Panasonic SDR-SW21 Rugged Camcorder - Panasonic SDR-SW21

By James Morris



Our Score:


Since Panasonic hasn't made any significant changes to the SW21's sensor or optics compared to the SW20, we weren't expecting any major differences in performance. In good lighting, it does a similarly adequate job reproducing colour saturation. But the level of detail is marginally better and there is less grain.

We also noticed a slight improvement in low light abilities, indicating that Panasonic has tweaked the image processing on this model compared to its predecessor. Unfortunately, performance in poor illumination is still not great. Although colour remains reasonably faithful, detail takes a nosedive. This will mean the SW21 won't be up to dark underwater shooting, such as in caverns or potholing, or possibly even down to its 2m limit.

The SW21 incorporates a mini-USB beneath one of its watertight covers. We didn't have any trouble editing the MPEG-2-based footage in any of the apps we tried. Alternatively, a proprietary connection is available for hooking the camcorder up to a TV via composite analogue video and stereo RCA audio.


Despite its low light limitations, it's hard not to like the Panasonic SDR-SW21. We were already impressed by its predecessor, and the new model has noticeably improved underwater protection, better looks, and slightly superior image quality. However, the most significant downside is the price. Consumer electronics have been getting more expensive across the board, thanks to the economic situation, but at over £100 more than its predecessor, the SW21 is close to HD camcorder territory. So even if it is the roughest, toughest camcorder out there, now you have to weigh that against whether you want to move up to HD instead.

Overall Score


Scores In Detail

  • Value 7
  • Image Quality 7
  • Features 7


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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