Panasonic HDC 40 review: Panasonic HDC 40

It performs pretty typically for its class as well. That means pretty good but occasionally frustrating autofocus; I frequently had to "nudge" it to focus on the right subject rather than the background by focusing on something completely different, then moving it back to the desired subject. In auto mode, you have to enable backlight compensation or even shots that aren't really backlit will underexpose, but you don't always want that setting applied universally. For exposure, though, as long as you know how to use them the camcorder really benefits from the manual settings, which include shutter speed and iris control, as long as you know how to use them. You can also turn automatic gain control for the audio on or off.

  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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Quick Specifications See All

  • Optical Sensor Type MOS
  • Width 2 in
  • Depth 4.3 in
  • Height 2.3 in
  • Weight 6 oz