Panasonic HDC-SD9 First Impressions Camcorder Review

The HDC-SD9 is Panasonic’s third generation of memory card-based AVCHD camcorders, even though the first generation HDC-SD1 was announced only 13 months ago. In the interim, the form factor has changed little – these things are tiny. In fact, the HDC-SD9 is currently the world’s smallest “full HD” (1920 x 1080) camcorder. Under the hood, Panasonic has made some improvements and some deletions. In addition to “full HD” status, the HDC-SD9 can shoot in 24P mode. It also has a new face detection system and an “Intelligent Shooting Guide” that points out problematic shots. And it’s small. Very, very, small. Unfortunately, it lost the mic and headphone jack that kept the HDC-SD1 and SD5 off of our “naughty” list. Does the HDC-SD9 measure up?

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Handling and Use

Ease of Use

Although not quite as easy to use as Sony’s vaunted Easy button, the Panasonic HDC-SD9 isn’t particularly hard to use either. We found the menu system to be straightforward and logical, which is something of a relief after slogging through Canon’s menu system on the HF10. Like its predecessor, the HDC-SD5, you’ll find yourself using a rather small and fiddly joystick to navigate the menu system, but unlike the HDC-SD5, the joystick isn’t located conveniently at the back of the camcorder near your thumb. Instead it’s been moved to the LCD Cavity, which is both less convenient and more difficult to use. That said, point and shooters will love the small size, limited dials and switches and easy to use flash format.

Handling

Speaking of size, the Panasonic HDC-SD9 feels pretty incredible in the hand. At 65 x 67 x 126 millimeters and 274.9 grams, it’s one of the smallest and lightest high definition camcorders on the market. In this case, Panasonic beat its own records, as the HDC-SD9 is almost 20% lighter than its predecessor, the HDC-SD5. Of course small size doesn’t automatically mean it’s a dream to handle. Those with smaller hands or who don’t like to be weighed down by a bigger and heavier camcorder will likely love the Panasonic HDC-SD9. By contrast those with larger hands will find their fingers wrapping almost all the way around the device, inevitably hitting buttons accidentally and covering up the microphone.

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A major handling change on the HDC-SD9 is Panasonic’s decision to move the joystick – the primary handling interface – from the back to the left, inside the LCD cavity. The decision to do so was probably necessary in order to shrink the body – a consequence of Panasonic’s quest to remain king of the "smallest camcorders" class. The new position causes some handling issues. When navigating menus, you’ll often find your hand covering part of the LCD display. We liked it better on the back. However, the diminutive size has its advantages. We didn’t experience the flipping and flopping we saw on the Sony HDR-SR12 or the Canon HF10. The bottom line is that those with smaller hands who want a small and light camcorder will love the Panasonic HDC-SD9 while those who like more heft and easier to use controls will probably be annoyed by it.

LCD/Viewfinder

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  The Panasonic HDC-SD9 has a 2.7-inch LCD with a 300,000 resolution.
   

The Panasonic HDC-SD9 has the same 2.7-inch LCD display with a resolution of 300,000 pixels that its predecessors sported. On one hand, we’re starting to see more comfortable displays like the the Sony HDR-SR12’s 3.2-inch LCD display, so 2.7 inches feels a little disappointing. On the other hand the Panasonic HDC-SD9 is so damn small, what else do you expect? We’re actually pretty happy with the resolution on the display, which is significantly higher than the 211,000 pixel resolution on the Sony HDR-UX20’s 2.7-inch display. Given that the HDC-SD9 doesn’t use a touch screen interface, the LCD should be fine for general purposes. For manual focusing, the small size is not beneficial.

The HDC-SD9 does not have a viewfinder, likely for two reasons. First, the trend line sadly indicates that viewfinders are disappearing on most camcorders. Secondly, if size a priority, Panasonic had the viewfinder on the chopping block first. Deal with it. If you want a viewfinder, buy a bigger camcorder.

 

 

 

 

Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.

Sections

  1. Performance
  2. Format
  3. Auto / Manual Controls
  4. Still Features
  5. Handling and Use
  6. Audio / Playback / Connectivity
  7. Other Features/Conclusion

What's Your Take?

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Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.
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