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.