The SW20, however, does differ from the SDR-S7 in order to suit its intended usage whilst swimming. For instance, there’s an Underwater mode that’s activated by pressing and holding the Underwater button. This alters the colour settings to compensate for the effect of shooting through water rather than air. It also filters the audio to counteract noise from the lens control motor during autofocusing, which will be picked up in water due to its greater carrying abilities for high-pitched sound.
Being a Panasonic camcorder, the SW20 has a comprehensive set of manual features, readily accessible using the cursor wheel under the LCD panel. First, you need to press the Manual AF/MF button. One touch enables manual iris and shutter, and a second one toggles manual focusing as well. Getting a sharp focus manually is a little tricky using the cursor wheel, but the other manual options will be welcome. You can vary the iris all the way from F16 to F1.8, or F2.4 when zoomed in. Once the iris is fully open, up to 18dB of video gain can be added on the top – something no other manufacturers offer in their consumer camcorder ranges. The shutter can also be varied from 1/25th to 1/8000th sec, independently of the iris, which is also fairly rare in consumer camcorders.
There are a few other sundry settings available. Even in auto mode, you can call up backlight compensation and a colour night view mode, which simply drops the shutter speed so you can pick up a picture as low as 2 lux. But motion becomes very blurry, and you can’t use it at the same time as Underwater mode. Finally, the soft skin setting detects skin tones and softens the focus in those areas accordingly, to even out any blemishes. Delving into the full menu reveals a quintet of scene modes, including Sports, Portrait, Low light, Spotlight, and Surf & snow.