Panasonic SDR-H80 review: Panasonic SDR-H80

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MSRP: $429.95

The Good Manual controls; 60GB hard drive; 70x optical zoom with stabilization.

The Bad Mediocre video quality; USB, power input behind battery.

The Bottom Line The Panasonic SDR-H80 has the zoom power of a telescope and a lot of storage in a compact body, but the video results are not nearly as thrilling.

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6.6 Overall
  • Design 7
  • Features 7
  • Performance 6
  • Image quality 6

The Panasonic SDR-H80 is a standard-definition camcorder with a 60GB hard drive for storing up to 14 hours of its highest quality MPEG-2 video. There's also an SD/SDHC card slot on the side for adding even more storage. However, the H80's main attraction is its ridiculously long 70x zoom lens, which, as you can imagine, gets you very close to your subject while you're very far away. Thankfully, there is optical image stabilization, (but really, there's no amount of stabilization that's going to prevent this lens from shaking when fully extended) and it's all built into quite a compact body. Too bad Panasonic couldn't make room for some better video quality for the H80's sub-$400 price.

Key specs Panasonic SDR-H80
Price (MSRP) $399.95
Dimensions (WHD) 2.1x2.6x4.2 inches
Weight (with battery and media) 12.8 ounces
Storage capacity, type 60GB hard drive; SD/SDHC card
Resolution, sensor size, type 800K pixels (290K effective, 4:3), 1/8-inch CCD
LCD size, resolution 2.7-inch LCD, 123K dots
Lens (zoom, aperture, focal length) 70x, f1.9-5.7, 46-3,194mm (35mm equivalent, 4:3)
Minimum illumination 6 lux
File format (video, audio) MPEG-2 (.MOD), Dolby Digital stereo
Resolution (video/photo) 704x480/640x480
Recording time at highest quality 14 hours
Image stabilization type Mechanical and digital
Battery type, rated life (continuous) Lithium ion rechargeable, 1 hour, 50 minutes

Considering the lens/storage combo in the H80, its overall design is impressively small. Though it doesn't come off as stylish as Sony's competing 60x zoom Handycam DCR-SR47, it still looks and feels good.

Controls are pretty typical for this type of camcorder and nothing is so horribly positioned to make using the H80 uncomfortable (though the Record button is a touch too close to the battery). There's a Power/Mode dial at the top back for selecting whether you want to record movies or still photos or play them back. Flipping out the LCD exposes a five-way joystick and Menu button on the left side of the screen. If you dread going into menus to make adjustments, Panasonic dots the H80 with several buttons for quickly changing between shooting options. This includes buttons for accessing manual controls, turning on Panasonic's Intelligent Auto (iA) mode, and enabling the optical image stabilization (OIS). The last one is particularly handy because you'll want to shut OIS off when the H80's on a tripod.

Inside the LCD cavity is where you'll find the SD/SDHC card slot for additional video or photo storage and an AV out.

The H80 does have a few design shortcomings worth mentioning, though. The USB port and power input are located behind the battery. This forces you to plug in the camcorder in to transfer files off the unit. The fact is, you don't want the battery dying in the middle of a transfer, but it's a little irritating to have to remove the battery every time. If you won't have access to powering the H80 and will need to move a recording from it, save to an SD card instead. Another gripe is with the manual lens cover. Not so much that it's manual, but the location at the top right of the lens is just peculiar if you already have your hand in the grip belt. Lastly the battery sticks out oddly far. We can only imagine what it would be like with an extended-life battery on back.

Features Panasonic SDR-H80
Inputs/Outputs None/AV-out, miniUSB
White balance Auto, Outdoor, Indoor, Manual
Scene modes Sports, Portrait, Low light, Spotlight, Surf & snow
Focus Auto, Manual, Spot AF, Tele Macro
Color effects None
Lens cover (auto or manual) Manual
Accessory shoe No
Video light/flash No/No

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