The Panasonic SDR-S50 camcorder is a standard definition camcorder with some neat tricks to share.

Chief among these is the Panasonic SDR-S50's 78x optical zoom –the biggest of any of the camcorders here. Not only that, but having zoomed in to its full extent, we found the S50 was then able to pinpoint several faces and ‘face chase’ them. Needless to say, over such a distance (we tested it over some 200ft), you’ll need a tripod. The Panasonic does a lot to assist though. Its advanced OIS (optical image stabiliser), activated using a dedicated hardware button, makes a real difference zooming over this sort of distance.

We were pleasantly surprised by the smooth and speediness of the zoom function and the clarity of the footage we got. We also appreciated the fact the Panasonic SDR-S50 warns you if you’re zooming or panning too fast for blur-free video capture. Jerky, out of focus footage is a common complaint with home video, after all.

Panasonic has given the Panasonic SDR-S50 a usefully large sensor – it’s only a mite smaller than the much pricier Canon Legria’s. There’s a sliding shutter cover to prevent dust and other detritus spoiling shots too.

Other elements we like: the ability to alter the volume using a hardware button (the zoom slider doubles up here) rather than having to delve into the onscreen menu; the simple switch at the back to change from recording to playback mode and the comfortable contoured grip. Beware, however, if you’re trying to narrate as you record that you don’t accidentally cover the microphone. The pickup’s position on the top of the Panasonic SDR-S50 makes it all too easy to do so. There’s a larger stereo microphone on the front for recording other people and what’s going on.

The Panasonic SDR-S50 can take cards of up to 64GB, a real asset if you’re keen to shoot Full HD video. The S50 is not a high-definition model, though. The 2.5in LCD display is widescreen too, while the shots are 33mm wide-angle ones. Impressive. As is often the case, the resulting footage is pretty good given such light. Even in

There are manual options should you wish to adjust the focal point or white balance, but in most cases it’s the level of light that will make the most difference to the results. Note that while the great-value Panasonic SDR-S50 camcorder is nominally also a stills camera, this element is limited. A button at the back takes a photo of whatever’s in the frame, but unlike the dual-mode camcorders it doesn’t double up as a digital camera for sequential shooting or specific scene modes. 

NEXT: our expert verdict >>

Panasonic SDR-S50: Specs

  • 1/8in CCD
  • F Value: F1.9(WIDE) / 5.7(TELE) - Zoom: Optical: Zoom 70x
  • Digital Zoom: 100
  • Enhanced Optical 78x Zoom
  • 2.7in Wide LCD
  • Advanced O.I.S. with Active Mode
  • 33mm Wide-angle Lens
  • iA (Intelligent Auto) with AF/AE Tracking
  • Wind Noise Canceller
  • AV: Out
  • USB 2.0
  • 54.9x64x107.3mm
  • SD/SDHC/SDXC Memory Card
  • AC Adaptor
  • AC Cable
  • 895 mAh/Lithium-Ion battery
  • USB Cable
  • VideoCam Suite V3.0
  • 1/8in CCD
  • F Value: F1.9(WIDE) / 5.7(TELE) - Zoom: Optical: Zoom 70x
  • Digital Zoom: 100
  • Enhanced Optical 78x Zoom
  • 2.7in Wide LCD
  • Advanced O.I.S. with Active Mode
  • 33mm Wide-angle Lens
  • iA (Intelligent Auto) with AF/AE Tracking
  • Wind Noise Canceller
  • AV: Out
  • USB 2.0
  • 54.9x64x107.3mm
  • SD/SDHC/SDXC Memory Card
  • AC Adaptor
  • AC Cable
  • 895 mAh/Lithium-Ion battery
  • USB Cable
  • VideoCam Suite V3.0

OUR VERDICT

If you want a good value camcorder that can also take the occasional photo on the fly, the Panasonic fits the bill. The Panasonic SDR-S50 lacks HD capture capabilities, but its low price tag, fantastic zoom, great build quality and the wider angle lens will be enough to convince many users.

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