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Panasonic SDR-S50 review



Our Score


User Score


  • Good automatic mode
  • More features than rivals


  • Joystick navigation fiddly
  • SD resolution

Review Price £199.95

Key Features: Optical image stabilisation; AF/AE lock; SDXC card support

Manufacturer: Panasonic

Most manufacturers are winding down their standard definition camcorder ranges. But they are still releasing a few new models for those people left not wishing to make the leap to HD, or who just can’t afford it yet. One of these is Panasonic’s SDR-S50, which sits at the top of the company’s standard definition selection.

Panasonic’s strategy with the SDR-S50 is similar to Canon's with the LEGRIA HF M31. The basic camcorder specification is very similar to previous models, but higher-end features have been added to sweeten the deal. Like the Panasonic SDR-S26, the S50 has a 1/8in CMOS sensor with just 800,000 pixels.

Such a tiny sensor doesn’t bode well for low light performance, which we'll come back to later in this review. But it does have one upside. The S50 is able to offer a truly whopping optical zoom whilst still keeping its overall size small. The optical zoom stretches to 70x, and is augmented by an Enhanced Zoom mode which stretches this to 78x. Since the sensor offers more pixels than necessary for standard definition video, the frame can be cropped without going below the necessary total. This does reduce the active surface area, so will marginally reduce light sensitivity, but it won’t noticeably affect detail.

Panasonic SDR-S50 alternate colours

The S50 relies on SD flash memory for storage. Video is recorded in the regular MPEG-2 format used by most mainstream standard definition camcorders, and data rates go up to 10Mbits/sec. This means that a 16GB SDHC card will store more than three hours of footage even at the highest quality setting – ample for most uses. The S50 also supports the new SDXC memory format, so will accept 48GB and 64GB cards, with the latter providing more than 13 hours of storage.

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February 6, 2010, 10:49 am

I think Panasonic will rock us this year too..

My God..78x of Zoom ? (f***Me)...but why not n HD?

Please James,give us asap a review of the HDC-HS60/TM60/SD60.

Just 1 comment..I don't think this is the same case as the LEGRIA HF M31..the 2 cams (specs) & strategy (of both) are totally different..


James Morris

February 7, 2010, 3:20 am

@shark I'll review the new Panasonics as soon as they send me them! And the comment about the M31 was a bit of poetic license on my part. I realise they are quite different cameras. They just have the common factor that the core spec is the same as the previous version, but the features and control system have been considerably upgraded.


May 2, 2010, 6:42 pm

Hey James. Trying to decide between this and JVC GZ-MS120. Want something for my son to film himself and buddies doing freestyle skiing and the image stabilisation on the Panasonic seems to give it the edge over the JVC, does that make sense? Is the image quality significantly different. Am assuming I would have to go way higher price to get anything as usuable as this in HD, right? Notice also that Amazon seems to have a number of variations on the MS120 (MS120A, MS120AEZ, BEZ etc etc), what's that about? Thanks

simple simon

May 29, 2010, 6:48 pm

Had my camcorder several months now, and generally I am very pleased with it. I can't get over its size - my original 1989 camcorder is about 11 inches in length and weights a LOT more than this one. This one fits into a small jacket pocket - so no longer do I need to lug a large backache inducing camera bag around with me.

I find the image quality to be very reasonable; its better than that of the S-VHS-C camcorder, albeit not so much that when footage from them both is used in the same film the difference is like chalk and cheese.

The ability to film with a wide angle lens is very welcome too.

The pre-rec feature is worth its weight in gold. I'm often waiting for something to appear from being out of sight round a corner, and with pre-rec it is so much easier to get the scene right without filming masses of empty space.

What is a disappointment is the sound. At times its sometimes somewhat muffled and the stereo spread is not as pronounced as I had been expecting / hoping. In this respect the difference with my old MS50 camcorder is very pronounced, although it is also true that I mostly used an external stereo mic, as the supplied mic was so flimsy that it broke off! (The external mic was powered by the camcorder too, so I never had to worry about the battery or remembering to switch it on before filming).



July 7, 2010, 1:15 am

Very disappointed with this Camcorder - read your review - thought ok and bought it. A Camcorder its isn't. Any movement of the camera results in a blurred & pixellated background. Freeze frame and it's even worse. I have a Digital camera which was far cheaper and it produces better quality video. I'm sure that even a Mobile phone would produce better.

simple simon

August 22, 2010, 7:43 pm

Many months on, and one feature I miss is the ability pre-compose the frame by zooming in on a location, switch the camera off to wait for the action, and then at the alloted time just 'switch on and press go'.

My Panasonic TZ3 digital camera has a 'zoom resume' feature which means that if switched off it returns to the same focal length when switched back on. My previous Panasonic camcorder (MS50) had a different lens arrangement which meant that switching it off did not affect the zoom.

Alas, when switched off (or the screen is closed) so that the camcorder powers down it always returns to the base setting - and when powered up again stays there.

I've also had a few scenes ruined because at night when filming through a window it focuses on the window glass rather than on whats through the window


OK, I can use manual controls, but they can be fiddly and by the times I've set them up the action has often passed.

I very much regret not being able to have bought the top end Pannny with its better features and sometimes film in HD, but at the present time most of what I am filming is to interline with older footage that is in 4:3 format, and the Panny camcorders only film in an incompatible 16:9 format.



November 25, 2010, 1:42 pm


Please can someone help me! I'm looking to buy a camcorder and have been looking at the Panasonic SDR-S50 and the Sony DCR-SX33 - which is better? I would like to be able to use it at night as well as the day & ideally have the one with better sounds quality - and help would be appreciated; thanks.



January 26, 2011, 7:18 pm

Just purchased this, nice camcorder for the price. Got it for £114.00 at Comet using there price match, yes that's £114.00.


Ma Bern

April 17, 2013, 12:33 pm

exactly right...i bought this as well.. video quality is not good...it's blurred...

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