The 3D revolution is already with us in earnest. Just six months ago, there was only one consumer-grade 3D camcorder worth considering, Panasonic’s HDC-SDT750. But already we’re seeing the floodgates beginning to open, and not just at the high-end, early-adopter section of the market. Panasonic’s HDC-SD90 is far more mid-range in positioning, yet it offers optional 3D shooting alongside a wealth of enthusiast features.
The HDC-SD90 uses a similar 1/4.1in CMOS sensor with 3.32Mpixels to the HDC-SD60, one of our favourite budget HD options. However, the lens is slightly different. So a 26x optical zoom is available – up from 25x for the SD60 – and the Intelligent Zoom option boosts the factor to 40x, compared to 35x for the SD60. As more pixels are available for shooting video than are required, Intelligent Zoom crops into the frame without losing resolution, although this uses a smaller sensor surface area so has an implication for low light sensitivity.
The image stabilisation system also blends digital and optical methods. Called Hybrid OIS, its combination of techniques provides stronger smoothing of camera vibrations than either on its own. We found it quite effective, certainly on par with the advanced stabilisation methods available from competitors.
Another surprise comes from the range of video recording formats available. Alongside the usual array AVCHD modes, all of which operate at 1,920 x 1,080 Full HD resolution with 50i interlaced fields, the SD90 also offers a 50p option. This records at 50 frames per second, for smoother motion, but the file format switches to MP4 from AVCHD, which can have compatibility issues. There’s also an iFrame mode available, which uses a quarter-HD resolution of 960 x 540, and is allegedly provided for Mac compatibility. Still images can be grabbed up to 5Mpixels, with a 2,592 x 1,944 resolution, although this is reduced to 4.5Mpixels and 2,816 x 1,584 when shooting video at the same time.