Other shooting features include backlight compensation; five scene program modes; MagicPix night mode (which drops the shutter speed below 1/60); a very nice tele-macro mode; soft-skin mode; zebra stripes; an audio wind filter; and zoom microphone. The SD1 also offers Auto Ground-Directional Standby (AGS)--a fancy way of saying that it goes into standby when you hold the camcorder upside-down. At its highest quality, or HF mode, the SD1 requires 1GB per 10 minutes of video, and uses constant 13Mbps encoding. In the lower-quality HN and HE modes, the SD1 switches to variable bit-rate encoding, and increases the available recording times to approximately 15 minutes per gigabyte (9Mbps) and 22 minutes per gigabyte (6Mbps), respectively.
Overall, I liked the SD1's video quality. In good light, video usually looks nice and sharp; the colors are bright and pleasing; the exposure generally hits the mark; and there's little noise in low-light shots. The 1,920x1,080 still photos look good printed up to 8x4.5--I wouldn't bump any HD-resolution shots beyond letter size. Played back on an HDTV, videos and stills look great. Up close in a video editor, however, they lose a bit of their luster. Interlacing and interpolation artifacts appear, thanks to the undersized 520,000-pixel sensors (effective resolution) Panasonic uses.
Image quality is also inextricably entwined with performance, which isn't so hot. The autofocus is a bit too slow to keep up with unpredictable subjects, such as squirrels. And the automatic white balance seems confused most of the time, usually producing overly cool tones. On random occasions, the video seemed to get particularly soft and the autofocus simply didn't lock. The optical stabilizer works well, though.
A fine if not stellar camcorder, the Panasonic HDC-SD1 delivers solid AVCHD video that's fun to watch, somewhat less fun to shoot, and not fun at all to edit.