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Panasonic SD90 Full HD Camcorder - Black (SD Card Recording, x40 Intelligent Zoom, x21 Optical Zoom, Wide Angle Lens)
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Ultra-Compact Full HD camcorder with diverse shooting capabilities and optional 3D Recording. The Intelligent Zoom incorporates the Image Processing LSI Crystal Engine PRO, a super-high resolution technology to achieve ultra-telephoto 40x shooting beyond the optical zoom range of 21x. Users need only to attach the optional 3D Conversion Lens (VW-CLT1) to the camcorder to record 3D images in AVCHD format firsthand. Incorporating Panasonic's 3MOS technology, users can easily create their own 3D movies in extreme reality. The AVCHD format enables playback using a Panasonics VIERA TV and Blu-ray DiscTM player/recorder. * A TV that is capable of side-by-side method 3D playback, 3D Eyewear, and HDMI cable connection are required. ** Some VIERA 3DTV models may require a firmware update. Included accessories are Battery pack VW-VBK180, AC adapter VSK0712, AC cable K2CT39A00002, AV multi cable K1HY12YY0008, USB cable K1HA05AD0007, Stylus pen VGQ0C14, Shoe adapter VYC1055, Software DC-ROM HD Writer AE 3.0.
The HDC-SD90 is an ultra-Compact Full HD camcorder with diverse shooting capabilities and optional 3D Recording.
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Bring Faraway Subjects Close
The 28mm wide-angle is especially convenient for recording indoors or in tight spaces. It makes it possible to shoot at a close distance from the subject while fitting both the subject and the surrounding area into the frame. The Intelligent Zoom incorporates the Image Processing LSI “Crystal Engine PRO,” a super-high resolution technology to achieve ultra-telephoto 40x shooting beyond the optical zoom range of 26x. This brings faraway subjects right up close to capture dynamic images that fill the entire frame.
Ultimate Image Quality
1080/50p recording (Full-HD, 1,920 x 1,080, 50 progressive recording) at a 28-Mbps bit rate conveys about twice the information of 1,080i (interlace) recording to produce the ultimate in image quality, exceeding even conventional Full-HD images. It minimizes afterimages and flickering caused by subject motion, and renders crisp, detailed images. Enjoy the superbly smooth images, intricate details and ultimate beauty of 1080/50p recording.
Users need only to attach the optional 3D Conversion Lens (VW-CLT1) to the camcorder to record 3D images in AVCHD format. Incorporating Panasonic's 3MOS technology, users can easily create their own 3D movies in extreme reality. The AVCHD format enables playback using a Panasonic VIERA TV and Blu-ray DiscTM player/recorder. Please note that a TV that is capable of side-by-side method 3D playback, 3D Eyewear, and HDMI cable connection are required. Some VIERA 3DTV models may require a firmware update.
Impressive Image Stabilisation
HYBRID O.I.S. is an optical/electrical image stabilization system. Further to reducing blur caused by vertical or horizontal wrist movements, it detects subtle blurring caused by entire arm movement and corrects them using a lens in the optical system and a sensor in the electrical system. In electrical image stabilization, utilizing a normally unused area of the sensor when zooming further suppresses image degradation. This powerful correction technology realizes beautiful images even when shooting on the move or whilst zooming.
Great Shooting Functions
The iA (Intelligent Auto) setting, consists of six functions: Face Recognition, new HYBRID O.I.S., AF/AE Tracking, Intelligent Scene Selector, Face Detection and Intelligent Contrast Control. The camcorder senses the shooting conditions and automatically makes the settings and activates functions that will deliver optimal results. With both motion and still images, iA does the bothersome settings for you and makes it easy to capture beautiful, well-focused images. ·The functions included in iA may not be applied when conditions do not call for them.
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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.
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:
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
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
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