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Panasonic SDR-S15 Flash Memory Camcorder With SD Card Slot - Black
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For a hand held camera the quality of the video is excellent, if only i could keep my hands still when panning it would be even better.
The whole lot comes in nice box with various leads, charger and lots of paperwork the manual being very comprehensive, a quality product from a long established manufacturer.
It measures just 10cm long x 5.5cm high x 4cm wide and, loaded with a card/battery and with the strap attached, weighs around 170g - you really have to see it 'in the flesh' to appreciate how small, light and genuinely pocket-sized it is !
It is remarkably well-specified for a camcorder so small and 'cheap' (I was lucky enough to get mine new for £90). Ensure you search the term 'Panasonic SDR-S15' as Amazon have the camcorder offered in different colours and WILDLY different prices !
I already own a modern/compact JVC hard-disc camcorder (JVC and Panasonic are one and the same company by the way....) which is great due to the storage capacity, but this little beauty is a third of the weight and getting on for half the size, so it is a far more practical proposition for taking around when there is only an off-chance of requiring a camcorder and/or when storage space is limited.
The casing is plastic (in fact I think it is all-plastic, aside from the lens no doubt !) but it is still a robust unit which has an appearance of being well-made. Despite the low-price and basic appearance the specification manages to include such things as :
Built-In lens cover
Dual record buttons (one rear, one right-side near the front)
10x optical zoom (I am not a big fan of digital zoom)
USB and A/V out
Integral battery/SD/SDHC storage (via underside lockable flap)
So, you can hopefully see it is not short of useful features despite being incredibly easy and straightforward to use. I particularly like the big wheel used to turn the camcorder on and select the shooting mode; aside from the zoom/record buttons it really is all you will usually need to 'fiddle' with ! Having said that there is a 5-button control 'wheel' and dedicated buttons for such things as delete/light/menu, so again it is practical in that sense as well.
The video quality (using the highest-quality 'XP' setting) is excellent and the sound quality perfectly acceptable; the still-image quality is not quite in the same league but fine for casual snapshots (most camcorders offer only a fairly rudimentary still-picture capability...). I found the 'Intelligent Auto' (IA) mode produced vastly inferior results to the more usual 'Auto' mode; using IA the images were washed-out, with poor exposure control and unrepresentative colours; Auto is the way to go as far as I'm concerned and I'm not too sure what advantages IA offers over Auto anyway....
I see a lot of Amazon 'chat' about the JVC/Panasonic camcorder file format and difficulties using them in computer programs - the issue is actually slightly bogus and you don't need to convert each file; I have added a discussion topic (Title : 'Play/Edit JVC/Panasonic camcorder files in computer programs') at the base of this review section covering this matter - it is dated 8 Sep 10.
One advantage the MPEG-based video file-format this Panasonic camcorder has over my JVC camcorder is that the sound is also recorded in 'MPEG' format (as opposed to Dolby Digital), which means I can play footage on my Epson multimedia device and get sound; with JVC video the sound is absent as DD is not supported on that device.
So, for me this relatively speaking low-cost little camcorder not only offers great capabilities but, due to it's size/weight, also allows me to have such a device with me on occasions I wouldn't want to have a 'normal' camcorder; another bonus being that the video quality doesn't seem to be much different from my 'normal' HD camcorder.
If you want to explore the complete capabilities/usage you can download the User Guide from the Panasonic website via the 'Support' link.
The first thing that you realise is how small it is... it fits into my old digital camera case! I bought a 16GB card off this site for less than £20 and also bought 2 extra batteries for under a tenner (make sure you search for batteries that fit this unit!) All seem to work fine.
The software loaded up easily, I went for a walk with my dog, played around with shooting footage, (fade in/out of shot, pre shooting for nature shots etc and zooming in on some cows miles away :-) ) Got back loaded the footage to my computer via the software and compiled the footage to make a short film, which isnt bad for someone who's never done anything like that before! With titles, transitions between shots etc! All now ready to burn to DVD, although you do need DVD RW disks (I only have CD RW at moment so cant comment on copying to disk) The software is great and easy if you only want basic but I want to try lots more so will look around for some software I can use easily enough but maybe create some decent DVDs of hols etc with music.
The AUTO i function means that if you just want to point and shoot its brilliant, but in manual it also allows you to select scenes, ie Sports, Snow/Beach, and fiddle with everything to your hearts content. Something Im looking forward to testing in future hols.
The playback quality is excelent on my 32" TV but only adaquate on my widescreen PC. The zoom is excelent and really steady and quiet. My only gripe so far is that you can only charge batteries while they are in the unit... so now I have three batteries I cant charge one as I use another :-(
Once again thanks to the other reviewers.... Im a bit sceptical as a person but you were all right, its great... and to me size does matter!
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