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Panasonic HDC-SD90 - Memory, Controls and Features

By James Morris
Reviewed:

Summary

Our Score

9/10

User Score

Review Price £363.08

Footage is captured to removable SD cards, with support for SDXC. So capacities up to 64GB can be used. The top AVCHD mode operates at 17Mbits/sec, and the 1080/50p option pushes this to 28Mbits/sec. But as this uses twice the frame rate, the per-frame compression is actually slightly greater than with AVCHD. You get under 40 minutes of 1080/50p on an 8GB card, but slightly over an hour with the top AVCHD option.

We’re generally pleased with the level of manual control on Panasonic camcorders, and the SD90 goes marginally beyond our expectations in this respect. Most functions are operated via the 3in widescreen TFT LCD, and the menu is quite different from previous models, with a rolling list of icons down the left-hand side of the display. In Intelligent Auto mode, you can use the touchscreen to specify a reference point for autofocus, which can also be tracked during camera moves.

But switch to manual mode, and the full complement of controls becomes available. Since manual focusing uses the touchscreen, it’s a little fiddly to operate, and techniques like rack focusing will be impossible. Shutter and iris can be operated entirely independently, which few other manufacturers offer, especially at this price. The shutter can be varied from 1/50th to 1/8,000th, and if you turn on auto slow shutter, you can drop the shutter to 1/25th for even brighter images in low light. The iris offers settings from F16 to F1.8, and when the aperture is fully open you can add up to 18dB of video gain on the top – a feature unique to Panasonic at the consumer level of the market.

If you really are serious about your video-making, the SD90 has most of the requisite physical features as well. There’s no accessory shoe built in, but inspiration has been taken from Panasonic’s recent high-end models and includes an adapter that slots on the rear to provide a standard-sized shoe when required. There’s a 3.5mm minijack for hooking up an external microphone, and delve into the menu and you will find manual audio level control. The one omission is a minijack for headphones, with just a proprietary plug for line-level audio and analogue video available, alongside mini HDMI and the USB connection for data connectivity.

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cliche

March 9, 2011, 4:38 pm

Bought an SD60 back in October and took it for a tour of the south Island of New Zealand, just back last week. Great camera, but wish I had this model instead; maybe it's just the inner geek in me.

arfield

March 29, 2011, 3:57 pm

I bought this model in the states recently (well, it was the TM90 - exactly the same but with 16gb internal memory) and I'm extremely pleased with it.

The 60p (or 50p!) mode works very well indeed, and the manual controls are quite extensive for a camera at this price level - and even if you never get the 3d accessory, the extra features above the SD80 (or TM80) make it worthwhile imho.

I've no idea why they bothered including the iframe mode though - both AVC and MP4 seem to work great for me via imovie 11 / mac.

One feature in the menu (has to be in manual mode) I didn't see mentioned - which is relevant as the review mentioned that panasonic don't emphasise the colour vibrancy! - is DCI colour, which records video in an expanded colour gamut. As this is 'the next big thing' for displays / movies (it's already available in several high-end consumer projectors for example), it was a really nice surprise to see it in there.

Anyway, I totally agree with the review's summary - definitely recommended.

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