Panasonic HDC-SD900 review
The Panasonic HDC-SD800 impressed us with its superb image quality. The HDC-SD900 has the same sensor and lens, but adds a high-resolution screen, some additional controls and an electronic viewfinder.
It's £170 more expensive than the SD800, but still a huge £600 cheaper than Canon's flagship Legria HF G10. While Panasonic's camcorder is pleasant to hold, thanks to a carbon fibre-effect palm grip, it doesn't feel professional-grade, like Canon's model. The screen has a springy action when you open it and the focus ring doesn't have the same industrially-engineered feel as the HF G10's.
The SD900 does have the advantage of being far smaller and lighter, though, and we preferred its manual controls to the Canon's. Depending on what you select from the touchscreen, the ring around the lens can adjust focus, white balance, shutter speed and aperture. There are also supplementary zoom controls next to the screen, which allow for more subtle adjustments than the top-mounted zoom rocker can provide. While the HF G10 helps you focus by zooming in to a section of the frame, the SD900 highlights in-focus parts in blue. We found both systems equally effective. While it's not a patch on the HF G10's display, the SD900's screen has double the number of pixels of the cheaper SD800's and makes it very easy to compose shots.
The SD900 has a 35-420mm equivalent lens, which isn't as wide as the Canon's, and we'd rather have a wider angle than a slightly longer zoom. Its video quality is far superior to the more expensive HF G10's, though. Instead of one 1/3in sensor, it has three 1/4.1in chips, one each for red, green and blue light. Each sensor has 3.05 megapixels, compared to 2.37 on the Canon. The multiple sensors and increased pixel count gives the SD900 far superior detail in daylight - everything is sharply defined and lifelike. Canon's camcorder has the edge in poorly-lit conditions, though - the SD900's footage isn't particularly noisy, but it can’t match the HF G10 for low-light clarity.
Camcorder Near Perfect!
The Panasonic SD900 camcorder delivers about as good a picture as is possible from a camcorder. I've used Sony, Canon, and Panasonic before, and all three make fine products. I've always been partial to Canon as I have many lenses for my still cameras, but my last DVD camcorder was a three chip Panasonic and that video of 7 years ago is still head and shoulders above the rest. A chip for each primary color makes a clear difference. I can watch that old video on a high definition TV and be quite pleased.
My first HD camcorder was a Canon ...the last tape based model they made. It works great, but the Panasonic is far better. Why?
The 5.1 sound is fantastic...even played on stereo speakers. The old issue with fan noise is gone...at least on my Panny.
The picture is as crisp as you can get. Each frame is worthy of a still photo. 60p is startling.
And best of all, the image stabilization actually works. My Canon barely does anything, and I have to use a tripod for everything or the picture is unwatchable... while the Panny's image stabilization is apparent right away. I zoomed out without the IS on and then hit the button. WOW. It really works. And the zoom is substantial.
My main complaint would be the Record Button placement. If you use the viewfinder, as I do in bright light, I mean real bright light as in New Mexico, the button is against your nose. You can't turn it on or off without movement. Of course, I like to edit, so this isn't a real problem...and you can always use the LCD screen.
Overall, this is a wonderful camcorder...and I've only begun to use it's features. But the main features, picture quality and sound, are top notch.
*** P.S. If you will buy this camcorder I suggest you have compare prices before you decide at: www.amazon.co.uk/gp/offer-listing/B004I1KPH0?ie=UT
By Robinson2012 on 2 Sep 2011
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