While all the news in action cameras these days is about GoPro and the like, Panasonic is still a major player here and, to prove it, it has just announced a new trio of rugged camcorders.
Unlike GoPro, these camcorders are both tough and have the performance you'd expect from a normal camcorder. So there's no fiddling with trick menu systems, and no messing about with repeated clicking of two single buttons to set options. Of course, what you gain in ease of use you lose in portability and flexibility when it comes to mounting it to your snowboard, surfboard or mountain bike.
The three models are the HX-WA30, HX-WA3 and HX-DC3, and each offers some element of rugged design, along with full HD, 1080p video shooting.
The WA30 is the most interesting. It's waterproof to a depth of 10m, can be frozen to -10C and can be dropped from 1.5 meters. Panasonic says this makes it ideal for winter sports enthusiasts, or people who live in freezers and are very clumsy. Dust-resistance also means you can take it to the beach, without worrying about finishing the camcorder off for good.
Most interesting though is the built-in Wi-Fi. As with a lot of Panasonic's 2013 camcorders, this is provided for use with the company's upcoming Android app. This allows you to capture stills, or zoom in, all while being away from the camera. There's also the opportunity to make use of DLNA to stream stills and videos to a TV.
For the action lovers, recording in 720p can be done at 120fps, while 640 x 360 footage can get up to 240fps. For people who don't care about quality, but need super-slow-mo, you can go for 320 x 180 video, at 480fps.
The WA30 also has various "creative" filters, which give you simulated tilt/shift footage, along with HDR and the usual mix of selective colour and sepia tones. Not much use for pros, but something that YouTubers will no doubt enjoy using.
There's a 28mm equivalent wide-angle lens, a 5x optical zoom and an 18x "intelligent zoom" which uses the 16-megapixel sensor to produce a digital zoom that loses almost no picture quality. A huge step up from the miserable digital zooms of a few years ago.
The WA3 has a slightly smaller sensor, at a little over 11-megapixels, is 5m waterproof and can be taken to temperatures of -10C. It doesn't have the backside illumination of the WA30, so don't expect low-light video to be quite so good. The WA3 is Eye-Fi compatible too, for Wi-Fi transfer of video.
The DC3 can't claim underwater or freezing potential, but there are creative filters, an 11.90-megapixel sensor and a 15x intelligent zoom. So, if your life is too exciting for a normal camcorder, one of these could be just what the doctor ordered.