The SD80 has many of the same features I liked in other Panasonic camcorders, including Auto Focus/Auto Exposure tracking, which enables users to select a subject in the display for the SD80 to keep in focus with proper exposure. Unfortunately, the small display makes it difficult to accurately select a subject with a fingertip, so here’s hoping you don’t lose the stylus.
Facial Recognition is also available. It’s set it and forget it, and you can register up to six faces in the SD80 that the camcorder will recognize and prioritize whenever they pop into view.
Otherwise, the SD80 doesn’t sport any major new options we haven’t seen on Panasonic camcorders before.
I’ve extolled the virtues of Panasonic Intelligent Auto in previous reviews, and it’s the same story with the SD80. It’s among the best dummy modes I’ve used to produces some excellent footage in challenging conditions.
In fact, given how tough it is to make manual adjustments on the small screen, I relied on it almost exclusively. However, when I did venture into the manual settings, I was upset to find Panasonic neglected to include zebra stripes to guide exposure.
Zebra stripes typically appear in the monitor to indicate over exposed areas. These are necessary because accurately eyeing a picture on a 2.7-inch display is near impossible. The SD80 has a focus guide to aid in manual focus, and a notification alert warning the camera is panning “too fast,” but nothing outside of that.
I enjoyed using the long 37x optical zoom, but the lever on the device was a bit loose for my liking. The intelligent zoom that promises optical zoom quality from a digital zoom also works as advertised, and it extends the SD80 to 42x. That’s only an additional 5x from the optical, and Panasonic’s Intelligent Zoom feature is now more than a year old. I’d love to see Panasonic push it to an additional 10x or 20x.
Panasonic’s Hybrid OIS that mixes digital and optical image stabilization is also onboard and works very well, especially with the zoom fully extended.
Also worth noting is the SD80’s manual lens cover. I’ve seen similar priced camcorders with automatic lens coves, which are preferable, if only because I too often forget to close before putting the camcorder away.