and while both cameras feature native 28 mm lens that are effectively 35 mm when you consider focal length, the Canon’s comes out ahead at full extension because its 20X zoom effectively makes their camcorder 700 mm device that, when using their stabilization, makes images clear and sharp.
The Panasonic’s images are also clear and sharp but they rely more on the image-processing mode technology for this. Panasonic’s lens is only a 13X which means that it is also a shorter lens and that will also tend to limit any blur or shake because the Leica lens is about 455 mm and physics comes in here.
Really, aside from the capability offered by the DIGIC processing engine such as Instant Focus and 22 built-in operating modes, there is really physically very little that separates these two cameras.
The Panasonic does have two items going for it that the Canon lacks: waveform recognition and vectorscope focusing. Each gives the Panasonic a bit extra in the some low-light venues and in versatility.
Other than that, they’re pretty much on a par, or at least we found that to be true.