Pros: Flip-out LCD screen, Image stabilizer
Cons: No remote microphone, LCD screen drains battery quickly.
Recently, I had the opportunity to use a brand new 600 series palmcorder from Panasonic.
The flip out LCD screen was extraordinarily convenient - mostly for instantaneous playback of your videos. This quick feedback can give you a quick second chance to re-record something if the first go didn't work as you thought it would.
The standard battery on this unit seems adequate if you're only recording short segments. If you're going to record for an extended time, you should probably have a backup battery, or at least don't use the flip-out screen (it drains the battery much faster than the built-in viewfinder.)
The controls were generally easy to use and mostly intuitive. I'm generally a quick learner for technology, but I suspect nearly anyone could pick up this camcorder and use it successfully without referring to the manual.
The viewfinder of this unit is attached on a rotating arm which can fold away. Oddly, you still have to rotate out the viewfinder even if you are filming using the flip-out LCD screen; the camera will still technically work without doing so, but it is awkward to hold and difficult to reach the zoom control with the viewfinder arm closed.
The microphone on this camera isn't particularly adept at filtering out extraneous noise from your surroundings, although it does pick up specific voices from in-frame reasonably well. A remote microphone for video subjects would be a great feature. The built-in light is good for short ranges, but it doesn't illuminate well beyond a few feet.
The camera has a couple of video features, including a option to fade in or out. But the fade button is small and difficult to find while you are recording without jogging the camera around significantly. [I found that a three second fade-out is much less dramatic when the camera turns, tilts towards the floor, then towards the cameraman, then quickly back to the subject during the fade.]
The EIS (electronic image stabilization) feature is nice; it corrects for some shaking on the part of the camera. I got a weird effect when the camera was completely stable (as on a tripod). The picture would tend to wobble following the motions of the primary subject, then wobble back to center.
The digital zoom provided seemed like a nice feature, but it proved to be totally without use for any usual purpose. The image stabilization seemed to become useless at the maximum zoom level, with the picture shaking violently with even the slightest change in camera position. Further, the super-zoomed pictures were very grainy and indistinct. If you need to spy on someone from afar, it might be useful, but if you're a spy, you probably have access to better equipment than this.
Finally, when it comes time to watch the results at home, the Panasonic offers two convenient options. First, the tapes from the recorder can be put into a VHS adapter, and played on any regular VCR. Second, and I think more convenient, the recorder comes with a cable that connects a small port on the device to the RCA input plugs on your TV or VCR. This lets you quickly and easily review the results, and make a copy at the same time.
Overall, I was generally pleased with the performance of the Panasonic. While it didn't astound me, it did meet my basic needs for a video camera.