Panasonic's HDC-SD90 records Full HD 1920 x 1080/50p video to SDHC and SDXC cards and is part of the firm's 1MOS range for 2011.
It's an AVCHD model aimed, primarily, at people who want an HD camcorder with a wide range of features and connectivity, and has the sort of subtle functionality prized by moviemaking enthusiasts who want to take full control over the images they shoot.
The SD90 makes a positive start with an f1.8 Panasonic lens – Leica Dicomar lenses appear on higher-end/3MOS models – that has a 28mm wide-angle equivalent allowing filmmakers to cram more into the frame without having to move further away from the subject.
Creative licence means it can be applied to any shot but for family users or holidaymakers it would work particularly well on party or landscape shots.
A three-inch touchscreen LCD ensures you can compose and review images in suitable detail, as well as making selections from the menu screen. It's particularly good to see zoom and record options incorporated into the screen.
You don't have to look away to find the correct button, just press an area on the left of the LCD to activate and use these controls.
In fact, many other aspects of the SD90's menu can be accessed on the screen, including setup and recording options, and photo modes. The camcorder can snap 5MP stills separately using its photo mode but can also grab 4.5MP images via the simultaneous-record function, meaning it's possible to nab a quick shot while you're actually recording video footage.
With 3D still a buzzword more than a mainstream consumer reality, the HDC-SD90 nevertheless makes a leap for the bandwagon by referring to its 3D filming capacity. The camcorder is capable of 3D movies but this requires you to buy an optional 3D conversion lens (the Panasonic VW-CLT1).
This will let you render images in 3D, but at a cost of over £200 extra it may have limited appeal. The conversion lens itself is large and somewhat bulky and definitely requires a hands-on demo prior to any purchase.
Manual modes are well served on the SD90, as befits a camcorder that's likely to gain popularity with low-budget moviemakers eager to grab attention on YouTube. Manual options include focus, white balance, shutter speed and iris.
There's a 21x optical zoom – plenty of scope for any moviemaker – plus an intelligent zoom option that takes it up to 40x and a digital range from 60x to a bewildering 1500x. An optical image stabiliser will help ensure movies aren't always blighted by shaky-cam syndrome.
The lack of either hard drive or flash memory has allowed Panasonic to keep the size of the SD90 down but fortunately this is without the resultant miniaturisation of buttons and controls it usually entails.
It is a camcorder that feels substantial yet easily controllable and it feels comfortable to hold. And chiefly because it's not ridiculously tiny or featherlight, it's a camcorder that remains easy to keep steady when making a panning or tilting shot.