Further aiding handheld shooting at extreme zoom is the extra image stabilisation mode, which was first introduced in the HDC-TM350. The fact that the SD60 has an optical image stabilisation system is already very commendable at this price, and the new Advanced mode adds extra dimensions to the correction, making footage more stable whilst walking, or at high factors of telephoto, when shooting handheld. We found the new mode has clear benefits and is well worth having.
Not surprisingly, however, the SD60 has little in the way of enthusiast features. There’s no accessory shoe, and there are no minijacks for hooking up an external microphone or headphones, although manual audio level adjustment can be found in the menu system. The latter is almost exclusively operated via the touchscreen LCD. The only two discrete settings buttons available merely toggle between the two OIS modes and between Intelligent Auto (iA) and Manual. The LCD edge does have buttons for triggering record and operating the zoom, facilitating two-handed waist-height usage. There’s also a button for turning the built-in LED video light on and off. But all other settings require the touchscreen.
With iA enabled, it’s still possible to access a few useful features. A quick tap of the screen calls up the rapid function menu, with AFAE mode taking pride of place. This is a single-touch system for specifying a reference point for focus and exposure, which a number of manufacturer’s now offer. Clicking on the ‘F’ arrow button reveals the ability to turn on further functions, including the PRE-REC buffering option, smile shutter for when you’re taking photos, plus backlight compensation and tele-macro modes.
Switch to manual mode, however, and more functions are added to this strip. In particular, you gain the ability to adjust white balance, focus, shutter and iris. White balance options include two indoor and two outdoor presets, plus auto and fully manual modes. Manual focusing using the touchscreen buttons is a little fiddly, albeit aided by focus-assist fringing. You can adjust the shutter from 1/50th to 1/8000th, and aperture from F16 to F1.8, with up to 18dB of video gain on top. The latter two settings can be adjusted entirely independently, an impressive capability at this price if it wasn’t for the fact that all Panasonic camcorders can do it!