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Panasonic SDR-SW20 Waterproof Camcorder review

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Panasonic SDR-SW20 Waterproof Camcorder
  • Panasonic SDR-SW20 Waterproof Camcorder
  • Panasonic SDR-SW20 Waterproof Camcorder
  • Panasonic SDR-SW20 Waterproof Camcorder
  • Panasonic SDR-SW20 Waterproof Camcorder
  • Panasonic SDR-SW20 Waterproof Camcorder
  • Panasonic SDR-SW20 Waterproof Camcorder
  • Panasonic SDR-SW20 Waterproof Camcorder
  • Panasonic SDR-SW20 Waterproof Camcorder
  • Panasonic SDR-SW20 Waterproof Camcorder
  • SDR-SW20 Digital Camcorder (16:9 - 2.7" Color LCD)

Summary

Our Score:

8

User Score:

Panasonic has a reputation for getting tough with its products. Its range of hardened portable computing devices has become legendary. Now it has applied this experience to its camcorders. The result is the SDR-SW20. It's like the dinky SDR-S7, only waterproof, dustproof, and designed to endure a bit of rough treatment. It can be dropped from heights of up to 1.2m yet survive unscathed, and remain watertight down to depths of 1.5m.

The SW20's build quality is reassuringly robust. The brushed silvery and black plastic feels very solid, although the overall weight is about 60g heavier than the SDR-S7. It's about 1cm wider and longer, too, but would still just about fit in a trouser pocket. To maintain its water and dust resistance, the SW20 has much sturdier panels on its ports than a regular camcorder, and each one has a rubber seal.

The catches are also quite hard to open accidentally. Unsurprisingly, the ports hidden therein don't include microphone or headphone jacks - you wouldn't be able to use them underwater anyway. For similar reasons, there is no accessory shoe either. But the lens itself has no cover, instead being protected by a small window of toughened glass. This will need regular cleaning if you really do shoot underwater regularly.

Other than the toughened casing, however, the SW20 has essentially the same specification as the SDR-S7. It's built around a 1/6in CCD sensor with a gross 800,000 pixels, although only 400,000 of these are used for video in 4:3 mode, and only 350,000 in 16:9 mode. Still images can be snapped at 640 x 480, which is surpassed by a lot of camera phones these days - even Apple's iPhone.

The SW20 records standard definition video, but at the slightly non-standard resolution of 704 x 576, rather than the usual 720 x 576. Three levels of compression are available. The top XP mode runs at 10Mbits/sec, whilst the just passable SP mode uses half that. The heavily compressed LP mode consumes 2.5Mbits/sec, but you would only want to use that if image quality is not a major concern and you need to record many hours of footage. Video is stored on an SDHC card, although none is supplied so you will need to factor this into the price. A 16GB card will hold over three hours of footage even in XP mode, so you probably won't feel the need to shoot at any of the lower quality settings anyway.

Yousuf Vadachia

July 22, 2008, 12:16 am

Interesting review, but I was wondering why you guys do not include a short video clip with your video camera reviews just so that we can get a decent idea about what you mean when you describe the video quality as "good", "fair" , "poor" "better than XYZ..." and so on. What do you think?

The Pope

July 22, 2008, 12:24 am

Far from the worst suggestion I've ever heard, Yousuf :)





It's not something we can do straight away (unless you want to see horrible YouTube video quality) but it's certainly something for the future. Nice one.



Hans Gruber

September 5, 2008, 9:23 pm

Prophetic words! Love the underwater shark and diver scene. Made me chuckle.

James Morris

September 15, 2008, 2:02 pm

;^> See the lenghths we go to at TrustedReviews to bring you the very best in content? That shark was a very dangerous animal, and we risked life and limb to record its actions.

Susan Harrison

October 7, 2008, 9:44 pm

Hi, I have a pansonic SDR-S10 and love it, however would like to upgrade to a camcorder which can give sharper picture quality but I don't want to comprimise on size of camcorder as I love the S10's unique compact desgin. Can you tell me if the SW20 can offer what I am looking for? Cheers

Mervin

November 26, 2008, 4:15 am

I am new to the camcorder world, but I am absolutely fascinated by this waterproof model. The only thing that is bothering me is the low dept to which you can take it. Do you know when the second generation is comming out and how deep will it go?

Dylan Slater

February 5, 2009, 6:36 pm

Can you capture footage directly into your laptop??





Would this be via Fire wire or USB??

James Morris

March 12, 2009, 5:25 pm

If you hooked up to a PC via USB, you would leave one of the waterproof doors open, so you couldn't shoot underwater.

Jodie Lewis

May 14, 2009, 1:31 am

I bought this especially so I could take it scuba diving and I followed all the instructions but ended up sending it back to the place I bought it from because water had got in it. Apparently it s a common fault. The under water recoring quality was good but the still picture quality was terrible. We used it as a camera to save taking two cameras around with us but deeply regretted it because our photos are really dissapointing when printed. We swapped the camera for an alternative after it took a staggering 11 weeks to get repaired. Overall a bad experience

James Morris

June 4, 2009, 3:27 pm

What was the known fault? I wonder if it has been fixed in the new model, the SW21.

stephncei

September 28, 2009, 12:50 am

To Jodie Lewis...the camera is only designed to withstand a depth of 1.5m, not for scuba diving. I have found the camera a great basic point and shoot camera. The picture quality is not great, but good enough and better than VHS. I have dropped it (accidentally), worn it on my helmet while mountain biking and used it under water in the surf and pool, without problem. The only draw back, is that it has no cover for the lens and despite surviving all of the above, I foolishly placed it my pocket with keys and scratched the lens it. The lack of lens cover is in my opinion a major flaw to an otherwise handy, robust camera.

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