The HD60 series is the highlight of Panasonic’s latest mid-range high-def camcorders. One of a family of four models (along with the SD60, TM60 and TM55) offering different storage capabilities, the Panasonic HDC-SD60K enables recording to SD cards, including support for the high-capacity SDXC memory cards.
The HDC-SD60K features a larger 1/4.1-inch CMOS sensor and a 25x optical zoom lens, both significant improvements on the previous range. Impressive high-definition video capture is the mark of this series, setting the quality standards for consumer video recording at the right price (RRP: $529).
Latest Update: There is a newer model for this camcorder – Panasonic HDC-SD80.
Early impressions of the HDC-SD60K are that of a sleek and compact camcorder. This model is also relatively lightweight at 255g, making it extremely portable. Its tubular design offers a comfortable grip of the device, a grip that can be secured with the customary hand strap. The HDC-SD60 is available in three colors – black, silver or red.
The main shooting controls like the zoom toggle and shutter button for still images are placed on the top of the camcorder. Despite the omission of an accessory shoe, the iAuto/Manual mode and OIS buttons are visible from the top of the camcorder and lend a hand to convenient handling of the mode controls. A nice touch on Panasonic’s part is the physical mode switch at the back of the camcorder to allow fuss-free toggling between the playback, video and still-image modes.
The HDC-HS60 comes with a welcome, larger 1/4.1 inch MOS sensor which aids greatly in resolving image quality in low-light situations. Color resolution and image definition is also noticeably improved. The total pixel count for the camera stands at 3.32 megapixels with the effective pixel count coming in at 2.11 megapixels for motion recording. Still images are captured at 5.0 megapixels, producing quality pictures that are bright and sharp.
Unusual but handy for a camcorder at this range, the HDC-SD60 includes a LED video light which aids shooting in dimly-lit environments. An unexpectedly useful tool, the light is bright enough to double up as an improvised flashlight as well. The camera automatically switches on the light to boost performance in low-light situations if it determines the ambient light too dark. Users would do well to refrain from directing the light into any human subject’s eyes though, due to the temporary blinding effect it might have.
A major boon for entry-level users is the design of the user interface which cuts unnecessary frills for handling the features jam-packed into the HDC-SD60. Central to this is the Intelligent Auto (iA) mode coupled with the 2.7” LCD touch screen. Clunky physical buttons are removed in favor of the uncomplicated graphical menu system on the LCD screen. Adjusting controls whilst recording is easy thanks to the receptive screen controls which can be called on or hidden with a tap of the lower-left portion of the screen. This makes for a point-and-shoot camcorder suitable for users new to video recording. The LCD screen can also be rotated for multiple viewing options.
Multiple connectivity options for the HDC-SD60 are located in the LDC recess which can be accessed when the screen is opened. These include the HDMI terminal, USB port and the AV multi-connector which works with Panasonic’s proprietary AV and Component cable. The main SD memory card slot is also located inside the recess along with the power button. The high capacity SDXC (Secure Digital eXtended Card) memory cards enable up to 64GB of video storage. That amounts to approximately 8 hours of video (17Mbps) or 27,200 still images (4.5 megapixels). These SDXC cards also boast lightning quick transfer rates at almost 300 MB per second.
“In my opinion, this is the best camcorder in this price range. I would highly recommend this camcorder to anyone looking to just film family gatherings, vacations, or for filming budget movies. The camcorder has an attractive design, fits in your palm, and is the perfect weight. It takes fantasic video, has a 3 second pre-record function, face tracking, good battery life, a flash & video light, average photos, and dolby digital audio recording. My only complaint is the location of the record button, it is a bit awkward. I decided on this camcorder since it has optical image stabilization (which works flawlessly) instead of an electronic stabilizer. It also has an LED video light and a flash, for photos. It supports SDXC memory cards, which can hold 64GB or more. If you prefer flash memory over using a hard drive, like me, you are better off with this base model and getting a 16/32GB SD card. I bought the 32GB Transcend SDHC card from Amazon and it works perfectly with this product.” – G.Schmidt (PA,USA)
Along with the other models in this HD60 series, the HDC-SD60 is capable of generating full HD image sequences at 1920 x 1080/50i resolutions in the de-facto standard AVCHD format. The HDC-SD60 uses the MPEG-4/AVC H.264 high definition compression system to save recorded video captured at different settings to the external memory cards. These range from the highest quality HA mode (17Mbps) to the lower resolution HE mode (6Mbps) to suit your shooting requirements. Video can also be recorded in the standard definition 4:3 modes should the need arise.
A clear standout in the HDC-SD60’s shooting performance is the Panasonic 35.7mm Wide Angle Lens, which is larger than those offered on previous models in this price range. The lens focuses relatively closely on close-up shooting subjects which increases user recording possibilities. The intended subjects can still be captured within the frame at close distances without you shifting the camera backwards and compromising video quality.
Working in tandem with the new Wide Angle Lens is Panasonic’s acclaimed Power Optical Image Stabilizer. Crucial to zooming functions, the Power O.I.S. employs gyro sensors to detect hand-shake movements and adjusts the optical axis and lens accordingly to help minimize these movements. Although being reasonably effective in doing so, we found that this effectiveness diminished when the zoom settings were increased.
Here’s a short clip showing off the intelligent zoom of the HDC-SD60:
The 3.02mm to 75.5mm optical zoom lens also affords the HDC-SD60 a wider zoom ratio, reaching up to 25x optical zoom. This is substantiated by the Intelligent Zoom feature that allows it to attain an “i.Zoom” digital zoom extension of 35x. While images showed signs of jitter, the crispness of the image is still commendable when zooming in to record. This cannot be said for digital zoom ratios above 35x, however, despite the camera’s maximum digital offering of 1500x. Even so, Panasonic touts this as superior to other forms of digital zoom, as image degradation is corrected by the camera when zoom is extended.
Another feature unique to Panasonic camcorders is the six-object Face Detection with name-tagging and AF/AE tracking feature which is made possible with use of the touch screen. By tapping on a subject appearing on the screen, the AF/AE tracking function will be prompted to register the subject as a track-able subject. It will then follow the selected subject’s movements within the LCD frame and keep it in sharp focus. It can even maintain recognition of a subject that leaves the frame for a short time.
The shooting performance of the HDC-SD 60 is largely comparable with the other cameras in the HD60 series. Image resolution is high and gets the contrast and the color accuracy just right, as opposed to causing images to look over-processed. The mini-HDMI cable jack allowed easy hookups with a HD LCD monitor and images looked equally good on screen. You do need to get a HDMI cable separately though. Other connectivity options which are more readily available include a high-speed USB 2.0 port and the composite AV-multi output.
Audio capabilities also contributed to the exemplary video quality. The lack of a microphone input is well offset by the inbuilt 2 channel stereo zoom mic that does a competent job in capturing audio. In addition to that, the enhanced Wind Noise Canceler feature supplements audio quality by reducing wind noise and minimizing interferences with the microphone. It was only in artificial lightings that the noise became intrusive. A headphone jack is notably absent though, depriving users of the ability to monitor their recordings.
Battery performance of the HDC-SD60 also exceeded the approximated battery life stated on the manual. A full 90-minute charge of the supplied Lithium-Ion battery afforded almost 2 hours of actual recording time. This is considerably sufficient for a day’s usage, although it may be handy to acquire an additional battery.
The HDC-SD60’s improved image sensor, wide-angled lens and intuitive operational interface all contribute to an extremely satisfying high-definition shooting experience for entry-level users. Video quality is relatively favorable alongside other camcorders in this price range. The compactness of this camera and the affordable price would also increase the HDC-SD60’s attraction to users new to HD video recording, not to mention the large number of features for users to explore with. The only distinctive feature between the HDC-SD60 and the others in the HD60 series is the lack of internal memory storage with all videos recorded to the memory cards. This does make it a more competitively priced camcorder, recommended for users who prefer removable storage to store recorded media.
More user reviews:
• “I received my SD60 and I am impressed. The video quality so far is great and I am pleased to say that Power Director 8 does a great job producing videos. I am still learning all the features so I hope to give a more detailed review in the near future. For now though I have yet to find anything I don’t like on this camcorder except maybe the touch screen. I am not a big fan of touch screens and really just a personal preference. I will say though so far I have had no issues with the touch screen.
The Zoom on this camcorder is really amazing. I have check several other camcorders and this one really out performs the rest. The stabilization feature works really well.” – S.Huebner (USA)
• “The autofocus in this camera works great. In a busy scene it identifies quickly the object that it needs to focus on and it does this very accurately. The image stabilization is great, it is called O.I.S stabilization that helps counter camera shake and even works well when filming while walking.
The lens is superb. Particularly impressive is the range that it covers. Many other makes and models are not wide angle enough (Canon HFS200 starts at 44 mm, Sony 550 starts at 39mm) so when filming indoors or close to the action you may not be able to fit it all in. This camera starts at 29.5mm which is fantastic. Similarly this camera goes to an OPTICAL zoom of 25x which extends to a whopping 35x with the Intelligent Zoom function on. This is NOT a digital zoom that simply deletes resolution in order to give you a very fuzzy, blown up shot. Instead, it selects lower detail areas to reduce resolution while maintaining a very good level of detail. The result is a barely noticeable drop in image quality.
In terms of still photo quality just like no still camera makes excellent videos, no video camera makes excellent still. However, all in all this camera produces very respectable stills.
Battery life is excellent. Lasts around 2 hours 15 minutes. Yes, several cameras offer a longer battery life, but they are also bigger and heavier. Hard to find a better battery life in a 9.7 ounce, 2.0 x 2.6 x 4.4 inch camera.
The camera is extremely easy to use, fairly straightforward and intuitive. The only gripe is that the camera tries to pack so much information into the touch screen that it feels cramped and takes some getting used to.
This is a great camera that strikes the balance between features and price. Light, easy to use and great image quality.” – ADJ (Washington,DC)
• “Very versatile camera. Takes stills, motion, standard and hi-def – all equally well. Really like the touch-screen controls. Using a Patriot 32 Gb class 10 SDHC memory card ($89.00 – gives us 5 hours of HD recording) and it hasn’t lagged at all. May want to consider buying an extra battery – last about 90 minutes fully charged. Great camcorder at an excellent price.” – R.Moore (NY,USA)
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