If you've been looking for an HD camcorder that isn't incredibly overpriced or unfortunately underpowered, Panasonic has two new models that might just fill the wide gap that's been confounding consumers for a while now. We've talked before about how the two types of HD camcorder options are insufficient. Either you get a $250 720p model that lacks essentials like optical zoom and image stabilization, or you get a $1,200 1080p model that's too complicated and powerful for everyday, casual video recording. Until recently, only JVC has offered 1080p camcorders in the $600-700, still a little rich for most people's liking.
Introducing The SD10 and TM10
Panasonic has now announced two affordable, middle-of-the-road high-definition camcorders capable of recording at 1080p resolution. The Panasonic HDC-SD10 and HDC-TM10 will debut this September with manufacturer's suggested retail prices of $550 and $600, respectively. Though only marginally cheaper than the JVC models, they're still a nice addition to an unfortunately underserviced section of the camcorder market. The SD10 and TM10 are identical in all but one way: the TM10 can record to 8GB of internal flash memory or SDHC cards, while the SD10 has no internal memory and uses SDHC cards as its primary recording media.
Is it worth an extra $50 for the 8GB of flash memory that comes with the TM10? Not likely. 8GB SDHC cards can be purchased for between $20 and $30, so it seems a little overpriced in that regard. You could conceivably get a 16GB card for around $40. 32GB cards are still fairly new and tend to cost around $100 or more depending on the speed.
Lightweight and Portable
Apart from the low-cost resolution, the TM10 and SD10 are notable for their size and weight. Both models weigh only half a pound, and can fit comfortably in the palm of one's hand. That makes it an ideal companion on trips or outings where you don't want to be lugging around a heavy, bulky camcorder. Most 1080p camcorders are rather bulky, so these models are certainly a welcome change of pace.
In addition to 1080p resolution, the TM10 and SD10 camcorders feature 16x optical zoom coupled with Panasonic's Advanced Optical Image Stabilization. They also utilize the "intelligent auto" mode that has become popular on Panasonic's digital cameras. Intelligent auto can read the shooting environment and adjust the camcorder's settings accordingly, on the fly. The camcorder basically runs itself once you hit record.
It's important to have reasonable expectations for camcorders in this price range. Consider, for example, the JVC HD300 (Read our full review), to which these Panasonic camcorders can be properly compared. The HD300 was also in the $600 range and offered 1080p. While it performed alright, the quality of its video paled in comparison to the high-end 1080p found on the Panasonic TM300 (Read our full review). It's more than likely that the TM10 and SD10 will fall closer to the HD300 than the TM300 on the quality scale, but we intend to test them fully and see how they stack up.
It's nice to see manufacturers finally making camcorders that fulfill the needs of those for whom a Flip camcorder is too little and a Panasonic TM300 is too much. These new models are camcorders intended for casual use, family home movies, special events, and just run-of-the-mill memories, not candid 10-second clips or rich, long-form HD films. The TM10 and SD10 are two camcorders worth keeping an eye on.