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Panasonic HDC-SD80 review

Chris Finnamore
15 Mar 2011
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
349
inc VAT

Panasonic's SD80 has far worse video quality than the SD90, so it's definitely not worth the £50 saving.

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Specifications

1/5.8in CMOS sensor, 1,920x1,080, 37.0x zoom, 192g

The first of Panasonic's new camcorders, the SD card-based HDC-SD90, gained a five-star rating thanks to its great image quality. The HDC-SD80 is the next model down. It's even smaller, being almost as tiny as an airline-sized ginger ale, also records onto SD, SDHC or SDXC cards (you'll get around two hours on a £11 16GB SDHC) but has a significantly scaled-back specification.

You can also buy this model with 16GB of built-in memory and an SDXC card slot (HDC-TM80) for around £20 more, and with a 120GB hard disk and SDXC (HDC-HS80) for around £120 more. The former could be a convenient way of making sure you've got enough memory to shoot all your video, but the HDC-HS80 just seems too expensive.

Panasonic HDC-SD80

Considering the SD80 is only around £50 less than the SD90, the specification looks sparse. Gone is progressive scan recording, so you can only record in 1080i rather than the SD90's arguably more natural-looking 1080p. There's no shoe adaptor or stereo mini plug for an external microphone, so you're stuck with the built-in mic - this isn't such a problem, though, as the integrated microphone makes a good job of cutting out background noise and records voices clearly.

The spring-loaded lens cover is another cost-cutting exercise. Unusually, it flicks down automatically when you open the display to record, but you need to manually raise the cover it when done - via a small switch on the right of the body. The fold-out LCD is slightly smaller, but it has the same number of pixels, so no great loss there.

Panasonic HDC-SD80 back

Our biggest worry when looking at the specs was the sensor size. Instead of the SD90's 1/4.1in sensor, which displayed minimal noise under office lighting, the SD80 has a far smaller 1/5.8in sensor. There is one advantage - due to the way optics work, the smaller sensor means the camcorder has a larger 34x optical zoom ratio - an increase from the 21x of the SD90.

We noticed the difference immediately under office lighting - while the SD90's footage had hardly any noise, the SD80's had a grainy appearance with far less detail and an artificial appearance thanks to the camcorder's noise reduction. Watching the SD90's test footage out in the street made us feel like we were actually there, but the SD80's had far more noise and less detail, so there was no such illusion. We also weren't impressed with the image stabilisation - there was more movement at high zoom levels and when shooting while walking, and our vibrating platform test showed a significantly larger amount of vertical movement translating to the footage than on the SD90.

At current prices, buying Panasonic's HDC-SD80 would be a false economy. While many people would be able to live without the shoe adaptor, microphone input or even progressive scan video, the reduction in image quality caused by the smaller sensor is sadly all too evident. We recommend finding the extra £50 for the more expensive camcorder, or wait till we've reviewed the new mid-range models from Sony and Canon.

Basic Specifications

Rating***

Recording

Optical zoom37.0x
Digital zoom2,000x
Sensor1/5.8in CMOS
Sensor pixels1,500,000
Widescreen modenative
LCD screen size2.7in
Viewfinder typenone
Video lampYes
Video recording formatAVCHD
Video recording mediaSD/SDHC/SDXC
SoundDolby Digital Stereo
Video resolutions1,920x1,080
Maximum image resolution1,856x1,392
Memory slotSD
Mermory suppliednone
Flashyes

Physical

Digital inputs/outputsUSB
Analogue inputs/outputsAV out, component out, mini HDMI out
Other connectionscharge jack
Battery typeLi-ion
Battery life1h 38m
Battery charging positioncamcorder
Size59x52x109mm
Weight192g

Buying Information

Warrantyone year RTB
Price£349
Supplierhttp://www.fotosense.co.uk
Detailswww.panasonic.co.uk

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