The Good Very good image stabilization; well-designed; manual controls.
The Bad Low-resolution LCD; dated user interface; poor low-light video; no external mic, headphone jacks.
The Bottom Line The Panasonic SDR-H85 standard-definition camcorder is worth considering for its manual controls and powerful zoom lens in a very compact body--not video quality.
The Panasonic SDR-H85 is like having a small telescope that's able to capture standard-definition video. With its 70x lens you'll have no problem getting closer to your subject, and its optical image stabilization is very good even if you're moving. (You'll still want to use a tripod or other support whenever possible; the O.I.S system is good, but not that good.) You get full manual controls, too, as well as an 80GB hard drive for storage and the ability to expand that with SD, SDHC, and SDXC memory cards.
The H85's video quality is merely OK, but it's typical of what you can expect from any current standard-def consumer camcorder. Low-light movies are particularly poor, though, due to heavy noise. Also, those needing jacks for an external mic or headphones won't find them.
This camcorder is simply an inexpensive, easy-to-use option for capturing average standard-definition video with a megazoom lens. Don't expect the fine-quality SD video found before HD camcorders took over the market. At this point, you're money is going for the lens and the storage, not the video results.
Panasonic HX-A500 wearable 4K camcorder claims 'world's first'
The gnarly Panasonic HX-A500 waterproof wearable camcorder shoots sick 4K video of your extreme adventures.
Sony HDR-TD20 3D camcorder in hands-on video
The Sony HDR-TD20 is Sony's latest camcorder to shoot in three dimensions, and we've had a go in this here video.
Flip is dead, so here's some alternative cameras, camcorders and phones
Flip Video is dead, in the face of competition from big-name rivals, video-shooting cameras, and camera phones. Here's some alternatives.
Panasonic HDC-SDT750: 3D camcorder in shops in October
The first big-name 3D camcorder will be in shops in October this year. Will the Panasonic HDC-SDT750 make your Christmas list?
Panasonic HDC-SDT750 3D camcorder hands-on photos
Panasonic is set to be the first to hit the streets with a consumer 3D camcorder, unveiling the Panasonic HDC-SDT750
Sony unveils Handycam NEX-VG10E, the NEX step in lens-swapping camcorders
The Sony Handycam NEX-VG10E is set to be the first lens-swapping camcorder to hit the market. We have the first picture and specs
Panasonic AG-AF100: Micro Four Thirds camcorder gets pro specs
Panasonic has revealed more details about the Panasonic AG-AF100, the first lens-swapping Micro Four Thirds camcorder
Panasonic AG-AF100: First Micro Four Thirds camcorder teased
The next chapter in the Micro Four Thirds story is on its way, with Panasonic's AG-AF100 camcorder accepting interchangeable lenses
Panasonic HS700, TM700 and SD700: HD camcorders come in threes
The Panasonic HS700, TM700 and SD700 are three new high-definition camcorders for 2010. Is it a case of good things coming in threes?
Panasonic bestows new HD camcorders with manual focus ring
Panasonic has announced six new high-definition camcorders at this year's CES, some featuring its 3MOS sensor set-up and a manual focus ring.
Photos: Hands-on with the Sanyo Xacti CA8 waterproof camcorder
The Sanyo Xacti CA8 is a go-anywhere sort of camcorder, with a sturdy waterproof constitution as well as 8-megapixel stills and a 5x zoom
Photos: Hands-on with the 3MOS Panasonic HDC-HS100
The Panasonic HDC-HS100 is a camcorder packing a manual focus ring, viewfinder and three CMOS sensors -- so the boffins have only gone and called it a 3MOS camera. Clever, eh?