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Panasonic HDC-SD600 - Optics and Operation

By James Morris



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The SD600 also includes the new Power OIS image stabilisation system found on the HDC-TM700, which can iron out vibrations down to a frequency of 5Hz. This is primarily aimed at smoothing handheld recording at maximum zoom, but we found it was also more effective than the standard OIS when recording video whilst walking.

The lens provides a 12x optical zoom as standard, but like many recent camcorders also harnesses the extra pixels on its sensors to boost this factor. Panasonic calls this i.Zoom, and it increases the telephoto to 18x without loss of resolution, unlike the 30x and 700x digital zooms that are also available. The i.Zoom does reduce sensitivity slightly in low light, as it uses a smaller portion of the CMOS sensors when at full telephoto than the standard optical zoom. But otherwise this is a useful extension of the SD600's close-up capabilities.

Panasonic HDC-SD600 LCD display

Despite the lack of a lens ring, the SD600 still packs a comprehensive selection of manual options, but all of them are accessible exclusively through the touchscreen LCD. There are three menus that overlap in capabilities, including a function strip, a quick menu, and a full menu. In Intelligent Auto mode, the strip offers access to useful everyday features such as AFAE mode, Pre-Rec buffering, backlight compensation and tele macro, plus smile shutter when taking digital photos. The AFAE option is Panasonic's one-touch focus and exposure system, where you indicate a point in the frame to use as reference with a simple finger press. The point can then be tracked if it moves or the camera does.

Switch over to manual mode, and the function strip gains a few extra options. These include focus, white balance, shutter and iris. The manual focus uses onscreen buttons, so is a little fiddly to operate, but white balance options include four presets alongside manual and auto modes. Manual shutter ranges from 1/50th to 1/8,000th of a second, and iris from F16 to F1.5, with up to 18db of video gain available on top of a fully open aperture. Best of all, shutter and iris can be configured independently. Manual mode also enables a soft skin option and makes the colour night view low light mode available.

In Intelligent Auto mode, the Quick Menu lets you rapidly change recording format, set still image resolution, and shift autoexposure up or down a few notches. Switch to manual, and you gain the ability to toggle zebra, add AGC to the microphone levels, and turn on displays for histogram and brightness levels. Overall, it's a very strong range of settings. They're just more difficult to configure without the lens ring and associated mode switches.


August 27, 2010, 2:44 am

Hi thanks for the great review. I am deciding between a new HD camcoder. 1st one I have every bought and am not a professional at all. I am looking at the Panasonic SD60 which gets 9/10 on your reviews and the SD600 which gets 8/10 on your reviews. Does this really mean that the SD60 is better than the SD600? Any advice would be appreciated. Thanks

Malcolm McDonald

December 2, 2010, 11:00 pm

I am so disappointed with this camcorder, so many glowing reviews but after having it for five weeks and digging into it's features i feel the detail levels are not real, by that i mean edge sharpening is being applied to give an illusion of sharp detail, unfortunately this edge sharpening which i will call edge enhancement adds some halo's around images whenever a dark object is in front of a white background.

Edge enhancement is the trick they used to use to make DVD movies seem sharper than they really were, the brain is fooled into believing there is fine detail present on smaller screens, i view at 104 inches using a full 1920x1080p projector and edge halo's tend to stick out like a sore thumb, i tried setting sharpness to -1 then all the way down to -5 but the edge enhancement is still there and at lower settings detail is poor with far too much softness.

I am just so very disappointed to have to write this review but edge sharpening is not real detail, it's false and it's also very ugly to view.

I wish i could get my money back but it's been five weeks now and thus i cannot return it,i also have to wonder if all camcorders claiming to be high definition within this price range are in fact edge enhanced, i hope the reviewer can re-visit the camcorder and look closely at this, if he did i believe the score would be lowered to 4/10 or less.

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