Panasonic HDC-SD900 camcorder
Full HD with 3D extras
Review The HDC-SD900 was the first of Panasonic’s expanded 3D camcorder range to arrive in the UK. It sits below the HDC-TM900 and HDC-HS900 (which offer 32GB memory and 220GB HDD respectively), but shares the same functionality, recording Full HD and 3D video to SD card.
Card sharp: Panasonic's HDC-SD900
If you’re keen to film in 3D you’ll also need to invest in the VW-CLT1, an optional conversion lens. For a camcorder so feature laden, the HDC- SD900 is a snap to use. A generous 3.5in touchscreen allows easy flipping between a fully automatic IA mode and manual (shutter, iris, WB, focus) controls.
The SD900 offers a variety of 1080i AVCHD shooting options (you can choose from four quality grades distinguished by bit rate, of which the best overall option is probably HG), as well as 1080/50p for the highest possible picture (with a massive 28-Mbps bit rate), plus iFrame for Apple fans. I suspect the latter will be a huge draw for users of Mac editing packages, as it eliminates the need for time-consuming file conversions. Note iFrame records in a 960 x 540/30p format.
Naturally, the SD900 will also shoot digital stills and these clock up a respectable 13.3Mp in size. There’s an integrated auto flash, featuring red eye correction, for when light levels dip. The film/camera mode selector sits near the viewfinder and is easily manipulated. Alternatively, you can grab snaps during live filming. Also on-board is Panasonic’s Optical Image Stabilisation (OIS) handshake-compensation tech. It’s a lifesaver on the brand’s Lumix compacts and disguises a world of fumbles when you can’t be bothered to use a tripod.
The 3MOS sensor delivers images with precision
2D Full HD picture quality is excellent. There’s a stunning amount of detail in the SD900’s hi-def images, and colour performance is outstanding. Much of this can be attributed to the 3MOS image sensor, which offers thrice the fidelity of cheaper, single chip 1 MOS shooters. Wildlife footage shot on a crisp, bright day zinged with colour; with big close-ups of hungry swans revealing scads of feathery fine detail.
Next page: Converting to 3D
I just bought one. It's great
I keep it set to 25p. In the camera's menus, 25p is called 'Digital Cinema' mode.
But the camera can also do 50p, which is incredible, if you have a device that can play 50p video. Some computer monitors can do it.
It also does 25i, like most other camcorders, but I personally don't like interlaced video, which was really designed for use on a cathode ray tube (CRT) monitor. Progressive 'P' is better for the computer era.
The US version of the camera does 60p, 30p and 30i. I think there should have only been one model that does all framerates.
Anyway, to sum up, this is the best consumer camera on the market. Its 3 image sensors (one for each colour) give it the best picture quality of any consumer camera. Professional cameras do this, but the Panasonic 900 is the only consumer camera to do it.
Other cameras (eg Sony) have gimmicky features like GPS, but the Sony only has one image sensor, thus lesser picture quality.
The VLC media player (open-source, free download) can play back AVCHD movies on any computer platform, so you don't need to pay for extra software.. Alternatively, you can import your AVCHD movies into Final Cut Pro, which converts to an intermediate format for editing, then you export it to any format.
Anyone thinking about getting this camera should search the model in Google, then click on Videos, and take a look at some of the videos people have made with it. Videos on Vimeo look better, but there are lots on YouTube (but YouTube compresses them a lot, losing a bit of quality).
And is there a version of the 3D adaptor for those people whose eyes are further apart than 20mm?
Focus / Zoom Ring.
The focus and zoom ring use the same ring. You can switch between them with a press of a button.
AC: I believe the SD900 doesn't have the issue of fan noise that some previous models had. Have you actually used a SD900 yet and tested it?
So where is the focus ring?
Looking at that device I don't see where the focus and zoom rings are supposed to be.
Sort it out
The 900 is a great camcorder and a significant improvement over last year's 700, but Panasonic STILL haven't fixed that damned fan noise problem.