Panasonic’s entry into the wearable camera market is the HX-A500H POV Wearable 4K Camcorder. The camera straps to your forehead to give real point-of-view images and make it easy to capture all of the action when you travel. This review will tell you what’s great, what’s good and what you need to know to get the most from a Panasonic A500.
Testing the Panasonic A500
When Panasonic gave all of us Traveling Moms an HX-A500H POV Wearable 4K Camcorder to test during our 2015 writers’ retreat at Walt Disney World, there was a collaborative “Whoop!” in the room. We are always looking for ways to make capturing our photos and videos fast and easy. Once I found out just how easy the Panasonic A500 is to use for taking photos and video footage I was hooked.
When talking with other travel writing peeps about the Panasonic brand, smiles come their faces. The company is known for state-of-the-art, top-of-the-line, cutting-edge cameras that were created for folks like me–people who want a dependable and cost-effective way to capture moments ranging from a beautiful flower to the kids swimming on a beautiful, summer day.
The A500 does just that: It’s lightweight, takes super high-quality photos and videos and – the best part – it’s waterproof up to 3 meters and 30 minutes submerged AND dustproof. Translation: it’s both water and sand friendly. (We’re giving away two of these fabulous A500 wearable cameras on our May 18 #TMOM #PanasonicAdventure Twitter party. Read all of the details and enter here.)
Details of the Panasonic A500
The camcorder comes in two parts but is permanently connected by a sturdy cable. The main unit can be held in your hand or strapped to your left arm with the provided armband case and the lens snaps right in to the headband provided. Panasonic’s official website shows the unit with two color choices (gray and orange), but I find the gray version perfect for both men and women. I honestly couldn’t see my husband with an orange lens strapped to his head.
The A500’s main unit is light (no heavier than my iPhone 5S) and the lens unit weighs only 31 grams. Translation: Even if I strapped the A500 to my head all day, every day, I wouldn’t be complaining of a sore neck and temples. The A500 also comes with an armband and headband plus a USB charging cord that can be plugged straight into your desktop or laptop. Purchase an electric plug adapter for it and you can charge the unit with any standard outlet.
A500 Recording Capability
So, what exactly is 4K recording capability? In a nutshell, it means that any recorded video will be four times higher quality that 1080p. Can I tell the difference between a 1080p and 4K recording? Absolutely. The video is super crisp and the colors are so much more vibrant than a 1080p recording. Such a high recording capability also allows for beautiful slow-motion video footage. The main unit’s LCD screen shows you in real time what you’re recording and provides playback for the last recorded video so you can make sure you filmed exactly what you were aiming for.
The camcorder also offers level shot and image stabilizer, making shots that may be tilted to automatically level out and fine bumps and blurs are not as noticeable- a shot-saving feature especially when the kids realize how much fun it is to use and record with!
And if that wasn’t all, the camcorder offers a free app so you can sync your unit to your phone allowing for recording and viewing in the palm of your hand.
How I Tested the Panasonic A500
My first test was in the happiest place on earth – Walt Disney World! After a quick tutorial from the Panasonic experts, I boarded a bus to Animal Kingdom and was let loose with my family in the Africa area of the park.
My first stop was on Kilimanjaro Safaris and I was able to simply sit back, hit record and let the camcorder to all of the work. I really enjoyed the fact that because the lens was attached via a headband directly beside my left eye, the footage of my and my family’s open-air safari ride shows exactly what caught my eye at any given moment. This is such a fun feature, especially if you have younger children that have a closer-to-the-ground take on the world.
Since Walt Disney World, my family and I have used the A500 for so many opportunities that I never even considered with a regular camera or my iPhone. For one, it’s waterproof up to a depth of 3 meters so we can take it in a swimming pool or out in the ocean, or on a water slide:
I took it on a Double Decker tour last week and shot crisp, clear footage of my time during the tour. My husband loves using it to take slow-motion shots of his disc golf adventures, and my 13-year-old daughter thinks it’s just plain cool. I captured fun photos of her ziplining and there’s no way I would have taken the chance and used my iPhone for fear of it dropping out of my hand 50 feet in the air.
The A500 does not come fully charged so don’t expect hours of footage as soon as you take it out of the box. A full charge takes about 4.5 hours so I just leave it plugged in overnight when I know I’ll be using it the next day. A flashing red light shows that the main unit is charging; don’t walk away until you see it going on and off.
There is a hurdle that I had to overcome when I first began to use the A500 and that was making sure the lens sat in the headband correctly. The Panasonic sign on the side of the lens must be parallel to the ground or you’ll take angled and even upside down photos and videos. I really wish there was a clicking noise or a locking mechanism to let you know the lens is parallel. Is it a deal breaker? Not in the least.
The list price for the Panasonic HX-A500H on panasonic.com: $349.99