Panasonic SDR-S15 review

£190
Price when reviewed

There are smaller and lighter video cameras around, but none cuter than the Panasonic SDR-S15. It looks more like it belongs in one of those children’s playsets than a full-functional home-movie shooter – it’s a camcorder in miniature, complete with flip-out screen and main controls that fall nicely under the fingers and thumb.

It’s not a toy, though. Everything works and, considering what it costs, there are some surprisingly advanced features packed in too. You get stereo audio recording and zoom microphone features, which contribute to better audio performance than most cameras in its price category, and with the help of an effective electronic image stabiliser you can achieve reasonably steady shots all the way through its 10x optical zoom range. The latter, by the way, is yet another grown-up feature you don’t expect to see on a camera this cheap.

We’re disappointed to report, then, that video quality is sadly lacking. The camera shoots in standard definition 704 x 576 resolution at 50 fields per second (which turns into 25fps once you see it onscreen), so it’s hardly surprising to find that detail capture lags behind 720p cameras, such as the Flip Mino HD and 1080p cameras such as the Toshiba Camileo S10 at this price point, but there are other problems.

Both outdoors and indoors our test clips – one recorded outdoors on a cloudy day, the other shot indoors under 100% artificial light – looked dull and bereft of life. In addition, focus was extremely soft, and though colour noise wasn’t a big problem in low light, we saw a noticeable amount of barrel distortion where straight edges looked bent, and chromatic aberrations in the form of purple fringing were rife.

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Neither were we that impressed with the SDR-S15’s menu system controls. These sit on the flat side of the camera under the screen, which means you can’t see the controls and the screen at the same time. Other cameras, more sensibly, place controls in the screen surround.

Overall, then, the SDR-S15 is a bit of a disappointment. It looks fantastic and is crammed with potentially useful features – we really wanted to like it. But the quality of the results means that, alas, we can’t recommend it.

Specifications

Camcorder HD standardN/A
Camcorder maximum video resolution704 x 576
Camcorder recording formatMPEG-2
Accessory shoe?no
Camera optical image stabilisationno
Electronic image stabilisation?yes
Screen size2.7in
Touchscreenno
Viewfinder?no
Built-in flash?no
Light?yes

Audio

Internal mic typeStereo

Dimensions

Dimensions width43
Dimensions depth102
Dimensions height59
Dimensions43 x 102 x 59mm (WDH)
Weight182g

Storage

Integrated memory0.0GB
Memory card supportSD/SDHC Card

Outputs

Data connectionUSB
Composite video output?yes
Component video output?no

Accessories

Remote control?no
Dock?no

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