Panasonic HDC 60 review: Panasonic HDC 60

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MSRP: $449.95
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3.5 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

The Good Manual shutter-speed and iris controls; comfortable size; smarter-than-average autofocus; lens focuses relatively closely; decent battery life.

The Bad Soft video; cramped, low-resolution touch screen.

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.

7.5 Overall
  • Design 7.0
  • Features 8.0
  • Performance 8.0
  • Image quality 7.0

Is it just me, or are four nearly identical versions of the same product a wee bit much? Panasonic seems to be taking a carpet bomb approach to the entry-level HD camcorder market, with those four models in the slim range between $500 and $700. The HDC-SD60, TM55, and TM60 are all identical save the amount of built-in memory: none, 8GB, and 16GB respectively; the TM60 is an exclusive to Best Buy. The HS60 includes a 120GB hard disk, and because of that has a slightly different design. Reviews of all four products are based on testing of the SD60 and HS60.

Overall, the camcorders have a comfortable-to-grip design and feel well built. If your hands are large or you simply don't like the tubular design of the flash-memory models, the HS60's hard disk sticks up on the right side, giving you a little extra edge to grip. None of them have an accessory shoe, so the top of the camcorder simply has a zoom switch and shutter button for still photos. Unusual for the price class, the series includes an LED video light for shooting in dim environments. Though it's a nice touch, don't shine it directly at people--it's quite blinding.


  Panasonic HDC-SD60/TM55/ TM60 Panasonic HDC-HS60 Panasonic HDC-TM700/ HS700
Sensor 3-megapixel CMOS 3-megapixel CMOS 3x3-megapixel 3CMOS
1/4.1 inch 1/4.1 inch 1/4.1 inch
Lens
25x
f1.8-3.3
35.7 - 893mm (16:9)
25x
f1.8-3.3
35.7 - 893mm (16:9)
12x
f1.5-2.8
35 - 420mm (16:9)
Min illumination (lux) standard: 1,400
low light: 4
Color Night View: 1
standard: 1,400
low light: 4
Color Night View: 1
standard: 1,400
low light: 1.6
Color Night View: 1

EVF

No No Yes
0.27 inch, 123,000 dots
LCD 2.7-inch 230,400-dot 2.7-inch 230,400-dot 3-inch 230,400-dot
Primary media 0GB/8GB/16GB flash; SDXC 120GB hard disk; SDXC 32GB flash/240GB hard disk; SDXC
HD recording AVCHD:
1080/60i @ 17 , 13, 9 Mbps; 1,440x1,080/60i @ 5 Mbps
AVCHD:
1080/60i @ 17 , 13, 9 Mbps; 1,440x1,080/60i @ 5 Mbps
AVCHD: 1080/60p 28Mbps; 1080/60i @ 17, 13, 9 ,5 Mbps
Manual shutter speed and iris Yes Yes Yes
Accessory shoe No No Yes
Audio 2 channels 2 channels 5.1 channels;
mic, headphone jacks
Body dimensions (WHD, inches) 2.0 x 2.6 x 4.4 2.2 x 2.6 x 4.4 2.6 x 2.7 x 5.4
Operating weight (ounces) 10.5 12.9 15.2/17.7
Mfr. Price $499.95/$529.95/$499 $699.95 $999/$1,399.95
Ship date March 2010 March 2010 April 2010

Panasonic provides a switch on the back of the camcorder to select among still, video, and playback modes; it's much more convenient than having to go through the touch screen. Next to the switch is the power connector. Along with the power button, a full complement of ports and connectors live in the LCD recess: proprietary video and Mini-HDMI out, USB, and an SDXC card slot. Though everybody's doing it, I dislike the placement of the connectors inside the LCD, since that means it's got to be open while you're attached to other devices, which is just kind of awkward. You toggle between intelligent auto and manual via a button on top of the camcorder.

In both modes, the relevant options become available via a flyout set of icons on the touch screen. All provide manual shutter speed and iris controls similar to their higher-end counterparts--uncommon, but not unique at their price points. As with their siblings, I find the user interface relatively straightforward. There are also nice iris controls for their class, switching from f-stops to decibel display when you cross the line where the optics are wide open, as well as providing an optional luminance-level readout.

Though it uses the same LCD as its high-end siblings, here that's not much of a problem; at these prices, the small, low-resolution LCD is typical. Panasonic leaves membrane switches for record, zoom, menu, video light, and delete on the LCD bezel. I prefer this approach, since touch-screen-based controls tend to introduce a slight operational delay; you have to wait for the preceding screen to time out, for example, before the menu or zoom controls appear. It's also a more-practical match for the LCD. The zoom switches are a lot harder to get a feel for and operate than the zoom rocker atop the camcorder, though. Overall, the LCD isn't bad, and is pretty usable in direct sunlight. But as with the x700 series, I found it cramped and especially difficult to use the onscreen manual focus controls (which are simply closer/farther buttons).

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