We were initially sceptical about the concept of a camcorder that records HD (high-definition) video to an SD (secure digital) card. What kind of compression is going on to make so much data fit into such a small amount of storage space? Our doubts faded - the HDC-SD1 captures and stores video of exceptional quality. However, for the moment, the compression format it uses introduces a different problem: an inability to edit your captured video.

At its best quality setting, the HDC-SD1 can record 40 minutes of 1080i video to a 4GB SD card. This is done using the AVCHD format developed by Panasonic and Sony. When we tested the HDC-SD1, no video-editing software supported the format, but Sony says it will update its Vegas video editor for free to import such files soon.

Still, you'll need a very powerful PC when this time comes, as well as an HD-DVD or Blu-ray drive if you want to export video in HD. Forget about using the bundled software. You can use it to export standard-definition video to a DVD, but it's nearly useless beyond that. You can't even watch your footage full-screen.

Since the camcorder has component outputs and an HDMI (high definition multimedia interface) port, you can play unedited footage in high-definition on a HDTV. Video we captured in well-lit settings looked gorgeous; even video taken in relatively dim, indoor rooms was good. And its microphone captures 5.1-channel audio which, when tested through TV speakers, sounded sharp.

Panasonic says the HDC-SD1 is the smallest HD camcorder yet, despite its larger-than-average, 3in LCD. Thankfully, the tube-shaped body is very comfortable to hold.

Panasonic HDC-SD1: Specs

  • 1/4in CCD
  • 3in LCD
  • optical/digital zoom 12x/700x
  • aperture f1.8
  • image resolution 1,920x1,080
  • HDMI connection (cable optional)
  • focal distance 4-48mm
  • lithium-ion battery
  • SD/SDHC
  • 74x137x67mm
  • 430g
  • 1/4in CCD
  • 3in LCD
  • optical/digital zoom 12x/700x
  • aperture f1.8
  • image resolution 1,920x1,080
  • HDMI connection (cable optional)
  • focal distance 4-48mm
  • lithium-ion battery
  • SD/SDHC
  • 74x137x67mm
  • 430g

OUR VERDICT

The Panasonic is perhaps a little ahead of its time, and is currently quite hard to find in the UK. However, the technology works brilliantly and, as soon as there's some decent software available that'll allow you to make use of its fantastic facilities, this camera ought to be very high on any video enthusiast's shopping list.

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