Panasonic HDC-SD900 review
1/4.1in CMOS sensor, 1,920x1,080, 12.0x zoom, 395g
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.