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Panasonic SDR-SW21 Rugged Camcorder review



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Panasonic SDR-SW21 Rugged Camcorder
  • Panasonic SDR-SW21 Rugged Camcorder
  • Panasonic SDR-SW21 Rugged Camcorder
  • Panasonic SDR-SW21 Rugged Camcorder
  • Panasonic SDR-SW21 Rugged Camcorder
  • Panasonic SDR-SW21 Rugged Camcorder
  • Panasonic SDR-SW21 Rugged Camcorder
  • Panasonic SDR-SW21 Rugged Camcorder
  • Panasonic SDR-SW21 Rugged Camcorder
  • Panasonic SDR-SW21 Rugged Camcorder


Our Score:


Camcorder manufacturers are continually hunting for new ways to entice you to shoot video. Most are currently trying to ride on the back of Internet sharing, but Panasonic took a different tack last year with its SDR-SW20. Drawing on its Toughbook expertise, this hardened pocket camcorder offered real waterproofing and drop survival.

The SW20 gained quite a lot of positive attention, so now Panasonic has released an updated version. Called the SDR-SW21, it has been improved in key areas. In particular, where the SW20 had all the looks of an engineering sample, the SW21 is far less industrial, and comes in a brighter selection of colours. Luminescent orange and yellow versions are available, plus a more sober silver, and all are metallic.

Inside, the SW21 is not significantly different from the SW20, or the SDR-S7 it was originally based on. It still uses a 1/6in CCD sensor with 800-kilopixels, and shoots standard definition video. So our request for a HD version when we reviewed the SW20 remains unanswered. The resolution is always 704 x 576, rather than the usual 720 x 576 of European Standard Definition video, but three data rates are available, ranging from 2.5Mbits/sec to 10Mbits/sec. Footage is recorded to SD or SDHC memory. No media is included in the box, but a 2GB card will be enough for around 25 minutes of footage at the top data rate.

Aside from the improved aesthetics of the SW21, Panasonic has also beefed up the mechanism for securing the watertight doors over the various ports. Instead of just a locking switch, a screw catch now keeps these firmly shut, further reducing any chance of accidental opening. But most importantly, the firmer mechanism also allows Panasonic to increase the waterproof depth to 2m, where the previous model just went to 1.5m. This is particularly welcome when you consider a lot of swimming pools are 2m at the deep end, so the SW21 will be perfectly safe in these environments.

However, the upgraded chassis design hasn't improved the ability to withstand knocks. The SW21 is still only rated for falls of 1.2m or less, which allegedly conforms to the MIL-STD-810F METHOD 516.5 SHOCK military standard.

Dropping the SW20 in deep water was allegedly a more significant problem. Not only could this mean the camcorder disappeared for good, if you did manage to find it and it had fallen well below 1.5m, its seals might have breached and damage been caused. The new model's bright colour options will help you find it if you happen to lose your grip. But it also comes with its own matching floatation device, which attaches to the wrist strap. Let go of the camcorder underwater, and this will buoy the SW21 up to the surface, out of harm's way.


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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