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It's a good bet that 99 percent of people won't read the manual that comes with the HDC-SD10. They'll just switch it on, hunt for the record button and work things out as they go.
To its credit, the HDC-SD10 isn't complicated. Powered by a small, cube-shaped battery cell, there's enough juice for almost two hours-worth of filming.
The 725mAh cell slots neatly into the main body of the camcorder. Here you'll also find the on/off button and a nifty Pre-Rec mode. This buffers three seconds of video every time you open the lens cover. Press record and your clip will include those three seconds. Handy.
The third button here is labelled 'Manual'. Again, 99 percent of people who buy the HDC-SD10 will never even touch it. And even if they do, they'll quickly switch it back off again. For this mode is for all those camcorder veterans who don't want to be aided by all the beginner-friendly technology that Panasonic has built in.
Things like automatic scene selection, face tracking, intelligent contrast, or the clever Auto Focus and Auto Exposure (AF/AE) system.
One feature that the Manual mode doesn't turn off is Panasonic's Advanced Image Stabilization (O.I.S). Even experienced video enthusiasts will appreciate the technology here, which is designed to compensate for camera shake.
According to Panasonic, O.I.S auto-detects and corrects any unintended movement 4,000 times every second. It's a feel-good feature. While you might be conscious of the HDC-SD10 visibly shaking in your hand as you record, the final footage is often nowhere near as bad as you feared it might be.
That's O.I.S in action. It's a big draw for beginners. Of course, you could always use a tripod...
That said, many factors can affect the quality of your video footage. O.I.S does its best to eliminate judder; Intelligent Auto (iA) is on hand to automatically pick the best contrast, brightness and ISO settings for optimum results.
The Panasonic HDC-SD10 also features four recording modes – the highest quality option (HA) encodes 1920x1080 HD video at 17Mbps, HG at 13Mbps and the normal HX mode encodes at 9Mbps. A lower quality, 1440 x 1080 HE mode encodes video at 6Mbps.
While the footage isn't true HD, you can fit more video onto your SD/SDHC memory card of choice.
Get out and about with the HDC-SD10 and it's easy to appreciate how beautifully compact and extraordinarily light it is. Flip open the 2.7-inch LCD (and then the lens cover), set the time/date and you can be shooting your first HD video clips in under five seconds.
You need a memory card, of course, which slides neatly into the discreet SD card slot on the top-edge. Here, you'll also find the simple controls for operating the 16x zoom and for taking still pictures (at 1.17 effective Megapixels). The record button is on the back panel and can be easily accessed with your thumb.
With very little effort you can produce professional-looking high-definition video footage that's well-lit, sharp, clear and steady. As previously mentioned, the LCD on the HDC-SD10 is touch-sensitive and there's a strip of buttons below the 230x400 pixel screen.
The Auto Focus/Auto Exposure mode can be accessed by simply clicking the onscreen option and then touching the subject of your shot. The Menu button, meanwhile, gives you access to further options, including various video and scene tweaks, plus picture settings for when you use the HDC-SD10 to capture still images.
The advantage of accessing this functionality via the LCD is that you never need to look away from your subject.
And when you're done (or the battery has run out), you can review your HD footage and photos via the LCD or output the feed to a TV. The HDC-SD10 includes connections for component, HDMI, mini-USB and composite via an AV socket.
Panasonic has also provided support for VIERA link, enabling you to browse through the contents of the SD10 using your TV's remote. Other options include printing photos directly to a PictBridge-compatible printer or burning images/video straight to DVD. Last, but not least, hook the HDC-SD10 up to a PC or Mac and copy across the MPEG4-AVC video files and JPEG images.
If we hadn't already seen the HDC-TM10 with its dual storage capability (and 40GB maximum capacity), then the HDC-SD10 would attract phrases like "the best little camcorder we've seen".
This week, however, it's the second-best little camcorder we've seen. Available in glossy black or red, Panasonic is proving that you don't need to pay big money to get an HD-capable video camera. In fact, on this evidence, going high-def is cheaper than you might think.