White balance options include presets for sunny and cloudy outdoor days, plus tungsten and fluorescent indoor situations, alongside auto and manual. You even get picture adjustments, including sharpness, colour, exposure and white balance bias. There’s a soft skin setting available, too. Not surprisingly, though, the SD80 doesn’t offer any enthusiast features, such as microphone inputs or an accessory shoe; for this, you will need to step up to the SD90. This model is aimed at the mainstream user exclusively. But you do get manual control over audio levels.
Panasonic’s SD90 offers just about the best image quality in its price range, but the SD80 has a considerably smaller sensor. Nevertheless, although its footage lacks a little of the detail of its more expensive sibling, colour fidelity is similarly good in decent lighting. The biggest revelation is low light performance, which we had expected to be noticeably inferior to the SD90’s due to the tiny CMOS. There is greater sign of grain, but the picture remains brighter than most camcorders with sensors this size can achieve. Overall, the SD80 will pick up a decent picture in most everyday conditions, belying its £300 price.
Panasonic’s HDC-SD80 is a good budget camcorder, offering decent image quality and a healthy array of manual settings if you do find you want to take a little more control of your shooting. However, if you do just want a cheap point-and-shoot camcorder capable of good image quality, JVC’s Everio GZ-HM445 lacks the range of manual controls, but shoots comparably good video and also offers a touch LCD for quite a bit less outlay.
Score in detail
Image Quality 8