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14.07.11 | First impressions of the Panasonic HDC-SD90 camcoder
Filed under: Computer — Tags: , , , — Dr. Ivan @ 22:31 — Comments (0)

Before my annual summer conference round trip around the world, I bought a Panasonic HDC-SD90 camcoder as a new way of recording memories from my travels (and as an addition to my DSLR).

This is probably one of the best bang-for-the-buck mid-range HD camcoders around at the moment (june-july 2011). Currently it lists at around 450$. Quality while not mind-blowing, is great – although rather significant degradation occurs in reduced lighting conditions. For those of you who are in on the hype, it can also shoot in 3D – provided you first purchase an adapter which cost almost as much as the camera itself… I have never felt the need for this which is why I completely ignore it in the following review.

Some immediate thoughts

This being my first camcoder, using it constantly for around a month (I did not bring my DSLR on my travels this time) – I have learned a lot. First of all, I’ve found out that I am a sucker for zooming in on objects ;) And you know what? I miss a zooming ring. Yes, yes, it’s a feature of camcoders with at least twice the price tag; but nonetheless – it is VERY difficult to zoom smoothly with the rocker-type button this camera comes equipped with.

Battery life is not great – around an hour perhaps, but do yourself a favor – go and buy some spares on eBay for 20$ a piece. The camcoder itself is very light-weight and can be carried in your hand at all times. Thus having a couple of extra batteries in my backpack was unobtrusive. So this was really never an issue for me.

There are a number of manual settings. Unfortunately I did not find them particularly useful. I was only able to marginally change the way the video looked and thus ability to tweak f.ex. iris and shutter speed felt tacked on. If you were hoping to achieve depth-of-field blur, you will be sorely disappointed unless you are filming at maximum zoom.

Macro however, despite being almost as limited as the manual options, is really a treat. The videos you make with it are thoroughly impressive however (check out the sample shots below!). The catch is that it works only on maximum optical zoom length – which means that if you try to zoom slightly out, the camcoder leaves macro mode and your video becomes completely blurred.

Finally, I found one really annoying aspect. There is a small but noticeable delay between the second you turn on the camcoder and it becoming responsive. This means that you might find yourselves furiously and repeatedly pressing on the record button without any effect.

Conclusion

Definitely a buy! Great value for the money you have to shell out!

Sample videoes

Here are some samples of the quality you can expect in the macro mode (please note that the quality tends to degrade quite a bit after YouTube’s aggressive compression):

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