Verdict

Panasonic hdc-sd90

There are such a large number of positives about the HDC-SD90 it would be easy to get carried away with how good it is. Actually, strike that, it's important to give credit where it's due, and this Panasonic model will not let anyone down.

There's much to enjoy and benefit from, but perhaps the element that will stay with users the most is its versatility: camcorder, camera and a compelling array of PC/TV connectivity – what's not to enjoy?

We liked:

The striking level of detail in our test footage has to be the standout – and so it should be with a camcorder; you don't really want other elements stealing the limelight. The SD90's images are so rich, pin-sharp and engaging that it will have you finding reasons to film.

Touchscreens can divide opinion – most often if the screen is unresponsive or hard to use – but the SD90's provides both a great view and snappy performance. It's perhaps not as slick as you'll find your mobile phone's to be, but prolonged use is unlikely to end in frustration.

The SD90 has some intriguing details and lower-key features and it's this subtlety and attention to detail that makes it such a productive camcorder. Guidelines can be activated that place a grid on the LCD screen to help ensure movies and photos are horizontally and vertically straight.

A Quick Start setting has the camera ready to film in a second, while the PRE-REC feature places a few seconds of video in a buffer memory, so you can actually record events that happened before you pressed the record button.

For those with Panasonic Viera TVs the Viera link is a labour-saving function, which enables the user to control playback via the TV's remote control. A small, and perhaps not essential, feature but practical nonetheless.

Battery life is reasonable and elements such as the built-in lens cover proved to be useful in protecting the Panasonic lens.

We disliked:

The SD90 has very few real failings. We did find the zoom lever to be harder to control than we'd like. Smooth zooming only came through trial, error and experience, as initially the zoom felt too fast and slick.

Open the LCD screen and you'll see buttons that include the on/off control. However, for some reason this has been placed in a truly awkward position – almost in a crevice. It's not particularly annoying but is a touch baffling.

A headphone socket to go with the external microphone would have added a final flourish to the socket selection, and would have reinforced the SD90's place among more frequent/ambitious moviemakers.

Verdict:

A massive thumbs-up for the Panasonic HDC-SD90. This is almost the complete camcorder. It's hard to see, for the sub-£500 price, how you could reasonably ask for more. Watching our test footage played back, even mundane shots are imbued with an almost-tactile quality.

The SD90 is stylish, effortlessly engaging to film with and is capable of superb moviemaking results. A contender for any low-budget filmmaking fan; if you get a chance to put it through its paces, then take it.