Pros: Attractive and sturdy; Half the size of other small camcorders; Fast, responsive and easy to operate.
Cons: Low light performance and sharpness disappointing.
Bottomline: Panasonic’s HDC-SD9 is a neat and compact solution for those looking to shoot HD footage to compliment the output of their widescreen telly, but stacked against similarly priced rivals you’re paying a slight premium for a device this diminutive. Still, its SD storage does allow for future expansion.
Panasonic is acclaimed for its sporting camcorders and innovative digital still cameras, so it makes sense that the new SD9 camcorder borrows the best of both.
It offers high-definition (HD) movies and lens technology from enthusiasts’ favourite camera maker Leica, yet remains small and light enough to slip into a jacket pocket.
The full HD (1920x1080 pixel) movies and 2-megapixel stills that it takes can be stored on SD memory cards (it supports the higher-capacity SDHC format too). Although it doesn't come with such a card, a relatively modest 4GB card can handle an hour’s worth of footage.
And, arguably, the ability to expand the SD9’s storage capacity by slipping in a larger card makes the device more future-proof than competing hard disk models that have a fixed size (a pricier HS9 model gives the option of having both).
The SD9, with its 10x-zoom lens is fast and responsive: slip your fingers under the side strap, flip open the screen and you’ll be up and shooting in well under a second, and the attractively designed camcorder is half the size of rivals including Canon’s HG10.
Panasonic claims it’s the first camcorder to feature face detection – now common in still cameras – plus an Intelligent Shooting Guide, which warns the user on screen if lighting is too low or if you’re panning through a scene too quickly for viewers’ comfort.
Built-in image stabilisation also makes for a commendably smooth zoom action and a wobble-free image even at full zoom, while a 5.1 surround sound microphone simultaneously zeroes in on your subject and cuts out distracting background chatter.
Maintaining a fuss-free layout, the camera's zoom lever doubles up as a volume control when playing back video, while a simple three-step slider switches between capture, review and standby. While all of that counts in favour of the SD9, its performance in low light is not as hot as rival camcorders that have larger lenses and bodies, and similarly its images are less sharp.
Viewed in isolation, however, it’s easy to use and responsive, even if you do have to sacrifice something in the way of quality for a camcorder this small.