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Panasonic HDC-SD20 review

Our Rating :
Price when reviewed : £405
inc VAT


1/6in CMOS sensor, 1,440×1,080, 1,920×1,080 (50i/25p), 16.0x zoom, 270g

You wouldn’t know the HDC-SD20 is a budget AVCHD camera to look at it.

The design is smart, and it has a video lamp, a touchscreen and optical image stabilisation built into the lens. Intelligent Auto, from Panasonic’s still camera range, combines various smart technologies to optimise image quality in tricky lighting conditions.

This is the only HD camcorder here that has direct, simultaneous control over the shutter speed, aperture and gain. The aperture and gain are combined so that the gain is increased once the aperture is wide open, but that’s a sensible system. Manual focus benefits from a zoomed central portion of the image during adjustment to help with fine-tuning. However, adjusting focus using the onscreen buttons feels clumsy. A spot focus and metering feature tracks subjects as they move around the frame, but we found it hard to make it lock on to subjects. If the subject wanders out of the frame, the camera reverts to automatic modes. In practice, Sony’s simpler spot focus and metering modes were more useful.

Progressive scan recording is available via the Digital Cinema mode, although it’s not selectable at the same time as Intelligent Auto. The shutter speed remains limited to 1/50s and faster, even though the 25fps frame rate should allow a 1/25s shutter to give better results in low light.

Sadly, the HDC-SD20 squanders any benefits given by its manual controls with an underspecified sensor. Measuring just 1/6in across and with just 1.17 effective megapixels – much less than the 2.07 megapixels that it records for each frame – it trailed behind the other HD cameras for image detail. Noise was heavily suppressed in low light, leading to less detail and messy artefacts in moving subjects.

Image quality was still an improvement over the standard-definition cameras, but creative users who will appreciate this camera’s advanced controls will expect better image quality than it can provide.

Basic Specifications

Rating **


Optical zoom 16.0x
Digital zoom 1,000x
Sensor 1/6in CMOS
Sensor pixels 1,470,000
Widescreen mode native
LCD screen size 2.7in
Viewfinder type none
Video lamp Yes
Video recording format AVCHD
Video recording media SDHC
Sound Dolby Digital 5.1
Video resolutions 1,440×1,080, 1,920×1,080 (50i/25p)
Maximum image resolution 1,920×1,440
Memory slot SDHC
Mermory supplied none
Flash yes


Digital inputs/outputs USB
Analogue inputs/outputs AV out, component out, mini HDMI out
Other connections charge jack
Battery type 7.2W 725mAh Li-ion
Battery life 1h 27m
Battery charging position charger
Size 67x64x127mm
Weight 270g

Buying Information

Warranty one year RTB
Price £405