Panasonic HDC-SD80K Review

Panasonic HDC-SD80K is an entry level camcorder primarily aimed at the videographers who have just started off with their journey of capturing videos and clicking stills. At less than 200 USD, it is certainly one of the most affordable camcorders out there in the market or available online.

[easyazon-image align=”right” asin=”B004I43MH2″ locale=”us” height=”300″ src=”×1300-498375-300×300.jpg” width=”300″]In this review, we will talk about the experience before talking about the features since it is not a high end camcorder and experience and the ease of use is what matters the most for people who have just started using video cameras. Panasonic HDC-SD80K is an extremely lightweight camcorder. The sleek and small size easily fits into the palm and can even be conveniently used by teenagers. This makes a single hand handling absolutely easy. If you are using the strap to hold the camcorder firmly in your palms then the video turn on and off may be a bit difficult in case you have not used too many video cameras. You must try not to use the strap for the first few days or use the other hand to turn it on and off and it should work fine. Gradually one can get accustomed with this. The Panasonic camcorder is easy to use and is not overloaded with knobs and buttons and the manual is pretty well detailed. Most people would not need the manual at all.

The LCD of the Panasonic HDC-SD80K Camcorder is bright with a good quality display. Some may find it low on functions but without all the extensive display icons, the LCD looks rather neat and easy to maneuver. The LCD is a touch screen which is not found always in entry level camcorders.

Panasonic HDC-SD80K employs the CMOS technology and comes in with a 42x zooming and a 33.7 mm wide angle lens. The latter certainly offers a wide enough frame if you want to pull in a few extra people or cover a large area without panning. Most people do not like panning entry level digital cameras since they offer a lot more haze than high end digital cameras or analog video cameras. The model is available in black, red and silver so young adults and teenagers are going to love the choices.

Among the features, the Optical Image Stabilizer is amazing given the price range. The Hybrid Optical Image Stabilizer (OIS) in the Panasonic HDC-SD80K camcorder allows you to capture high quality images and videos even at the highest zoom levels. It is natural that slight movements create a huge effect when you zoom in any camcorder but with the Panasonic camcorder there is a Optical Image Stabilizer lock on the LCD screen itself which can be clicked and the integrated feature would lock the frame instantaneously. It is especially great considering most people who would use this camcorder would not be veterans or professionals and such a feature would certainly allow much greater quality pictures without the blurs and the shakes. The Intelligent Resolution Technology in the Panasonic HDC-SD80K ensures that every image is full HD and that retains the natural hues of the object or your subjects.

The image and video quality is excellent and the good thing is that even if you watch the video on a comparatively larger screen, you still do not get grains, dark spots and blurs. What is a little more impressive is that the HDC-SD80K is significantly better compared to the earlier models from Panasonic such as the HDC-SD60 or the HDC-TM60 in all respects. The Zoom Mic is pleasantly surprising and coupled with the Wind Noise Canceller really allows you to capture the organic and natural sounds of your subjects and the ambience even from a distance.

There are enough scene modes to experiment with and also a Macro feature. While all the conventional scene modes such as Sports, Portrait, Snow, Beach, Sunset and the likes can be used for either still or motion images, the Low Light mode can only be used for motion images while the Night Portrait is only usable for still images. That is not something any photographer or user of the Panasonic HDC-SD80K would mind. Besides the Tele Macro feature the camcorder also has a Soft Skin Mode which works great to reduce the focus on skin tones. This is especially helpful when you are shooting outdoors and the sunlight can create a burning and overexposure effect in the images and videos.

The 16 GB internal memory is impressive and there is an option to upgrade it to 32 GB. At the initial stages the 16 GB sounds good enough since most of us today end up transferring the contents at the end of the day. The battery is certainly one of the best out there in its price range and compared to competitors with its ability to easily last for more than two hours of continuous use.

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  1. Great little camcorder, really good for capturing video quickly, in decent quality, and without forking out a lot to do so.

    • Ok, a few things here You can copy over an AVCHD file to a PC and just watch it, on the PC. In theroy, you can also create an AVCHD formatted DVD, and play it on most Blu-Ray players, without the need to recode. But you generally want to do some editing, and that probably does entail some recoding. AVCHD is a new format, and much more compex than MPEG-2. This means that support for it is currently a little weak and a little confused (not every AVCHD product is yet interoperable). PCs only recently got fast enough for HDV MPEG-2 editing to be comfortable. So is converting necessary that depends on what you want to do with the video. If you want to watch in on TV, you probably will do some kind of conversion, at least until the tools get better and you have a Blu-Ray player or PS3. 2GB RAM is enough for most HD video editors. I run a 2.2GHz AMDx2, and it’s decent, but Intel’s Core2 and quads are faster still yeah, doing some HD rendering can take a long time; it depends on how much, and just what you’re doing. Converting from AVCHD to, say, MPEG-2 will certainly take LESS time than converting from MPEG-2 to AVCHD (I’m making some Blu-Ray discs from HDV sources at this very moment it’s runs around 24 hours per hour of video using one tool I have )I believe the HDC-SD9 will do standard definition, in MPEG-2 as well, so it’s pretty easy to deal with on a modern PC. As for low-light performance, the Panasonic consumer 3-chip cameras have never offered great low light performance. The original ones used three 1/6 CCDs, which significantly underperformed vs. the 1/3 single-chip cameras from Sony or Canon (while offering better color, in bright light, anyway). The SD-1 went to 1/4 chips, but they’re back to 1/6 chips for the SD-9 and that’s HD. At the same imager size, an HD camera will be much worse than an SD, since the pixels are essentially 1/6th the size. Note that these 1/6 CCDs are only 520K pixels each (they overlap them to get the HD effect) that actually helps, but still doesn’t deliver good low light performance. And of course, this arrangement negates the color improvements of 3-chip vs. single CCD you only get one color per pixel, and have to interpolate.And that’s a general problem in the consumer market the best low-light cameras are 3-chip pro/prosumer-class SD cameras, with 1/3 sensors, like the Sony VX2100 which is why you can still buy the VX2100 HD cams don’t compare in low-light. But I do agree most of today’s SD camcorders are for low-end consumers. Canon used to have some very nice 1/3 sensor single-chip cameras in this market not they’re all 1/6 , likely worse than your Panasonic in SD mode. If I were going to buy a flash-based camcorder today, I would almost certainly get the Canon HF-100. The single 1/3.2 sensor is not only larger than the Panny’s, but Canon’s CMOS technology these days is much lower noise than anyone’s CCDs, so I think you’ll be better off in low-light with that. HOWEVER, most consumer and most HD camcorders will probably disappoint you, if you’re doing any serious low light videography.

  2. that about any stabilizer for caamres that I’ve owned in the past. Image stabilizers are typically exaggerated on most caamres (i.e., super steady-no-motion claims), but this one does a wow kind of job. At 4,000 times a second, the optical stabilizer does an impressive job at stabilizing an image even at the full 10x optical zoom. This is approximately 5 times faster than Panasonic’s predecessor’s. I’ve tried the system on and off and it’s extraordinarily impressive. Don’t expect the same results, however, on digitially enhanced zooming which I never use anyway.* Pre-record. Ever catch yourself saying, Man, I wished that I had hit record about a second sooner to catch my kid saying that! Well, with pre-record enabled, the camera keeps the last 3 seconds of video buffered in standby mode so if you do hit record at the opportune time, you can go back 3 seconds in time to capture what you might have missed! * Exceptional sound. Yep, the camera comes with Dolby Digital 5.1 sound. I’m a bit of an audiophile, so I truly appreciate being immersed in a home movie environment that has sound around me as if I was still there filiming it. There are 3 options with the micorphone: surround, zoom mic, and focus mic. The regular surround options records all ambient noise equally, although you can actually change the gain, if you want. The zoom mic actually directs more input to the front microphone if you zoom in closer to an object further away; this allows you to zoom in on sound originating directly ahead. I haven’t had a chance to fiddle with the focus mic, but I’m sure that it works just as well.Cons:* Battery life. According to the manual, the supplied battery can optimistcally handle 1 hour and 45 seconds of continuous record time (a full charge does register at 119 minutes). Realistically, the manual says, it would last about 1 hour, if you factor in zooming, switching it on but not recording for a few minutes between shots, lighting conditions (and compensation), etc.; Panasonic’s predicted time is probably close. I would recommend getting the Panasonic VW-VBG260 battery from a 3rd party dealer which will last twice as long (got mine for $129.95 Panasonic charges $169.95). You could get the VBG6 battery which lasts a LOT LONGER, but it requires a separate pack to carry the power supply since the battery is so large. Not worth the hassle, in my opinion.* No viewfinder. Minor inconvenience for me, but I prefer the old style viewfinder. However, the camera is so small and comfortable that using the LCD screen works fine. I’m willing to concede that this is a non-issue.* No accessory shoes. You want to hook up a camera light? Forget it nowhere to put it unless you rig something to it (shoestring anyone?). Again, though, I’m fed up with trying to light a completely dark room and I find myself not really wanting it. That said, the low-light function on the camera as well as Magic Pix (full color in both modes, not the green washed out night vision with scary eyes!) does surprisingly well with 1 lux of light available.Overall, the camera is extremely impressive for the price and the 3rd generation of HD caamres from Panasonic are a cost-effective way to enjoy high quality images. For standard DVD usage, this camera is more than perfect. However, as a caution, check that your video software is capable of using the AVCHD video format. It’s still in its infancy, but an increasing number of software vendors are adopting it is a viable alternative. If you’re serious about video editing, I would highly recommend Sony Vegas Pro Version 8.0 (current version as of 2/08) or later.

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