Christmas 1989. This Craver had been good all year, and all we wanted was Batman for the Commodore 64. Presents were torn open, jumpers donned with the minumum of fuss, educational books given a cursory examination. But no Batman game. Struggling to cope with a feeling of disappointment that our nine-year-old heart couldn't surpass until the semi-final stage of the World Cup a few months later, we rummaged through the discarded wrapping paper one last time -- and there it was -- Batman, so small we nearly missed it. Unboxing the Panasonic SDR-S7 camcorder is a similar experience.
It's small -- very small. It took us a moment or two to decide whether it was too small. But even with our big hands it fits snugly into the palm, and includes a second record button should you wish to grip it thumb-forward than thumb at the back. Footage is standard definition MPEG2 -- or DVD quality, as Panasonic puts it. A 10x optical zoom is also included. A 0.6-second quick start allows the camcorder to spring into life.
Manual mode allows you to open and close the aperture completely, or ramp it up from f/16 to f/2. After this you can increase the gain for a brighter picture. Shutter speed goes as fast as 1/8000 of a second, or as slow as 1/25 of a second. Backlight compensation, night mode and soft skin portrait mode are also available. The option to fade in and out of a piece of footage can be turned on in-camera. There's a pre-record option too, which captures several frames before the record button is pressed.
Our big concern with flash memory-based camcorders is the amount of footage memory cards can hold. Not an issue here: as it's a standard definition model, a 16GB SDHC memory card will store 13 hours 20 minutes in LP mode recording.
The lens cover needs to be opened manually, which could get annoying -- but in our experience, we usually forget to close it anyway. Speaking of annoying, Panasonic has printed a warning in the screen well that the camcorder and SD card "can get warm". Fear not: "this is not a malfunction". Might as well print "Don't panic!" on the front.
The Panasonic SDR-S7 is a gift in silver and black, and will cost you a very presentable £210. -Rich Trenholm.
Update: Read our full
Even though it's so wee, the SDR-S7 still sports a giant 69mm (2.7-inch) LCD screen.
The positioning of the controls in the screen well is fiddly -- we found ourselves constantly turning the camera to see the screen, then see the buttons. Presumably we'll get used to that, though; we'll let you know in our forthcoming in-depth review.