The Panasonic SD60 HD camcorder is a triumph of modern design - beautifully functional and, well, beautiful to look at.
We bought this for my wife's birthday and because her brother is getting married next month. She is a keen photographer (see the Canon 450D Digital SLR
and reviews, including ours) and wanted, first, full High Definition camcorder but with a good zoom and stills ability - but it must be small and light too! This Panasonic covers all the bases, pretty much.
The unit is amazingly small & light. This was very important but has a knock-on effect on functionality because all the buttons are small. However, after reading (a good portion of) the manual, it quickly becomes intuitive so even my ample digits manage. The view screen is stunning, though direct sunlight washes the image away - but it's still light-years ahead of other screens we've used, giving bright, clear and crisp images.
The video images are superb too, even managing in poor light to deliver watchable footage - but at this price, I was expecting that! The sound is much better than I'd thought it would be, it's even stereo. The only limiting thing we've found so far is the constant `panning too fast' we keep getting told off for, but that's easily compensated for (as long as you remember!).
The things I don't like are:
The recorded video format is specifically Panasonic which means you need to install the supplied software onto you PC to download footage. Very annoying, but the software works very well and it's easy to use. It takes a long time to copy over videos - perhaps half as long as the original video so a half-hour clip will take 15 minutes or more to copy. (We take the SD card out and copy direct to the laptop.)
The battery will last about 1¼ hours, and takes just over two hours to charge. With a 16GB SD card, this will need re-changing at least once if you want to fill the card which means buying another battery & (presumably) a charger too. We got the Panasonic Accessory Kit
for the outrageous price of eighty quid, making this - with the SD card - a half-grand purchase.
Also, as a keen photographer, my wife really misses not having a view finder, not least because the screen is limited in bright sunshine. The stills are okay, but not outstanding.
Still, it gets five stars because it's so good at what it does. The 25X zoom is surprisingly effective - better than I'd thought - but still lagging behind standard definition camcorders. It remains an amazing technical achievement for Panasonic who seem to be stealing a march on the tech in our house. Maybe half a star can be deducted for the high price - especially for the essential accessories - but it's still superb.
Having looked into the infuriating editing problem, it seems to be a Microsoft problem(among many others):
`... We are currently looking into the issue you raised. We will be making additional post to this thread as soon as we have more information' (from the MS Answers site 11.12.09, thread: 6f1340e0-3fa2-4299-a268-f97eb1b68d30 - no answer at time of writing).
The only advice so far is to update all (Panasonic & Windows - particularly Movie Maker) drivers, etc., but the upshot is that Microsoft applications and many other video players and editing programs do NOT recognise or support AVCHD: MTS/M2TS files even though most new cameras record in that format. Unless we spend even more money on new software (!) it means we can't edit the footage shot with these Panasonic camcorders. Fantastic.
Also, in correcting myself, the file format (M2TS) seems to be an AVCHD standard, not a specific Panasonic one. My mistake!