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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Other Features/Conclusion

**Other Features

***Faders* - To record video like a real pro turn this option on to add artistic black or white fade in/out effects to your captured video.

Pre-Record - This feature could actually be helpful. When actived, it will automatically store three seconds or recordings in a cache prior to hitting the record button. This means that if you’re trying to catch a scene quickly you’ll get a better shot because the camcorder will be recording even before you hit the button. The only downfall is that you have to estimate when you might need it so you can have the feature on. When left activated, the camcorder is using more battery power than if you had it turned off completely.

Quick Start - This feature allows you to quickly start your camcorder up when activated. Instead of having a dedicated button like Sony’s Quick On feature you instead open and close the LCD to put the Panasonic HDC-SD9 into and take it out of the low power standby mode. When you open the LCD the HDC-SD9 will start up in 1.7 seconds, or at least that is what’s claimed. You’ll also have to train yourself to leave the camcorder in record mode, because even when Quick Start is on, if you turn the mode switch to Off the camcorder will turn off. Confused yet?

MagicPix - This is basically Pansonic’s "night mode", found on the second page of the Joystick menu. MagicPix drops the shutter speed below 1/60 for low light environments. Of course, the darker your environment the slower your shutter will get so recorded footage will have stuttering and significant trailing.

Backlight Compensation (BLC) - A fairly basic feature on most camcorders now, this will adjust the compensation when you have a subject that’s heavily backlit so their details will show better.

Soft Skin Mode - A great feature if your subjects are concerned about how they look, this will soften the contrast of your subject’s skin to smooth wrinkles and get rid of blemishes. It’s basically the poor man’s airbrushing, and we’re sorry to report thatn it doesn’t work miracles. You can find this on the second page of the Joystick menu.

Tele Macro - In what may be the ultimate waste of a feature you can take the time to navigate to page three of the Joystick menu to get your camcorder to zoom in to the maximum 10x and focus on your subject. Of course you can also achieve this by pushing the Zoom slider to the right.

Auto Slow Shutter - This will drop the shutter speed one step below your slowest manual option, which in the case of the Panasonic HDC-SD9 works out to 1/15. This improves the light gathering capabilities of the camcorder.

Conclusion

The Panaosnic HDC-SD9 will appeal to those who want a camcorder to fit their tech-chic lifestyle. It’s extremely compact, solid state, and high definition – three assets that will serve it well with teh jet set crowd. The improvements since the first generation are impressive: now recording in full 1920 x 1080 with an increased bit rate of 17Mbps, a more powerful image optical stabilizaiton system, and cool features like the Pre-Record function. Even the updates since the second generation HDC-SD5 are significant: 24P mode, face detection, Digital Cinema Color (xvYCC), and the Intelligent Shooting Guide.

On the downside, the HDC-SD9 and its second-gen predecessor lost of the mic and headphone jacks that we loved on the first-gne model , wholly removing it from purvue of the video enthusiast. Also, while editing support for the AVHCD format has increased over the last year, you still need a very powerful computer to work with the footage. Even if you do manage to import and stitch a movie together, what are your output choices for the end-format? How many people out there own Blu-Ray burners? Please raise your hands. In reality, most people will end up just plugging the camcorder straight into their TV to watch the raw footage, just as they did years ago with standard def when video editing was relegated to Hollywood, not the home computer.

The HDC-SD9 is a good camcorder, but it’s not perfect for all users.

 

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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Sections

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

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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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