The 3in fold out monitor mirrors the widescreen resolution of the sensor. The screen is not touch sensitive though – something that all the UK journalists kept forgetting as we constantly prodded the display to no avail. Instead the menus are controlled via a small joystick, which works well enough. I would however like to see Panasonic adopt the touch screen method favoured by Sony, since it does make controlling the camera (especially in playback mode) considerably easier. I also found that I missed having secondary Record and Zoom controls located on the screen, since I often find myself using these on my Sony HC3.
You can also take still images, which will be recorded at 1,920 x 1,080. Of course that brings back the question as to why the video is limited to 1,440 x 1,080, but I will do my best to get to the bottom of this one. Stills are recorded in JPEG format and look reasonable – just don’t expect to be able to throw your digital still camera away.
But it’s not all about the pictures, Panasonic has also invested some time and technology on the audio side. The SD1 will record sound in full 5.1-channel Dolby Digital surround, but that’s not the really clever part. The SD1 also has a nifty “zoom mic” feature, which means that if you’re zooming in on a subject, the SD1 will record the sound emanating from that subject in the distance, not the ambient sound from the physical location of the camcorder. This could be pretty useful if you want to record those boring speeches at weddings, or those boring presentations at seminars etc. Of course I wouldn’t ever suggest that you could use such technology to unobtrusively listen in on other peoples’ conversations, but I can imagine a fair number of private investigators saving up for one of these camcorders – it will be interesting to see if the divorce rate increases when the SD1 is released!