The Panasonic HDC-SD700 is a Full HD camcorder that records AVCHD video to removable flash memory cards.
The Panasonic HDC-SD700 slots snugly between the Panasonic SDR-H280 and the Panasonic HDC-HS700-K as the company's midrange offering.
All up, we were highly impressed with the Panasonic HDC-SD700. It provides a wealth of advanced features for experienced videographers, while remaining user-friendly for beginners. Product highlights include 1080p progressive scan recording, advanced wind cancellation, comprehensive manual modes, a clever iAuto tool, a redesigned optical image stabiliser, external microphone and headphone jacks, a 46mm F1.5 Leica Dicomar lens, new-and-improved face detection and - crucially - a manual focus/zoom ring.
It even comes with an electronic viewfinder in addition to the 3in touch screen: something that most camcorder manufacturers have abandoned. By keeping the gimmicks to a minimum, Panasonic has crafted a camcorder that ticks all the essential boxes, including stunning picture quality.
The Panasonic HDC-SD700 can be viewed as an affordable alternative to the Panasonic HDC-HS700-K Full HD camcorder, which shares most of the same specifications. However, in place of a 240GB hard drive, the HDC-SD700 relies on removable flash memory.
In addition to SD/SDHC memory cards, the Panasonic HDC-SD700 is compatible with SDXC - a new high capacity format with a potential storage capacity of up to 2TB. At present, only 64GB SDXC cards are available; but that's still enough to net you up to 27 hours of HD video (or up to 829,000 still images.) On the down side, SDXC cards don't come cheap.
Like last year's Panasonic HDC-HS200-K, the Panasonic HDC-SD700 utilises three 1/4in CMOS chips with a combined pixel count of 9150k (effective). This puts it head and shoulders above many competing models, such as Sony's single chip HDR-XR150 camcorder, which makes do with an effective pixel count of 1350k.
As you'd expect, this translated to stunning 1080p video in our test shots, with the trio of sensors helping to minimise grainy images. We connected the camcorder to a Pioneer KURO PDP-C509A plasma TV via HDMI and were very impressed with the results. Colours were bright and accurate, while the 35mm wide-angle lens did a good job of keeping everything in shot. Noise was also a non-issue, even in relatively dim environments. This makes the HDC-SD700 a good choice if you regularly shoot indoors.
The Panasonic HDC-SD700 is bulkier than most flash memory-based camcorders, with dimensions of 66x69x138mm. While it's not really something you can fit in your jacket pocket, it remains small and light enough to be carried around with ease. For menu selections, the HDC-SD700 relies on a 3in LCD touch screen. People seem to hate or love these things, so try it out prior to purchase. (For the record, we found the menu interface to be responsive and well laid out.) Panasonic has also included a stylus in the sales package, which means the usual patchwork of fingerprints can be avoided. Hurrah!
Unlike most consumer-level camcorders, the Panasonic HDC-SD700 comes with a "multi-manual" ring around the lens barrel. If you plan to make short movies - or simply like to have lots of control over your videos - this tool is indispensable. It allows you to make minute adjustments to the focus for a proper cinematic feel. You can also use it to adjust the shutter speed, iris, white balance and zoom. (The Panasonic HDC-Sd700 features a 12x optical zoom, which is average for a high-def camcorder).
The Panasonic HDC-SD700 also boasts a whopping 14.2-megapixel still images mode (which is actually capable of taking good photos, courtesy of the Leica Dicomar lens). Our snapshots were bursting with colour and detail, with no discernable barrel distortion - and that was without using the camera's extensive manual modes.
As mentioned, the Panasonic HDC-SD700 comes with a 3.5mm microphone port and a dedicated jack for headphones. For testing, we stuck with the built-in 5.1ch surround sound microphones, which did a very good job.
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