Panasonic HDC-SD40 - Performance and Verdict

Score

Sections

There’s a separate button for the built-in LED video light on the Panasonic HDC-SD40, but all other settings must be configured via the D-pad. Manual shutter and aperture control are available, the latter also including gain. Shutter settings range from 1/8000th to 1/50th, although the camcorder can drop to 1/25th automatically with auto slow shutter enabled. The iris can be set between F16 and F1.8, with up to 18dB video gain available on top of a fully open shutter. Despite the SD40’s budget orientation, shutter and iris can be configured separately – an unique feature at this price.

There’s a Zoom Mic and Wind Noise Cancellation, and it’s even possible to control microphone levels manually, although no minijacks for an external microphone or accessory shoe for attaching it are available. There’s no headphone jack either. Outputs include mini-HDMI and a proprietary AV Multi port which supplies both composite and component analog video alongside stereo RCA audio connections, all on one cable. Naturally, there’s a mini USB port for taking files off the camcorder.

Panasonic HDC-SD40

Photographic features aren’t tremendously extensive, with just a quality setting, self timer, and shutter sound available. Still images are grabbed at 2.1-megapixels, which most camera phones now exceed, although they won’t offer the SD40’s quality lens and optical zoom.

Sensor and image processing technology has clearly moved on over the last few years, because the SD40 squeezes very respectable performance out of its small CMOS, even in low light. Colour fidelity in good light is commendable, although if you look closely it is possible to detect the lack of detail compared to camcorders with Full-HD sensor resolutions, with some softening of edge sharpness. Low-light conditions produce a little more grain than higher-end models such as the HDC-SD90, but the image is surprisingly bright. Overall, the SD40 produces video performance to match or exceed other camcorders at this price.

Verdict

It has been a few years now since the Flip and its ilk threw a spanner in the works for the budget end of the traditional camcorder market. Pure point-and-shoot users will still find this class of camcorder, such as Panasonic’s own HM-TA20 offers the most for their money. But if you do want a little more control and an optical zoom, Panasonic’s HDC-SD40 makes a decent choice. JVC’s Everio GZ-HM445 gives a little more for the money overall, but with its independent control over shutter and aperture the SD40 offers the most shooting flexibility at this price.

Score in detail

  • Design 8
  • Image Quality 8
  • Features 7
  • Value 9
  • Perfomance 8

Image Processor

Image Sensor 1/5.8in CMOS with 1.5 megapixels
Image Sensor Quantity 1
Image Sensor Size (Millimeter) 4.32 mm

Lens Features

Optical Zoom (Times) 16.8x
Digital Zoom (Times) 50 or 1000x

Video Recording

Recording Media SD card
Video Capture Format AVCHD at up to 17Mbit/sec
Max Video Res 1920 x 1080
Minimum Lux Rating (Lux) 1lx
Image Stabilisation Power OIS

General Features

LCD Screen Size (Inch) 2.7in
On-board Storage (Gigabyte) 0GB
On-board Microphone Stereo

A/V ports

HDMI Mini
USB 2.0 Yes
Audio / Video Out Yes
Audio / Video In No
External Microphone No

Physical Specifications

Weight (Gram) 0.211g
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