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on 9 August 2011
There's a reason this camcorder is one of the bestselling camcorders of 2011. Last year the Panasonic SD60 hit the spot for the best balance of quality and features at a sensible price, and the SD90 inherits this crown for the class of 2011.

THE HIGH POINTS:

Great quality full HD video, including the option for 50 progressive frames a second. It easily passes the eyeball test on a 42" Panasonic plasma.

A true wideangle lens: 28mm gives a field of view similar to that of most current compact cameras. There are very few camcorders offering anything close.

An astonishing, usable zoom. Up to 40x `intelligent' zoom looks fine for daylight footage, though you might prefer to stick to true optical zoom in lower light environments. Don't even think about using the digital zoom - Why ruin your footage?

Class-leading image stabilisation. It shouldn't really be possible to hold a steady shot at 40x zoom, but it is! This really will help you get shots previously impossible due to shake. The option to further `lock' the stabilisation when you have your subject in view is an additional bonus, but you need to keep a touchscreen button depressed for this feature which I feel limits it somewhat.

Good quality low light footage. Consumer cams can live or die by their abilities in less than perfect light. I've tested the SD90 under artificial office lighting and in a garden, dusk scene and i'm happy with the footage it produces in auto mode. Yes, there is noise, and if your footage is destined for full HD output or you will be shooting primarily in poor light you might want to consider moving up the range to a more expensive unit, but for the majority of users the quality is perfectly usable. The best tip is to minimise use of the zoom to avoid smaller apertures - get closer to your subject instead!

Manual control if you need it. Panasonic don't really need to add manual control to a cam at this price point, so be happy they do. If you're happy working with manual focus, iris and shutter controls you'll find them present and correct.

THINGS TO BE AWARE OF:

At time of writing, to do any proper editing of footage shot at 50p, your best starting points are probably either Sony Vegas Movie Studio 11 or Corel Videostudio Pro x4. The version numbers are important! Most other consumer software does not support this video format. The SD90 included software is very limited and not intuitive to use, so lets the side down somewhat. Demos for the above are available so grab them and search for `SD90 raw footage' or similar to download some 50p footage to test on your machine. More expensive video editors are available, but you're immediately heading into `hundreds of pounds' territory. Working with 50p is also very processor intensive so if you have a basic laptop or desktop it's definitely worth your time testing some footage in advance of a purchase. Corel Videostudio uses an HD proxy system which essentially means it automatically makes a low-res version of your clips to edit with then uses the original HD clips when you render your video. This means you may be able to edit SD90 50p footage on a modest PC or laptop - Worth a go!

Battery life is average. Numbers are a bit meaningless as everyone uses a camcorder differently, but I got through 2 fully charged batteries on a day videoing parachuting and skydiving. Budget for a second battery!

Still images are very average. This is not a surprise, but the SD90 cannot be considered a replacement for a decent compact camera. Images taken in the dedicated stills mode are usable for standard (6x4) prints and of course viewing on a screen, and images taken while videoing are probably good enough for sharing on the web but not a lot more. Of course, the long zoom mitigates the quality issues a little as you may get shots not possible at all with a short-zoom compact.

The touchscreen is`good' but not great. It takes a harder press than most of us are used to in this era of capacitive, light touch screens. I'm sure Panasonic will improve this in 2012 as it's one of the few areas of the SD90 with definite room for improvement.

OVERALL, I'm sure the SD90 is a top contender for the best mid-range consumer camcorder for 2011. If you're tempted to drop down a level to the SD80, be aware that model features a smaller sensor and loses the 50p option. Going up a level to the SD800 buys you a 3MOS unit with the caveats of a narrower wideangle and shorter zoom.
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on 13 November 2011
The company I work for (I'm a photographer there) asked me to look into a HD camcorder for under £400 to film presentations and some tutorials. I narrowed it down to a few cameras and eventually chose this one because of the 28mm wide angle lens and optional microphone port. These two options can really make a difference, filming indoors especially the wide angle works really well, it means you don't have to climb into the corner of the room with the camera pressed against your face to try and get everything in. With no real idea how good the inbuilt microphone was going to be I wanted the option of adding an external microphone later on. Nothing worse than having a camera with no option to improve it later on! After using it a few times I was right, the internal mic was very quite, even in a quite room with one other person talking 5ft from the camera, the computer volume was right up even with headphones.

The camera has a manual or iA (intelligent auto) option, I always use manual in a controlled environment, you can adjust the lens aperture to increase brightness, shutter speed, white balance and the auto gain control on the microphone. Auto gain control should be turned off ideally, it makes the quite sounds louder and loud sounds quieter. If you use 'manual' under the mic option you can choose how sensitive you want the microphone to be, I always use +4 as this brings the sound up without clipping or distorting the sound. This is where we soon realised we'd need an external microphone, professional videographer's say that the audio is sometimes more important than the video and is a narnia of options in itself. I eventually went with the microphone that is recommended for this camera on the Panasonic site (model VW-VMS2E). Buy it from the panasonic site as it's cheaper than amazon surprisingly. The lead is very short and sits on the hot shoe that comes with the camera. On camera it was a big improvement over the internal mic but still not quite good enough. I wanted the microphone nearer to the person speaking as this rids of camera noise, this is also what you see people like the BBC doing by using an external microphone with the big wind reducers on. This isn't the ideal option if you're moving about a lot but for filming indoors in one room we were able to set this up easily. I bought a 5m headphone extension cable from maplins for £8.99, this enables you to plug the microphone into the cable, get it away from the camera and still plug it into the camera. A huge improvement, with the auto gain control turned off and the mic set to +4 in the menu the sound was much clearer and louder.

Next up, recording formats. Now we all know someone who films on holiday and around family a lot but you never see the video on a computer or on the TV. It does come with cables to play it back through the TV however not everyone wants to watch choppy unedited clips. The reason we bought this camera was to get clips online. Now what they don't tell you is that this camera records in m2ts format, now I've never heard of this but then again I don't do that much video. It's a common HD recording format and even the lower AVHD camera options record in this. Now to get it into something a bit more familiar like .avi or .mov was a task at first but I've now mastered it. I'm editing the footage in Adobe Premiere pro CS3, .m2ts is not supported by CS3 however the newer versions CS4 and CS5 do. So I needed to convert it from m2ts to something that Premiere recognises, I chose .mp4. I hunted the net for ages to find a suitable converting software and there are hundreds. I eventually settled on the well known xilisoft HD video converter. This enables you to convert up to 3 minutes of footage for free, however for longer clips you need to buy the software for around £25. A bargain really for this software which can convert footage into lots of formats to use on different devices. Beware converting 1080p footage will take a while depending how much RAM your computer has and it's processing speed. Once converted I could then import this into Premiere CS3 and output it as 1080p or 720p footage into any popular format.

Sorry for the long review but there is a lot of information that you need to know so that your clips don't just end up on the SD card and stay there! To sum up:

Good points:
Very small and portable
Fantastic, sharp, clear 1080p footage
SD recording for instant PC transfer
Provided software is good for transferring files to PC and I think you can use for basic editing but output formats are limited
28mm wide angle is very good
Optional external mic port

Bad points:
Recording format is m2ts which isn't recognized by many devices so needs to be converted which you can't do with software provided
In built mic is quite poor, ideally external mic is needed.
Battery life is 1-2 hours tops but thats normal.

Overall a fantastic camera that requires a bit of computer knowledge to be able to view the clips on the PC, TV or DVD. This is the same with any HD camera though so don't be put off by this. For the price and quality of the footage you cannot go wrong
1010 comments|37 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 26 April 2011
Had the SD-90 for about a week and overall I'm impressed with it.

First off, the video quality is very good. Played videos back on a 37" HD TV via HDMI link direct to camcorder and the videos are crisp and clear (set at the default recording quality, which I think is the second highest its capable of). Maybe some slight blurring when panning very fast and colours could be at times more vivid, but there are a multitude of scene and manual setting I have fully explored yet. Generally, pictures look great. Camera works well in relatively low-light (tried inside under electric lights) and the auto focus is very quick.

Sound quality is OK via the twin microphones at the front of the camera. Seems to cope with ambient and near sounds well (not tried on a windy day so can't comment on noise pickup). Tested the range of the camera at picking speech, wasn't great, I'd estimate it was OK once within around 10 metres. Obviously sound issues could be addessed using the convinent mic port on the side of the camera and a directional mic on the shoe on the top of the camera.

Controls are simple and well placed. The touch screen works well, although using the menu to the side of teh screen (when video is displayed) can be a tiny bit fiddly. As with all touch screens the chunkier your fingers the tricker it will be. The camera is pretty feature packed. Detect faces in almost all cases, and you can have it recognise up to six faces (which you can set as a prioirty for focus, e.g. set the bride and groom as the priority focus at a wedding). The recognitions weren't 100% but was acceptable.

Build quality is very good. The camera settles neatly into your hand. The zoom is outstanding, the clarity of detail of extreme distance objects blew me away. However, with such a small camera (with no shoulder support) a tripod (dirt cheap on ebay) is a must.

Battery life is not the SD-90's strong point. With the standard battery you get about an hour playing with it and using all the different features. The camera can be charged off the mains while still in use, but this isn't always ideal. Spare batteries and fairly pricey and not yet widely available. I intend to try using something like the Peeble (Veho VCC-A008-PBP-XT Pebble Portable 5000mAH Battery Pack Charger for iPad/iPhone/iPod/Smartphones/PSP/NDS/NDSi/GPS) but haven't got round to checking it has the correct adapter.

Memory is less than issue. The videos take up a heck of a lot space, but SD cards can be swapped in and out quickly and easily. 16 GB gets you about 2 and a half hours at high quality, which will set ou back £20-£30 per card. The Panasonic software is better than expected but still not amazing. Films in AVCHD format, which is decteded by Microsoft media player/movie maker by default. I'm sure there are convertors to mroe firendly formats (and it may be possible in the Panasonic software). If I find a solution I'll try to add it to this review.

Overall I give the SD-90 five stars. Basically it does the job I want very well, with several features I jhadn't expected. Of course its not a pro camcorder, and the battery life is an issue (as it probably is for many camcorders - if you want extended battery life you'd best check spares/mobile charger options before buying any camcorder). However, if your intended usage is along the lines of filming the kids at Christmas, a family wedding or a day at the seaside, then you will find the SD-90 extremely capable.
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on 13 March 2011
Bought this after going to Focus on Imaging Show and seeing reviews on the internet from Techradar and Trusted Reviews and it certainly has not disappointed me. Its really nicely sized and fits in my hand perfectly, but what is fantastic is when i play to footage back on my TV the quality is unbelievable. When I zoom really far out the image is still amazing and there is hardly any handshake at all. I just use it in the automatic mode but I am sure you can change the settings if needed. Would definitely recommend this camcorder to anyone.
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on 1 May 2011
This camera is excellent in a lot of respects, I have summarized the areas below.

Video:
The video quality is very good, images are pin sharp but do lose their edge slightly (only slightly) when blown up on a HDTV but look excellent on a small computer screen. Color wise I was impressed considering this is only a 1CMOS camera. That means it has one sensor for all three colors of light (RGB) whereas higher end cameras have 3 separate sensors for each color.The colors were pretty accurate and looked very natural and defined overall which I certainly wasn't expecting from a 1CMOS camera.it did struggle slightly with the color black and it sometimes came out slightly "purply" at times. so overall it gets 8/10 for its image quality.

Motion:
Motion handling is very good until you zoom in. the OIS does a very good job of keeping the shots still but they start to get shaky when you zoom in or walk while filming. I think this is mainly due the fact that the camera is so small and light and it has no weight to it. However if you have a steady hand you can manage to get fairly smooth shots. there is also tripod mounting if you want it.

Still images: The still camera is by far the worst part of the camera, the colors came out completely wrong and the images looked 'smudged' but if your buying this camera then you are not likley to be too worried about still images, its a Video camera :)

Other points: The camera is very small and very light so it could easily fit in a small bag and just about fits in your pocket. This camera also films in 1080p as well as 1080i but the 1080p mode is pointless as it uses a file type that cannot be read on your PC (Ive tried numerous different software including Sony Vegas)so the only way you can view it is on a 1080P TV through the camera. another point is that it includes a shoe adapter which allows you to plug in all sorts of accessories such as lights and microphones. this is a nice feature.

In conclusion this camera is excellent, the images are sharp the colors pretty accurate and the fact that you can manually adjust a lot of settings to get the best picture is great. The only things that let this camera down are the fact that you cannot edit the 1080p video files, the fact that the video can be a little shaky when zoomed in and finally that there is no viewfinder. They do not seem to make viewfinders on cheaper cameras anymore :( If your serious about filming I would spend an extra £150 and get the SD800 which has a full 3CMOS, but for occasional filming or for filming Holidays and family moments this is an excellent pick.
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on 6 January 2012
From a technical viewpoint the HDC-SD90 offers an as expected good quality HD picture for the price bracket. Yes, it helps if you have small fingures when selecting items on the touch screen, but then the camera is small so what do you expect? The biggest drawback is the Battery. The supplied battery gives 1 hour use at best (when new). You need a second battery but Panasonic have made the batteries difficult for other manufacturers to replicate and they have priced them very high. The supplied Pansonic VBK180 battery is over £40 as a replacement and the larger VBK360 is over £90 - which is another 25% on top of the camera cost.

Reading reviews of non-genuine Pansonic batteries indicates that non-genuine batteries are probably not worth going for (even if they are less than 50% of Pansonics prices) as some work only as Piggy-backs to the supplied batteries, others plug into the external power socket to bypass Pansonics electronics that look to stop non-genuine batteries being used.

If you are reading this and you agree, perhaps you could take a minute to email Panasonic (which you can do from there Website) and tell them as much - I'd love to see if "people power" can get them to change their pricing policy.
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on 30 May 2011
This is my first camcorder and I chose this one after comparing many. It really is light enough to carry in my pocket. It is easy to record, playback and erase. The image quality is excellent and the anti-shake really works. I particularly wanted the large optical zoom and using the intelligent zoom the image quality is still very good. I am using 16gb flash memory, which is adequate and inexpensive. The only negative is that the only reserve battery I can find is Panasonic and costs about £50. This is too much.
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on 20 August 2011
BOUGHT THIS TO REPLACE OUR OLD TAPE DECK CAMERA. SUPERB IN LOW LIGHT AND IN BRIGHT LIGHT. PICTURE QUALITY IS EXCELLENT. EASY TO USE AND THE TOUCH SCREEN IS GOOD BUT HAVING AN IPHONE ITS NOT AS SENSITIVE AS THAT BUT DON'T LET IT PUT YOU OFF. MOVIES EASY TRANSFERED TO MY APPLE MAC COMPUTER AND I USE iMOVIE TO EDIT WHICH IS EASY. OVERALL VERY PLEASE WITH THE PURCHASE AND FOUND IT THE CHEAPEST ON AMAZON. BUY YOUR SDHC CARD ON HERE ALSO. I BOUGHT A KINGSTON 16GB CLASS 10 AND IT WORKS PERFECT.
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on 29 March 2012
I bought the SD90 after reading many positive reviews. It is a lightweight, compact unit and even the supplied battery (more about that later) is lightweight too. On automatic settings it is a case of point and shoot. While this is OK if shooting scenes in daylight, you need to check that indoor settings are appropriate so you avoid getting a colour cast under certain types of lighting. Although there are manual settings for different backgrounds and light conditions, it's best to check the white balance control just in case. Indoor scenes in daylight are captured pretty well in the main and the inbuilt light will come on if the SD90 senses the interior is too dark.

The quality of playback video on external daylight scenes is virtually broadcast quality - quite amazing from a single CCD camcorder. Furthermore the 40x zoom - should you ever need it - is breathtaking. No electronic artefacts here, just crystal clear clarity and your own telescopic vision! Clark Kent would go kryptonite green with envy.

The package comes with a reasonable video editing program, HD AE Writer 2.0. It's enbough to get you started but I bought Sony's Vegas Movie HD Platinum Production Suite which gives you all the bells and whistles for video editing for under £35, here at Amazon. What the package doesn't have is that all important HDMI cable to connect from the SD90 to your hi-def flat screen TV. Get a gold plated one for £5.99 while ordering your SD90 from Macro Supplier via Amazon.

Now the not so good bit - the supplied battery does not last long, maybe an hour tops. The heavier duty Panasonic battery is available - which gives you at least 2 hours recording time - but there was no way I was going to part with the thick end of £80 for it. (That is simply too greedy, Panasonic). So here is what to do: get the Ex-Pro 3.6v 3580mAh High Power Plus battery at £25.97 from Express Pro. You've guessed - from Amazon. And I don't even work for them!

Don't hesitate to buy this superb camcorder. It beats the Sony equivalent hands down, and for all the audio enthusiasts out there, the SD90 has a facility for an external microphone via a dedicated connection or the supplied hot shoe accessory. Be that budding Spielberg...
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on 28 August 2011
The first camcorder that was sent I used until the battery ran out, following its initial charge and was very pleased with it, but then found the battery would not re charge, despite everything I tried to do. I rang Panasonic, who were actually no help whatsover. Very disappointing and frankly pathetic customer service. I then rang Amazon and after they told me to ring Panasonic, which of course I had done, agreed to replace it, as it was such a recent purchase. The replacement process was very efficient as was the collection of the faulty camcorder. Well done Amazon!! That all said (and I have breathed a sigh of relief when the new one appears to re charge ok (currently as I type!!), the camcorder records amazing pictures, both still and moving. I have a Panasonic television and the link up and play back is really good and importantly, simple!! The camcorder is straightforward to use and I am still finding additional things it can do. I love the fact that whilst I am filming, I can take still shots as well. You have to be very careful when zooming in to keep the image from shaking, but the amount it can zoom in on a subject is outstanding, with the resultant playback picture still impressive. If it keeps going without any further faults, I will be extremely satisfied with my purchase and glad that I paid the additional money for this model, which was originally over my intended budget.
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