By >Daimaou - G.G-B
Hands on the Panasonic SD1
It was last year during the CEATEC that Panasonic gave us the possibility to see the 1st prototype of their compact camcorder with support of the new “AVCHD “video codec (developed by Sony and Panasonic) and SDHC cards only for the video (see pictures below).
Several months later Panasonic seems to finally have their baby ready, their first super small HD camera recorder 1080i compatible. It just arrived here so enjoy this little review of this amazing piece of technology!
First let me remind you that we are not professionals when it comes to video but, we do have good knowledge of the products after many reviews and most of all we used most of those in real conditions. For example, as you may know, I have a website about Japan automotive news (NihonCar and so we decided to test this SD1 for Nihoncar.com.
In your hands
Just take a look at the specs sheet before we go further into this!
Thanks to its light weight (430g) and small dimensions (74x69x142mm) the SD1 can be easily used and transported even in tiny places such as your pocket. We had it in the front pocket of the Canon 30D bag and it felt right at home, leaving enough room for other things.
Another advantage of the 430g, the SD1 can be moved without much effort and you can keep your position (while filming or not) for longer periods of time. The buttons are accessible, well placed and the camcorder fits perfectly in any hand, your right thumb can start recording or navigate through the menus at ease.
Talking about menus navigation there is no complaining either, everything is clear and straight forward, understandable and easy to use at least for a “basic” use. Some functions like ZEBRA mode will require a deeper knowledge of the video products.
The video mode
The SD1 is a HD camera; it offers, contrary to some Sony camcorders, a 1920×1080 resolution in video output, and like most products in this range, 1080i (interlace).
The interlace’s main advantage is the smoothness of the videos and most importantly the (relatively) low level of bandwidth needed, therefore it requires less CPU power and disk space. On the other hand one of the main problems is the “aliasing” (ladder effect) around the objects that you shoot which is pretty ugly on a PC screen but is bearable on a TV screen.
As stated before we tested the SD1 in particular conditions and with various techniques such as high speed shooting on a pretty dark day. We all have different needs so make sure you ask the salesman enough questions before deciding to buy this product.
Anyway back to our test day, we had the camera put on the windshield of the car facing the road and despite a pretty “dynamic” treatment it recorded everything without any problem (even on bumps and such things) the downside would come from the colours which appeared a bit pale.
In another test (video coming) we took the camera to a trip to Akihabara on a sunny day and this time the visual quality was much better.
This colour issue is common to most camcorders, and especially the compact ones, but the SD1 did a pretty good job; still, we recommend to use it when the weather conditions are optimal and not in closed spaces such as a party or an exposition.
As you may know the HD video quality does not guarantee excellent productions, it is still very important to look for the perfect conditions and concentrate on STABILITY. Of course the SD1 is easy to handle but each movement will have its consequence despite an auto-focus mode so to all of you who shake a lot…take a deep breath!
The AVCHD files
When you’re finally happy with what you recorded there are different ways to copy it on a DVD or anything else. The easiest one is to use the HDMI port and copy all on a Media Recorder.
If you want to “play with” your videos before that you will need to use NLE type software (Non Linear Editing) but you may face some codec issues. At the moment, there isn’t any good editing program supporting the AVCHD codec so you’ll have to use what Panasonic offers.
If, like us, you wish to use Edius Por4 Broadcast, you’ll be glad to hear that Canopus proposes a Media Converter to convert AVCHD into AVI RAW, but get ready for files over 4GB! And if you don’t have a Dual Core processor and a minimum of 2GB of Ram you might as well forget that possibility.
Another problem that we had with the SD1 was the SD card itself. Be SURE to have a SDHC reader/player otherwise you won’t be able to use it on your PC. Of course you can use the USB but Panasonic doesn’t have anything to help you in that case so you’ll have to plug your camera elsewhere and link it to your computer someway…which by far, is not the best and easiest solution.
I’ll be kind and pass on that one, just don’t use the SD1 to take photos and buy a real product dedicated to this instead.
Great quality in good conditions
SD Card friendly
Lots of light is needed
You need a compatible SDHC reader
The ACVHD codec is not compatible with most NLE on the market
The SD1 camcorder is a good product as a whole, if you take it out when the weather is on your side you can obtain a great result in terms of visual quality. The AVCHD is a very good codec but it is not widely used and supported. If you have a limited knowledge of this type of product you might have a hard time to use it at its full potential.
Last but not least, keep in mind that, even though HD recording sure looks very attractive and interesting, it will require more skills and dedication to make good quality videos.