Panasonic HDC 40 review: Panasonic HDC 40

  Canon Vixia HF R200/R20/R21 Panasonic HDC-SD40/TM40/TM41 Sony Handycam HDR-CX110
Sensor (effective video resolution) 1.47 - 2.07-megapixel CMOS (depends on IS)
1.2-megapixel CMOS 1.35 megapixels
1/4.85 inch 1/5.8 inch 1/4-inch
Lens 20x
(depends on IS)
42.9 - 721mm
Closest focus (inches) 0.4 1.6 n/a
Min illumination (lux) recommended: 100
standard: 5
low light: 0.4
standard: 1400
low light: 7
Color Night View: 1
recommended: n/a
standard: n/a
low light: 5


None None None
LCD 3-inch 230,000 dots 2.7-inch 230,400-dot 2.7-inch 230,000 pixels
Primary media 0GB/8GB/ 32GB internal; 2 x SDXC 0GB/16GB/16GB flash; 1 x SDXC 1 x SDXC
HD recording AVCHD: 1080/60i @ n/a Mbps; 1440 x 1080/60i @ n/a Mbps
(also encodes 30p as 60i)
AVCHD: 1080/60i @ 17, 13, 9 Mbps
1080/60i @ 24, 17Mbps; 1440x1080/60i @ 9,5 Mbps
Manual shutter speed No Yes No
Manual iris No Yes No
Accessory shoe No No No
Audio 2 channels; mic, headphone jacks 2 channels 2 channels
Body dimensions (WHD, inches) 2.4 x 2.4 x 4.8 2.0 x 2.3 x 4.3 2 x 2.3 x 4.5
Operating weight (pounds) 10.9 (est) 7.9 9.3
Mfr. Price $329.99/ $349.99/ $449.99/ $296.99/$359.99 /$339.99 $399.99
Ship date March 2011 March 2011 January 2010

The problem there, however, is that the screen and the controls on the bezel--menu, enter and four navigation buttons--are so small that it can be awkward using the menus or manual controls. Otherwise, it's easy enough to use. It's got a typical design; record button falls under your right thumb (when you hold it at eye level via the grip), and there's a zoom switch and photo button on top. A big switch on the right toggles between record and playback modes. Inside the LCD recess are the auto/manual, image stabilization, video light and power buttons, along with the SD card slot and USB, AV/Multi and HDMI connectors. There's also a manual switch for a lens cover.

The camcorder itself feels a little plasticky, but it doesn't feel fragile and that makes it quite light.

For a cheap camcorder with advanced features but nominally HD video, the price of the Panasonic HDR-SD40 can't be beat. If you can find the TM40 or TM41 for less than the cost of the SD40 plus a memory card, they're fine, too. But if you want decent HD video quality, you're still going to have to spend at least a couple hundred more.

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