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Panasonic SDR-S50 - Panasonic SDR-S50

By James Morris



Our Score:


Perhaps the most surprising feature the S50 has to offer is AF/AE, where focusing and exposure are set via a reference point in the frame. The first, focus-only version of this was introduced by Sony some years ago, and since then both Panasonic and Canon have introduced their own versions. But common to all these implementations is a very significant hardware feature – a touchscreen LCD. This allows you to indicate the reference point by simply pressing a spot within the frame.

Panasonic SDR-S50 angle

The S50, however, doesn’t have a touchscreen. So its AF/AE system operates in a rather different way. To enable it, you must first be in Intelligent Auto rather than Manual Mode. You then press the AF/AE button on the LCD panel bezel, which calls up a target square in the centre of the frame. This must be positioned over the object you want to use as reference for focus and exposure, either by pointing the camera or moving the object so it’s central. A second press of the AF/AE button then sets this as the reference, after which it will be tracked as it moves. It’s a much more involved process than the touchscreen method, but it does the job. Seeing a feature like this in a camcorder costing under £250 is really quite amazing.

Not quite so amazing is the S50’s image quality, which isn’t significantly different from previous Panasonic standard definition models. In good lighting, colours are naturalistic and there is an acceptable level of noise. But the small sensor makes itself evident in low light, where colours become muted and ill-defined, with a general fuzzy grain across the picture. Most standard definition camcorders in this class perform similarly, so the S50 is not particularly bad relative to the competition. But, unfortunately, if there’s one area where the lower budget has made an impact, it’s here.


The Panasonic SDR-S50 is a relatively commendable camcorder. At £250, there are a number of decent competitors which are cheaper, such as our current favourite at this level, JVC’s GZ-MS120. But the SDR-S50 is sure to drop in price, and it has the edge over other models in its class on features. So if your budget can’t stretch to HD, but you still want a well specified camcorder, this is definitely one to consider.

Overall Score


Scores In Detail

  • Value 8
  • Image Quality 7
  • Features 8


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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