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7/10

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Although Panasonic has been putting the majority of its attention into Secure Digital as the next-generation recording format after tape, it isn't putting all its eggs into one basket. Indeed, some of its models sit on the fence, giving you a choice of more than one recording option. The SDR-H250 is billed as a ‘hybrid' model, as it can record video to hard disk and SD memory. Whereas lots of camcorders offer SD for digital photography, the SDR-H250 supports video recording to SDHC as well, should the hard disk not be sufficient.

The SDR-H250 is another of Panasonic's unfeasibly low-priced three-CCD models. It's based around a trio of 1/6in sensors, each grossing 800-kilopixels. So on the one hand, having three CCDs should improve colour performance, but their small size will be detrimental to low-light sensitivity. The CCDs are grouped together for still images, allowing the SDR-H250 to boast 3.1-megapixel digital photography - which clearly includes some interpolation, as three lots of 800,000 pixels only make 2.4-megapixels. The maximum resolution for stills is 2,048 x 1,512.


Video is recorded in MPEG-2 format, with three quality modes available. The top XP mode operates at 10Mbits/sec, SP at 5Mbits/sec, and LP at 2.5Mbits/sec. The built-in 30GB hard disk is enough for a healthy seven hours of video even in XP mode, rising to a whopping 27 hours in LP mode. Should you choose SD memory instead, a 4GB card is only sufficient for 50 minutes of XP video, or 3 hours 20 minutes of LP. Strangely, the SDR-H250 uses a different audio format depending on the media used. When recording to the hard disk, audio is in Dolby Digital format, but with SD memory MPEG-1 Audio Layer 2 is used instead.

Despite its recording flexibility, the SDR-H250 is very much for the point and shoot crowd. It has no accessory shoe, no microphone input and no headphone output. What looks like a lens ring in fact operates the built-in cover. Instead, the joystick takes care of this function, which is rather fiddly, particularly as it's hard to see what's in focus on the 2.7in LCD. But, other than the fact that the focus controls are cryptically marked + and -, the system is no worse than most other consumer camcorders.

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