Small but powerful

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 11 September, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 11 September, 2005, 12:00am

As the pioneer of the tiny all-in-one camcorders with their D-Snap series of devices using SD cards as memory, Panasonic continues to evolve the platform with a new model which puts the emphasis on video quality.

The new Panasonic SDR-S100 is touted as the world's first three-CCD camcorder that uses an SD card as its memory media.

This means that it will offer higher quality images since it has three chips recording the different colours of a scene, instead of a single chip like other small form factor camcorders such as the Sanyo Xacti.

The SDR-S100 will also record video in widescreen mode (16:9), which should make it useful for producing video that is played back on many of the plasma or LCD TVs on the market today.

Other features include a 10x optical zoom, Panasonic's Optical Image Stabilization technology and a new MPEG2 engine to boost its processing performance to support higher quality recordings.

On the whole, the SDR-S100 is pretty impressive, offering a package similar to most mid-range digital cameras and weighing only 242 grams. And, despite its size, it still has a huge 70mm LCD display.

With the SDR-S100, Panasonic is obviously targeting those who want to take their camcorder everywhere they go, but the company does make a compromise with the use of SD cards.

The SDR-S100 will come equipped with a 2GB card, which only offers about 30 minutes of video recording at the highest quality. Additional cards are unrealistic as they are still pretty expensive.

This means that you'll need some way of transferring the footage off the SD card to avoid running out of memory. The good news is that some portable media players now come with USB host ports (such as the Archos Gmini 500), allowing you to move files directly between devices without going through a computer.

Of course, you can shoot video at lower quality, but that would defeat the purpose of the three CCDs.

The Panasonic is currently selling in Europe for about $9,400 including the 2GB SD card and should come onto the local market very soon.

PROS: small and light; three CCDs give better video quality; MPEG2 engine improves recording

CONS: SD-card platform limits memory; no external microphone jack