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Panasonic SDR-S50 - Panasonic SDR-S50

By James Morris



Our Score:


Amazingly for a camcorder at this price, the image stabilisation system is optical rather than digital, so is much more effective and won’t affect image quality detrimentally. Panasonic is even offering its Active Mode, which we first saw in the premium HDC-TM350. This adds an extra layer of jog-resistance on top of the standard OIS, although you can revert to the latter if you want. The Active Mode is particularly effective at smoothing the kind of wobble caused by shooting when walking, and we’re not sure why the original mode is still available as there’s no reduction in image quality. But Active Mode is not quite as good as Canon’s Power IS, as seen in the LEGRIA HF M31, at keeping things steady when zoomed in, even if it is pretty effective.

Panasonic SDR-S50 preview LCD

During regular non-manual shooting, the S50 calls upon Panasonic’s Intelligent Auto system. This attempts to detect conditions and set the camcorder accordingly. For example, if faces are detected then the Portrait scene mode will be enabled. When illumination drops below a certain level, Low Light mode will activate instead. Intelligent Auto will even switch to Spotlight mode to capture very bright objects, and use a Scenery setting to avoid blown-out skies in sunny outdoor conditions.

Panasonic SDR-S50 flip-out display

So the S50 does a decent job of making point-and-shoot usage relatively idiot proof. But there are also the usual Panasonic manual settings still available. Switching to manual mode using the button on the camcorder body enables a host of extra functions via the joystick on the edge of the LCD. In particular, the shutter and iris can be adjusted manually, and both can be set independently as well. Panasonic even provides the ability to add up to 18dB of video gain on top of a fully open aperture.

The joystick is also called upon for manual focusing, which as a result is rather fiddly to operate. You can also call up various other functions, such as turning on backlight compensation, or the Intelligent Contrast system which ensures detail is preserved in very bright and very dark regions. Overall, the S50 has a very healthy range of controls, which sets it apart from cheaper Internet-focused pocket camcorders. Naturally, though, you don’t get any enthusiast features like an accessory shoe or minijacks for headphones or an external microphone. You wouldn’t expect them in a diminutive standard definition camcorder at this price anyway.


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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