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Panasonic HD Camcorder Preview - Panasonic HDC-SD1 & HDC-DX1

I didn’t spend anywhere near as much time with the HDC-DX1 as I did with the SD1, but my first impressions are that much of what I like about the SD1 doesn’t apply to the DX1. Although the basic specs are shared between the two, when it comes to size and weight, the DX1 can’t come close to the SD1, measuring 92 x 91 x 174 and weighing a hefty 680g. Obviously the increased size and weight is a direct result of the DVD recording system.

Unfortunately, because of the size of the DVD media, the DX1 is nowhere near as comfortable to hold as the SD1. Instead of your fingers wrapping around the barrel as they do on the SD1, the tips of your fingers end up clawing the top of the disc enclosure. The result being a far less steady grip and a far less comfortable one.

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But the general ergonomics were far from my biggest gripe with the DX1 when I used it, that honour went to the excruciatingly slow start up time. Every time I saw something that I wanted to shoot I was faced with a flashing message covering the whole display – READING DISC. And that was pretty much what I saw most of the time, because by the time READING DISC stopped flashing, I had usually missed what I wanted to film in the first place. The most ridiculous part is that you can load the DX1 with an SD card for taking still images, but you’re not even allowed to shoot stills while its READING DISC!

Amazingly, there’s an even bigger worry with the DX1 regarding its choice of media. Most consumers buy DVD camcorder for the sole purpose of being able to playback the discs in any DVD player as soon as they finish shooting. But since the DX1 is encoding its video in H.264, you’re not going to be able to play it back in a DVD player. Of course you can playback your discs in a Blu-ray player, but only hardcore early adopters would buy a Blu-ray player right now and hardcore early adopters are far more likely to buy the SD1 in the first place!

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To be fair, Panasonic couldn’t give me any indication of pricing at this stage, so the DX1 could be considerably cheaper than the SD1. But even then I would rather save up the extra for the SD1. You can fit about 40 minutes of normal quality HD video on a dual layer DVD, which again makes the SD1 a better prospect - although discs are obviously cheaper than SD cards.

I’m not going to talk about video quality here, despite the fact that I got some great footage while I was in Lanzarote. Panasonic told me that the cameras we were using were still pre-production, so I’d rather hold off any comments on video quality until I have a production sample to test, which hopefully won’t be too long. Although neither model will be available at retail until March 2007 anyway.

Panasonic has promised me that review samples will be forthcoming shortly, so be sure to check back for full reviews of both the HDC-SD1 and HDC-DX1 in the coming weeks. One thing's for sure though, if my time with the SD1 is anything to go by, Panasonic will have a hard time getting the review sample back from me!

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