Panasonic HDC-SD9 review

£499
Price when reviewed

Impressed as we were by the HDC-SD5 a few months back, it was still a surprise to see it become the top-selling HD model that it has. Now, fewer than six months later, Panasonic has brought out a new version: called the HDC-SD9, it takes the solid basis of the SD5 and builds some clever new electronics on the top.

Panasonic HDC-SD9 review

At first glance, the SD9 doesn’t look that different to its predecessor, and its basic internals are essentially the same. It still uses a trio of 1/6in CCDs with 560,000 pixels each, and a high-end optical image stabilisation system to reduce handheld camera-work shakes. But Panasonic has made a few key changes.

The SD5 was already specified as Full HD, but although it records 1,920 x 1,080 video, it used interlaced fields. The SD9 now goes a step further and adds progressive scanning, so it really does offer Full HD. To complement this, Panasonic has added a 17Mbits/sec AVCHD HA quality mode, as well as 13Mbits/sec HG; however, recording in HA will allow you to fit 30 minutes of video on a 4GB SDHC, making the latest 32GB cards preferable.

Panasonic has also included helpful electronic assistance for the novice. A button on the side toggles Face Detection, which works in the same way as with Panasonic’s still image cameras. Human faces are detected, and exposure set so these can be seen properly, even against a backlight.

The Intelligent Shooting Guide detects problems with your settings and makes helpful suggestions – such as when to turn on Night Mode. But, thankfully, it lets you decide whether to take its advice.

Like the SD5, the SD9 doesn’t have much for the video enthusiast. There is no built-in accessory shoe, no microphone input, and no headphone jack, although you can control audio levels manually. You also get Panasonic’s usual impressive range of controls over iris and shutter in manual mode.

Most excitingly, Panasonic has integrated five microphones arranged in a cross: by default they record 5.1 surround sound, but you can also use their directional abilities to provide Zoom Mic and Focus Mic functions, both of which cut out audio from the side with reasonable effectiveness.

Since the SD9 has the same small CCDs as the SD5, we were expecting good overall performance, with less impressive video in low light. However, our expectations were proven wrong. The SD9’s footage did become grainy in poor illumination, but its ability to resolve colour was noticeably improved over its predecessor.

The HDC-SD9 is just as dinky and cute as the SD5. But now Panasonic has added a bundle of extra electronic widgets, it’s even more enticing for the point-and-shoot camcorder user. With a reasonable price to match, and the ever-decreasing price of SDHC memory, we can see this being a very successful model indeed.

Specifications

Camcorder HD standard 1080p
Camcorder maximum video resolution 1920 x 1080
Camera megapixel rating 0.6MP
Camcorder recording format AVCHD
Accessory shoe? no
Camera optical zoom range 10.0x
Camera optical image stabilisation yes
Electronic image stabilisation? no
Screen size 2.7in
Touchscreen no
Built-in flash? yes
Number of sensors 3

Audio

Internal mic type 5.1
External mic socket? no

Storage

Memory card support SD/SDHC Card

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