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Customer Review

57 of 63 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Child's play, 30 July 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Panasonic SD80 Full HD Camcorder - Silver (SD Card Recording, x42 Intelligent Zoom, x37 Optical Zoom, Wide Angle Lens & iA + Face Recognition & New Hybrid OIS) (Camera)
We bought this camcorder for our 8yr old son as a birthday gift to make up for his disappointment at Christmas, when a cheapo camcorder specially designed for children totally failed to meet even minimum standards of usability. We nearly gave up on the idea of buying a digital camcorder altogether when we read here on Amazon at least one review against virtually every single product that said how awful the picture quality was (when compared to older tape or disc recorders). I am glad we gave the SD80 a chance. It is awesome, really - certainly for the money. I can perhaps understand where people come from who criticize these digital gizmos: They clearly reach their limits sooner with regards to very fast moving action than analogue technology would. That's no different than the vinyl v MP3 debate. Digitization imposes an abstraction which, at the limits, compromises quality. But as regards low light sensitivity and vivid colour display, I cannot fault it: Unless you are trying to film the stage action in an otherwise blackened theatre (when it will fail you), the SD80 has no problems with interior shots in dim or artificial light. We have also found the automatic white balance and auto-focus so good, that we rarely felt the need to navigate through the menus for manual adjustments. Perhaps the occasional criticism of the picture quality stems from the fact that people watch these AVCHD on their computer? This does not work w/o some considerable effort as computer displays are "progressive scan" whereas AVCHD records "interlaced". Panasonic throw in some s/w that will at least burn to DVD in MP2, but I am disappointed that the tools do not appear to include a transcoder into XVID etc (*). On our regular wide-screen TV and connected with the included S-video cable, the picture is certainly excellent (Vierra owners will even be able to control the little camera from their TV remote). For YouTube fans, the s/w makes uploading to the net a doddle. In fact, the whole user interface of the camera is well thought out: my 8yr old was able to operate the camcorder with consummate ease, undoubtedly helped by his little fingers. The incredibly low weight not only makes this camcorder well suited to the young, but also allows it to be carried around all day long in the average grown-up's pocket. The optical zoom is simply outstanding.

Some limitations to be aware of, perhaps: Battery life (of the stock battery) is perhaps 1hr of continuous recording. (Since we never record continuously for 1hr, this is immaterial. It will last a day when collecting short memories on holiday.) Fat fingers will struggle with the controls on the tiny touch screen. And although the built-in microphone is good, it is regrettable that there is no external microphone jack. On-board editing facilities are de minimis.

(*) After much trial&error, I arrive at these parameters for a useful high-quality transcoding into MPEG4 (this Windows .BAT script assumes that MENCODER points to mencoder.exe (free from Sourceforge), SRC to the AVCHD file (.MTS) and DST to wherever you want the .AVI):

set MP3OPTS=mp3lame -lameopts abr:br=128
set LAVCOPTS=lavc -lavcopts vcodec=mpeg4:vbitrate=1050:mbd=2:trell:v4mv:last_pred=2:dia=-1:vmax_b_frames=2:vb_strategy=1:cmp=3:subcmp=3:precmp=0:vqcomp=0.6
set ENCOPTS12=-demuxer lavf -oac %MP3OPTS% -of avi -o %DST% -ofps 25 -vf pp=fd,softskip,scale=768:416

%MENCODER% -ovc %LAVCOPTS%:vpass=1:turbo=1 %ENCOPTS12% %SRC%
%MENCODER% -ovc %LAVCOPTS%:vpass=2:vrc_maxrate=4096:vrc_buf_size=1024 %ENCOPTS12% %SRC%

The resulting file will be approximately 15% of the original size, plays perfectly on any PC and can also be processed by low-powered streamers like the Nintendo Wii. The MPEG4 can furthermore be edited with tools other than those provided by Panasonic (eg Windows Movie Maker).
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 20 Dec 2011 01:00:54 GMT
Andy K says:
Really helpful review, thanks for taking your time to do this review!

Posted on 21 Feb 2012 09:36:12 GMT
WOW!

You have a really bright 8 year old, if he's doing all the messing around with the video files, just so that he can record in your preferred codec!! When I was 8 I wanted to be a dinosaur.

Are you sure you bought this for your son...it sure as hell does not sound like it?
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