Review: Panasonic HDC-SD80 Camcorder

  • Light and easy to use camcorder
  • Fully HD with many useful features
  • 42 x optical zoom

By Branko Miletic

Panasonic has been hitting the market with more camcorders than you can poke a fluffy microphone at. And as if to prove the point, enter the HDC-SD80, which the company released earlier this year, and might be one of those camcorders that will make Panasonic more famous for camcorders than TVs.

The first thing you notice is the weight and feel of the unit. It is not only feather-light, it also feels like it could become an extension of your hand with the greatest of ease.

The SD80 is easy to set up – with the touch screen on the LCD being more or less self-explanatory. After the initial battery charge, the set up was a quick 10-minute journey into the land of consumer electronic logic- and then in slid my SD card and we were off.

The next thing you will notice is how nice of a playback you get. This is largely due to the fact that the SD80 uses so-called Intelligent Resolution technology and also the Crystal Engine Pro, two technologies the really make the SD-80 stand out from its competition. Furthermore, the HDC in the name stands for high-definition camcorder, and it certainly performs that role with great aplomb.

From a specs point of view, the it is a 3MP full 1080p HD camcorder with a 42 x optical zoom, a 2000 x digital zoom, 2.7 inch LCD screen, USB 2, mini HDMI, AV Out, 33.7 mm lens and a Li-ion battery.

The SD80 also has something called Tele Macro, which allows you to shoot macro close ups from 0.75 metres. And if the light is a bit dodgy, well, that’s no issue because its LED Video Light comes into play whereby it automatically switches a light on, illuminating whatever you are shooting.

I have read that some people have been highly critical of the battery life. Now I don’t think Panasonic are using a different battery here in Australia, but I didn’t find any battery issues – suffice it to say – it did a total of about 40 minutes of filming but had the camcorder on stand-by for 2 weeks – not bad by any measure.

It also has SDHC/SDXC memory, Intelligent Auto with Face Recognition, and a large 1/5.8-inch MOS sensor that captures 1920×1080 video at 50 frames per second, so I’m hoping Panasonic don’t ask me to return it too quickly as I am having way too much fun playing with it.

In other words, the SD80 has just about everything one would need for even the most finicky video enthusiast.

At $609 (the cheapest price we could find), it certainly isn’t at the top of the price bracket and in many ways, Panasonic’s HDC-SD80 is exponentially better than many other camcorders selling at just under or at similar prices. It comes it red, black or silver – take my advice and go for the red- it looks super cool.

My one and only gripe – the flimsy manual shutter gates. A camera of this pedigree should have been given something more befitting its stature. This looks like a throwback to the days of VHS recorders.

Bar that, this is another great product from a company that obviously spends a bit on research and development.

Pros: light, easy to use, great features
Cons: the archaic manual lens shutter controller

4 Out of 5 Shacks