My favourite option though is Anti-Ground-Shooting (AGS) mode that turns off the camera when it is turned upside down. This is to prevent wasted recording when someone forgets to pause the recording while walking and lowering the camera. It’s a Dad proof feature, basically.
Accessing recorded files on the camera is very easy via the joystick and you’ll be perusing your masterpieces in no time. To view your works on the large screen you simply hook up via HDMI or component to an HD Ready TV. A remote control is included so you can point and click at leisure.
This brings me neatly to actual image quality and I am happy to describe it in one work – stunning. At the time of review we were fortunate to have a 42in Toshiba 1080p screen, which is a great match for the 1,440 x 1,080i images that this camera is capable of capturing. The level of detail, the sharpness and the clarity were excellent, in both bright and darker conditions. It’s amazing that you can record such images on such a small device.
With a more critical eye I did notice some noise, due to the compression and the reduced bit-rate over AVCHD’s maximum. If there was one disappointment with the images it was that despite the presence of a three CCD image sensor colour accuracy was not spot on. My control was my three-year old’s red fire engine, which my single CCD Sony DV camcorder renders as a weird orange. The Panasonic was closer, but still not right. Even so, colours were bright and on the garish side, but sometimes the HDC-SC1 wasn’t quite spot on. The ‘Asbo’ orange of Riyad’s Focus ST was also slightly skew, being not quite the right shade of insane.
In very bright sunlight it struggled to deal with bright light and darker areas in the same scene but it does have manual controls to reduce the aperture to deal with this. Still, for the market this is aimed at this is nit-picking. Sure, you can get even better HD units but you’ll be looking at far larger, far more expensive near professional quality units. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get the full effect of the 5.1 surround sound as I didn’t have a surround set to test with, but the zoom effect were still noticeable playing back on the stereo TV – the sounds of what I zoomed in on were boosted, and when zooming out the surrounding ambient sounds came back into play. The Dolby Digital Creator chip essentially mixes the inputs of what it picks up from the six speakers on the fly.
Of course, you will eventually want to get your footage of the card – while SD cards are coming down in price, they’re still a far cry away from the cost of blank DV tapes. I moved footage onto my PC using the bundled HD Writer software. It is a decidedly lean application in terms of features – it won’t even let you play back your footage in full screen, which seems a bit rubbish to me. However, you can get round this with Cyberlink’s PowerDVD 7, which contains that necessary codec and will happily play back the M2TS files.