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Monday, August 29, 2011

Panasonic's HDD Camcorder SDR-H101 review

SDR-H101 is a budget video recording device from Panasonic. This post shares quick review of this unit.

I'm not regular user of handicams. I don't find it convenient to make videos of everything, as editing, storing and sharing them is a time consuming affair. (If a 10 minute video takes 300+MB, dealing with it is not so easy) Whenever there was a need, I used to manage with my still camera, Sony DSC H50

Then I got Panasonic SDR H101 for review. SDR-H101 is an improvised version of SDR-H90. This unit is a hard disc based video camera or camcorder (Handycam is Sony proprietary term) which comes with a built in 80GB hard disc. (About 10 years ago, my desktop computer had just 40GB hard disc.) 80 GB space can record 19 hours to 72 hours of video, depending on mode. If that is not enough, there's slot to insert SD memory card. I remember an uncle having an handycam which used to take tape based memory- he had to insert a tape, record it till the end, take it out and insert next tape... besides being inconvenient and expensive to maintain, they also make you lose some precious moments.

The camcorder comes with 78x optical zoom, one of the highest in its class and hence rightly highlighted all over with stickers and marks.

The display unit is not touch screen (Non touch screen units can last longer than touchscreen ones). It is driven by a joystick operated menu, which is pretty smooth. The display unit can tilt 180 degrees, so that you can video-graph yourself without needing help from others.

The box comes with two types of power adapters- one that suits Indian markets (circular pins) and other with rectangular pins, used in many eastern countries. You don't need to buy a universal adapter for this.

Menu has a scrolling text description to help users understand what it is. Ideal for new users. Even with out help, the controls are simplistic and first time users can get started with recording within minutes.

H101 carries O.I.S, what Panasonic calls Optical Image Stabilizer. A LED light on top provides additional lighting. 33mm wide angle also needs a mention.

The owner manual is very extensive.

What is not that good with Panasonic camcorder SDR H101?
The battery is somewhat exposed to air, moisture and shock. My ideal design would be one where battery is housed in a casing, so that it is protected from dust, moisture etc. In this model (and many other models of Panasonic and others) battery is external. Designers may have their reason to position it like this, but I have my reservations.

Also in this camcorder battery can't be charged separately. I need to plug in charging cable to the camcorder body and then power it on. This means I can't have 2 batteries- one battery being charged while I use the camcorder with the other battery.

There's no mention of HD (High Definition). But then, it is better to have a camera that takes good non-HD videos than one which claims to by HD ready but takes poor HD videos.

When I connected the camcorder to computer, I could only copy files and not cut it. To remove the files from camcorder's HDD, my only option was to format media using camcorder's menu. Not sure if I'm missing something here.

Outdoor videos in bright daylight won't help much comparing/analyzing video quality. Below are two sample videos taken using this camera: First one, recorded at about 7.15 PM at a beach near Chennai, I made an attempt to record how far it can zoom in (with digital zoom off) and the clarity during zoom. If I had used a tripod I could have got better clarity in this video.

Second video is captured indoors- in an electronic goods showroom. Video quality here is fairly promising.

I've recorded few more videos, but they are heavy (370MB for a 10 min video) and hence gave up the thought of uploading most of them, at least for now.

I installed the driver and video editing software that came with the camcorder. Sorry to say it wasn't impressive. Apart from titling and few other features, the tool wasn't really friendly for heavy duty video editing and managing. Installing this utility also slowed down the system (not sure if I should blame the windows update which i installed along with this) and eventually uninstalled it (there was no uninstall option in the menu, had to do it through control panel)

H101 takes still pictures, but as with all camcorders, still images are no replacement for ones taken with a quality digicam.

Unfortunately there seems no option to support/select output file type (.mpeg, .mov, .3gp etc) H101 only lets you select XP, SP and LP (High, Medium, Low quality) and there's a web mode for quick light weight videos.

Verdict: Unlike its rugged still image counterpart Lumix FT3 which I reviewed recently, camcorder SDR H101 from Panasonic has no "Wow!" factors. It does execute its primary functionality of recording video to the satisfaction of its owner, has good storage and optical zoom and is fairly easy to use. Because of my limited exposure to camcorders I refrain from making any judgmental statement if you should buy it or not buy it.

Related: Review of Panasonic Toughbook CF53 * Panasonic Experience Centre and Bloggers meet

1 comment:

Manoj said...

Good review. useful

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