Since Christmas I own a new camcorder. After filming my youtube videos with a Sony DV camcorder for a long time, and lately with a digital (photo ) cam – the Panasonic Lumix FX 37 , I more and more felt the wish for a ‘modern’ look – that’s 16:9 format in high definition (HD). The Lumix supports HD (720p) but its sound quality is really poor.
These days it is so easy to find a huge amount of information about all the different camcorders of all the different manufacturers but it is just this enormous amount of information that makes it difficult to find exactly the information that is relevant for you. I soon had to realize that each camcorder has its specific advantages but possibly disadvantages regarding other aspects, or it lacks an important feature. Besides I found to each opinion the opposite one somewhere else.
To cut it short: after some research I decided to buy the Panasonic SD 10 which was available for about 350,- € from some online stores, while it cost 448,- € at Saturn, one of Germany’s biggest local technical warehouses.
Panasonic SD 10
The SD 10 is extremely small and light-weighted. The shiny black plastic cover makes it look slightly cheap. The SD 10 records in the AVCHD format (.mts) with a data rate of about 17 MBit/s on an SD card. A 4 GB card allows up to 25 minutes of video. Like all camcorders without tape, hard disk, or DVD it is absolutely silent. The SD 10 features a very good optical image stabilizer, sophisticated and intuitive menu operation via touch screen, and superb audio quality (even with manual rec level adjusting). The optical zoom is 16x and enough for most situations.
The first test recording revealed that the camera hardly allows wide angle (42 mm at 35 mm frame). The small TFT display shows detailled picture, but even here the picture seems to be a bit pale. This is similar when you watch your video on the computer minitor, colours are a bit dull, almost as if there was a pink-grey tranparency on the monitor. If you try to compensate this with the white balance or the colour presets, the picture becomes more yellowish or blueish, but remains somewhat dull. Low light is also problematic for the camera, the video becomes more and more grey.
This matches the results from the (very good) page of the Videoaktiv magazine. Their tests show that the Panasonic’s picture is less sharp than those of some competitors, due to a too small 1/6 ” picture sensor that delivers only 1,47M effective video pixels (a full HD picture requires about 2 megapixels). This was the out for the SD 10 for me and I returned it.
Some more details about the SD 10:
– The display does not show the menu when you flip it around to monitor yourself while being filmed. It is thus not possible to operate the camera from this position.
– The battery charger acts as the power supply, too. You cannot charge the battery while filming.
– The picture quality could be improved with the edge sharpening function and with improving colour intensity (see picture below).
– A fully charged battery lasts about one hour.
Sony HDR CX 105 / 106
After studying the sample pictures of many different cameras, I came to this conclusion: the more expensive (about 600,- €) Panasonic SD 200 features very good picture quality, but even less wide angle. The Sony CX 505 or 520 seem superb but are much more expensive (about 1000,- €), while the Sony CX 105 offers good picture quality (aparte from extreme low light, see sample pictures here), and it does not cost much more than the SD 10. The reason I did not consider it at first was that it records to an internal flash memory or to memory stick instead of SD card. In fact reading a memory stick with any standard card reader is as simple as reading an SD card, so I went for the Sony CX 105
When searching for the lowest offer I noticed that the same camera is available as CX 106. The only difference: the CX 106 allows a bit more digital zoom, and is only available in silver (the CX 105 also in black or red). The CX 106 is said to be destined for the specialist shop, the 105 for all other outlets. A local photo shop advertised it for 359,- € – I got the last one on stock.
With its slightly higher weight and the coarse plastic cover, the Sony CX 106 looks a bit more expensive than the SD 10. The TFT display delivers a bright and colourful image. Sound quality is good as well. The optical 10x zoom is less than the SD 10, and the picture stabilizer is only digital. The CX 105 is also controlled with the touch screen and also records AVCHD format (.mts files) with a maximum 16Mbit/s quality. Unlike the SD 10 you can also switch to standard definition and MPEG-2.
Filming is easy. The automatic settings result in a brilliant picture quality – the most important parameters can also be controlled manually. All in all, I liked the menu of the SD 10 better and more logical. I will keep the Sony as it gives you the best quality for the money and is sufficient in most situations.
I also got a wide angle lens (Sony VLC 0630X), which aöllows me to use the camera more versatile.
More info at Amazon: