Panasonic SDR-SW21 Rugged Camcorder - Panasonic SDR-SW21

By James Morris



Our Score:


Unfortunately, the waterproofing necessitates an enclosed battery. The 940mAh unit supplied lasts for less than an hour of shooting, and you won't be able to upgrade to a more capacious alternative. Nor would we recommend switching batteries underwater!

Being a Panasonic camcorder, the SW21 doesn't skimp on the manual settings, even if you're quite likely not to have time for careful configuration with such an action-oriented model. The Underwater mode remains, with its own discrete button. This applies colour correction to counteract the effects of shooting through water, as well as filtering the audio of motor noise, which will be much easier to hear thanks to the increased ability of water to transmit high-frequency sound.

Another button switches to manual mode, with a second press enabling manual focusing as well. Configuring these settings calls upon the cursor wheel under the LCD, and the process is about as easy as you could expect from such a system. Pressing down cycles through the options, with the other directions selecting them. You can configure shutter speed from 1/25th to 1/8000th, and independently adjust the iris from F16 to F1.8. Up to 18dB of video gain can be added once the aperture is fully open. The Soft skin, Colour night view and Backlight compensation modes are also readily accessible from this. The PRE-REC function can be toggled here too. This buffers a few seconds of video at all times, so if you're a bit late with the record button you won't miss the shot.

You probably won't need to enter the full menu unless you need to alter the quality setting or enable a scene mode. The usual five options are available here, including Sports, Portrait, Low light, Spotlight and Surf & Snow. Although extreme shooting conditions are the SW21's primary focus, Panasonic at least recognised the importance of Internet video and added a Web Mode, which has its own discrete button. This doesn't change the video resolution or data rate, but ends each recording when it gets to 10 minutes in length.


March 14, 2009, 6:22 pm

Why is there no word about Sanyo VPC-WH1 waterproof dual camera? It seems to me it is absolutely superior to SDR-SW21. It shoots HD video, is waterproof up to 3 m and has a battery that lasts for 3 hours.


March 14, 2009, 9:52 pm

James hasn't reviewed or even seen the Sanyo model yet so he can't judge other models against it. At best the only thing he could say about it is that exists, which is of little use to anyone. Rest assured we'll try and get hold of the VPC-WH1 as soon as possible.

Also, the Sanyo is about 㿲 (20 per cent) more expensive and looks quite big and chunky so it's not necessarily an out and out winner.

James Morris

March 18, 2009, 3:58 pm

@Mervin What he said, basically. I can't compare a model I have tested to one I haven't seen at all. From Sanyo's previous efforts, bar the most recent VPC-HD2000 (http://www.trustedreviews.c..., the new underwater model may not be all that competitive. But I will definitely reserve judgement, since Sanyo's camcorders have been improving all the time.

Jake 3

July 3, 2009, 5:28 am

Ok... the video recording quality is great and the underwater part is pretty cool but when it says that it is shockproof from up to 4 feet, don't believe that bullshit. I dropped it today from less than 3 feet and the whole screen is black and it can't be fixed so now I have to send it back in for a new one.

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