Panasonic SDR-S10 review

A waterproof, shock-proof contender for the SD market

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Our Verdict

If it's quality you're after, pound-for-pound a mini DV cam will give you better footage, more features and longer recording time. But for sheer carry-anywhere convenience, the S10 offers a neat solution with acceptable image quality that will be at home in most situations.


  • Easy to use

    Good colour reproduction

    Decent audio for the price


  • Basic features

    Picture fizz in fast-moving shots

The words 'small' and 'light' are frequently attributed to Panasonic's various camcorders, but with the S10 the company has gone one better and come up with what it claims to be the world's smallest SD camcorder.

More of a gadget cam than a serious shooter, the S10 is aimed at the take-anywhere YouTube generation, and is both shock-resistant up to 1.2m and shower-resistant.

At under £300, it also does away with the premium price traditionally associated with this type of cam - throw in 16:9 shooting, manual capabilities and stills and Panasonic seem to have a neat little device on offer.

The form-factor of the S10 is more akin to a hip flask than the traditional pistol-grip fare of many 'gadget' cams, and is surprisingly light given the manufacturer's boast of fortified casing.

The unusual shape is actually reasonably comfortable for shooting, and the inclusion of a second record button on the side near the front means users can film more naturally at low angles by adjusting their grip.

Bar the two record buttons and zoom rocker, all the other controls are hidden behind the 2.7in widescreen LCD. Aside from the usual navigational pad the only buttons present here are those used to select manual or auto shooting, a menu button and delete. There's also a basic mode dial with just four options.

Like the external controls, the interface itself has been designed to be as straightforward as possible and all the options are easily accessible. If you do find yourself struggling, there's a handy help mode that displays info about each option.

Avoiding unnecessary flourishes, by sticking to the basics the S10 presents a fairly functional features list. Aside from a 16:9 mode, users can set the focus, shutter speed and aperture manually, and also get to choose from five preset scene modes.

Footage is shot in MPEG2 and stored to SD card in the MOD format used by JVC's Everio hard-disk camcorders (a 2GB card comes bundled). Unfortunately, the CCD lacks megapixel credentials and only carries an 800,000-pixel sensor.

Choosing the top-quality XP setting will only allow you to store around 25 minutes of footage to the 2GB card, but the S10 is also compatible with the higher capacity SDHC card.

Confirming its gadget-like status, unsurprisingly there are no in-camera editing options and there's also no mic input or headphone jack. Connectivity options centre around the USB 2.0 port used to transfer footage to your computer.

Sensibly, given that the average battery life lasts under an hour, transferring clips can only take place when the camcorder is plugged into the mains. Once this is completed, the S10 shows up as a mass storage device leaving files to be dragged and dropped as normal.

Windows users can also take advantage of the included MotionSD STUDIO 1.2E editing software, but most of the main video applications can now handle MOD files too.

Despite offering a stills mode, the lowly resolution of 640x480 means photos are only really good for uploading to the net or emailing rather than printing at any great size. The 10x optical zoom is a nice touch, though.

The quality of video from the S10 was never going to blow us away, given its single 1/6in sensor. However, to criticise it out of hand would be to miss the point of camcorders such as these.

Yes, the auto exposure at times proved problematic and edges did lack definition on account of the resolution, but on the whole things weren't too bad.

Shooting indoors in low light caused the cam to struggle with exposure significantly, but even here the autofocus did a good job. Recorded audio and narrative also came across clearly.

What the S10 offers users is the convenience and ruggedness of a gadget you can throw in your bag and have handy in situations when you wouldn't always want your best kit with you.

It's also a pretty stylish looking gadget at that, and given the reasonable price point would make a versatile addition to the more adventurous imaging outfit.