Panasonic's entry and mainstream HD camcorders

With the exception of a couple models, for the most part Panasonic's entry-level and midrange HD camcorder models for 2011 look underwhelming, thanks to sensors with insufficient resolution for HD capture.

Originally published January 5, 2011; updated February 1, 2011: Pricing added to chart. Scroll to the bottom for additional comment.

LAS VEGAS--In 2011, Panasonic is expanding the number of models in its entry-level and mainstream HD camcorder lines; sadly, most of them follow the regrettable trend of using sub-HD resolution sensors, leaving only the top-end of the midrange HDC-TM90 and SD90 as the models likely to produce decent video.

Here's a summary of the lineup, with last year's SD60/TM55 for comparison:


  HDC-SD60/TM55 HDC-TM40/SD40 HDC-TM80/SD80 HDC-HS80 HDC-TM90/SD90
Sensor (effective resolution) 3-megapixel CMOS 1.2-megapixel CMOS 1.3-megapixel CMOS 1.3-megapixel CMOS 2.6-megapixel CMOS
1/4.1 inch 1/5.8 inch 1/5.8 inch 1/4.1 inch 1/4.1 inch
Lens 25x
f1.8-3.3
35.7 - 893mm (16:9)
16.8x
f1.8-2.6
42.9 - 721mm (16:9)
34x
f1.8-4
33.7 - 1240mm (16:9)
12x
f1.5-2.8
35 - 420mm (16:9)
21x
f1.8-3.5
28 - 729mm (16:9)
Min illumination (lux) standard: 1400
low light: 4
Color Night View: 1
standard: 1400
low light: 7
Color Night View: 1
standard: 1400
low light: 7
Color Night View: 1
standard: 1400
low light: 7
Color Night View: 1
standard: 1400
low light: 4
Color Night View: 1

EVF

No No No No No
LCD 2.7-inch 230,400-dot 2.7-inch 230,400-dot 2.7-inch 230,400-dot 2.7-inch 230,400-dot 3-inch 230,400-dot
Primary media SD/8GB flash; SDXC 16GB/0GB flash; SDXC 16GB/0GB flash; SDXC 120GB hard disk; SDXC 16GB/0GB flash; SDXC
HD recording AVCHD:
1080/60i @ 17, 13, 9 ,5 Mbps
AVCHD: 1080/60i @ 17, 13, 9 Mbps
AVCHD:
1080/60i @ 17, 13, 9 ,5 Mbps
AVCHD:
1080/60i @ 17, 13, 9 ,5 Mbps
AVCHD: nonstandard 1080/60p 28Mbps;
1080/60i @ 17, 13, 9 ,5 Mbps
Manual shutter speed Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Manual iris Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Accessory shoe No No Yes Yes Yes
Audio 2 channels
2 channels 2 channels 2 channels 2 channels
Body dimensions (WHD, inches) 2.0 x 2.6 x 4.4 2.0 x 2.3 x 4.3 2.0 x 2.3 x 4.3 2.6 x 2.8 x 5.8 2.0 x 2.5 x 4.7
Operating weight (pounds) 10.5 7.4 (est) 8.2 (est) 10.8 (est) 10.1 (est)
Mfr. Price $499.95/$529.95 $399.99/$349.99 $499.99/$449.99 $599.99 $599.99/$549.99
Ship date March 2010 March 2011 March 2011 March 2011 March 2011

The SD90/TM90 will also support Panasonic's optional 3D lens, and all but the TM40/SD40 will incorporate Touch Zoom and Touch Shutter. Panasonic declined to provide pricing and availability information.Now Panasonic has a confusing 7 models in the $200 range between $400 and $600. My preliminary take (given that I haven't tested any of them yet): you should either consider the cheapest, with the caveat that it will likely deliver sub-par video quality because of the low-resolution sensor, or one of the x90 models. The rest are just confusing.

Read the full CNET Review

Panasonic HDC-SD60K (Black)

The Bottom Line: Panasonic's quartet of entry-level HD camcorders--the HDC-HS60, TM60, TM55, and SD60--delivers a nice manual feature set and good performance, as well as solid video quality for their class. As long as you don't pay list price, the SD60 is a great value, and if possible, avoid paying the unnecessary price premium for the hard drive in the HS60. / Read full review

Read the full CNET Review

Panasonic HDC-TM55

The Bottom Line: Panasonic's quartet of entry-level HD camcorders--the HDC-HS60, TM60, TM55, and SD60--delivers a nice manual feature set and good performance, as well as solid video quality for their class. As long as you don't pay list price, the SD60 is a great value, and if possible, avoid paying the unnecessary price premium for the hard drive in the HS60. / Read full review

Read the full CNET Review

Panasonic HDC-SD80 (Black)

The Bottom Line: A functional trio of camcorders, the Panasonic HDC-SD80, TM80, and HS80 are notable for their manual exposure controls, unusual for their price class, and well designed touch-screen interface but otherwise you can find better options. Of the three, the SD80 is the best choice simply on price. / Read full review

Read the full CNET Review

Panasonic HDC-TM80 (Black)

The Bottom Line: A functional trio of camcorders, the Panasonic HDC-SD80, TM80, and HS80 are notable for their manual exposure controls (unusual for their price class) and well-designed touch-screen interface, but otherwise you can find better options. Of the three, the SD80 is the best choice simply on price. / Read full review

Read the full CNET Review

Panasonic HDC-HS80

The Bottom Line: A functional trio of camcorders, the Panasonic HDC-SD80, TM80, and HS80 are notable for their manual exposure controls (unusual for their price class) and well-designed touch-screen interface, but otherwise you can find better options. Of the three, the SD80 is the best choice simply on price. / Read full review

Read the full CNET Review

Panasonic HDC-SD40

The Bottom Line: Panasonic's HDC-TM40, TM41 and SD40 are some of the cheapest camcorders you can buy with a zoom lens and manual controls. If you care about video quality, spend a little more money on another model; if you don't, buy the cheapest one of these you can find, adjusting for the cost of memory for the SD40. / Read full review

Read the full CNET Review

Panasonic HDC-TM40

The Bottom Line: Panasonic's HDC-TM40, TM41 and SD40 are some of the cheapest camcorders you can buy with a zoom lens and manual controls. If you care about video quality, spend a little more money on another model; if you don't, buy the cheapest one of these you can find, adjusting for the cost of memory for the SD40. / Read full review

About the author

Lori Grunin is a senior editor for CNET Reviews, covering cameras, camcorders, and related accessories. She's been writing about and reviewing consumer technology and software since 1988.

 

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