Buying a camcorder? Don’t get a Panasonic

I bought a video camera just before Baby Bigmouth turned up – a Panasonic VDR-D250. I wasn’t greatly bothered about specs, so I quickly checked that it was Mac compatible before buying it.

It turns out that it *was* Mac compatible, sort of, on the day I bought it. A few weeks later Leopard came out, and my camera was no longer Mac-compatible.

Unlike many cameras (including most other Panasonics), my camera is only Mac compatible via Panasonic’s bundled software, which doesn’t work with Leopard and which hasn’t been updated since before Leopard shipped. That means it’s only able to communicate with OS X if you finalise the discs (in the case of DVD-RWs) and get it to act like an external DVD player, and even then iMovie chokes on the files. If you’re using DVD-R things are worse still, because OS X doesn’t like the .vro file format unless you shell out extra cash on the Quicktime MPEG Component – a prerequisite not just for QuickTime, but for other OS X video programs such as MPEG Streamclip.

Luckily for me I’ve got a copy of Toast, the all-singing, all-dancing OS X video software, and that can convert pretty much anything to pretty much anything. Otherwise I’d be scunnered.

I’m serious about not buying Panasonic, though. This is a camera that only came out in late Spring 2006, and which cost around £500 at launch. If a firm can’t be arsed ensuring that fairly pricey hardware stays current for 18 months, it doesn’t deserve your money.

7 thoughts on “Buying a camcorder? Don’t get a Panasonic

  1. Gary says:

    Yeah, but it’s a two-way street. iMovie is compatible with other panasonics, eg the 200 and the 300, but not the 250 – which suggests it’s a Panasonic thing rather than an Apple thing.

    Piece of shit anyway. I want an HD one :)

  2. Squander Two says:

    > Or maybe Apple should do more to make iMovie/Leopard compatible?

    If we were talking about a gadget that did something more obscure, then maybe. But all we’re talking about here is the transfer of moving picture files. This stuff should be plug-and-play and shouldn’t require any software other than the OS.

    I personally don’t mind when I buy something which has software that comes with it and the software doesn’t work on a Mac but the device itself is still Mac-compatible. A bunch of extra features which I’d probably never use are denied to me, but the gadget does what it’s supposed to. Nokia phones spring to mind: Nokia’s PC Suite is still PC-only, but I can plug my phone into my Mac and transfer files to and fro no problem.

    Thanks for the warning, Gary. I was actually considering a Panasonic.

  3. Linda says:

    Gary, this comment has nothing to do with camcorders but I had to drop by to tell you about something.

    I can remember ages ago you posted about the stupid things people say on quiz shows. Well…

    This weekend Paul Daniels and the lovely Debbie McGee were on Family Fortunes and the question was “Name something you do for luck.”

    It was right near the start when even the most obvious things (touch wood, cross your fingers) hadn’t been said.

    And Vernon got to Debbie and said: “Debbie, something you do for luck?” And she said…..

    : “Take your knickers off.”

    I mean come on, can anyone ever beat that. Pure class.

  4. Gary says:

    @squander two:

    > This stuff should be plug-and-play and shouldn’t require any software other than the OS

    That’s my take on it. If you assume a lifespan of 3 years for a gadget (which I don’t think is unreasonable) then you should expect at least one OS revision during that period. In the case of the bundled software, I’m 99% sure the problem is an installer script that doesn’t know Leopard exists rather than any fundamental incompatibility. It’s like the websites that can’t cope with a new browser revision, not because the browser can’t handle it but because the browser sniffer doesn’t think ahead and go “hmmm, will Firefox 2.0 really be the only version of Firefox released in the next five years?”

    (incidentally this was something Microsoft was crucified over with Vista, when it was often the gadget firms’ fault. Vista wasn’t released as a surprise – it was late – but it took a very long time for device firms to get their act together. In some cases they still haven’t, so for example my Navman sat-nav is essentially locked because they haven’t updated the software. Makes sound business sense for them in theory – I’ll have to buy another sat-nav if I want maps that aren’t completely out of date – but in practice it means I’m damned if I’ll buy another Navman).

    Then again, my Panasonic/OS X moan is academic really: I’ve discovered with the Panasonic that even with third party software, it’s flawed. Over ten discs I’ve discovered that finalising a DVD-R means that you’ll lose at least one bit of footage (I use decent discs, not cheapies, so I’m pretty sure it’s the camera) per disc, and even the ones that aren’t corrupted are prone to skipping. The problem’s there on camcorder playback, so it’s not a software ripping thing. But hey! At least it’s not irreplaceable footage of my first-born’s first months or anything!

    (to be fair the corrupt ones weren’t particularly brilliant bits of film, but that’s not the point.)

    This should *not* be complex or unreliable, not this many years since computer editing of video became the norm. We wouldn’t accept CD burning that couldn’t do a complete album, or digital cameras that trashed 10% of your shots. Why is this acceptable with digital video?

    If I ever earn enough I really like the look of the Xacti 1000 (or maybe 1010), which is a rather nifty card-based HD camcorder, but once again there’s a Mac problem: if you use the highest HD resolution, Macs can’t handle it (apparently). Pretty sure toast can, though, so that’s not an issue. I’ll definitely look into this stuff in much more detail before upgrading though.

    Can I just say again that Toast is an absolutely brilliant bit of Mac software?

  5. mupwangle says:

    It’s something that Nikon are being slagged off about. Their latest high-end P&S cameras are using a new RAW format by microsoft. Not a popular decision.

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