BUILD AND DESIGN
Priced $500 at launch, the SDX1 shoots both 1080/60i video (AVCHD) and 720/30p video (MP4) through its 35.8mm wide-angle lens and 1/4.1-inch single-MOS image sensor. It has no internal storage, but does accept SD, SDHC and SDXC cards. The SDX1 measures 2.03 x 2.26 x 4.23 inches and weighs less than half a pound with the removable battery inserted.
Looking at the SDX1 head on reveals the lens, built-in flash, video light, and the on-board stereo mic. There is also a manual lens cover controlled via a small switch on the left side of the lens that I forgot to open and close on many occasions. I very much dislike manual lens covers for that reason, preferring a cap – or better yet, an automatic lens cover – but I suppose it’s better than no cover at all. Opposite the front on the back of the SDX1 are the record start/stop button and battery holder.
In addition to the lens cover switch, the internal playback speaker, Velcro grip belt, mode switch, status light, are all on the palm-side of the SDX1, in addition to the DC input, which is hidden underneath a small cover.
Opposite the palm side sits the 2.7-inch, touch-enabled LCD monitor. It flips open 90 degrees and rotates 180. Hiding underneath the LCD are the power button, delete footage/video light button, Intelligent Auto/manual button (toggles between the two), optical image stabilization button, mini HDMI out, USB terminal, and AV out, and a latch covering the SD card holder, which has a small indicator light. On the LCD panel sits the menu button, zoom buttons, and another record start/stop button.
Predictably, the zoom lever and photo buttons are on top of the SDX1 and the battery release latch and tripod receptacle are on the bottom.
As mentioned, the SDX1 is extremely light for a camcorder in its class. Much of that is due to its plastic casing that feels a bit fragile. It doesn’t feel cheap, because all the buttons are tight and secure and it definitely sports a quality build. However, the SDX1 definitely feels less solid than other, heavier camcorders owing to its weight.
Ergonomics and Controls
There are many buttons crammed onto this small device, and Panasonic does a good job of keeping things appropriately spaced. There is little potential for errant button presses.
The touch-enabled LCD is also very responsive, though 2.7-inches is just a bit too small for my taste. Panasonic includes a small stylus with the SDX1, and I found it preferable to my fingertip for poking around the menu. That said, I had no major issues navigating the menu sans stylus, but that has a lot to do with the SDX1’s simple menu layout.
Panasonic also rightly kept the dedicated Intelligent Auto and image stabilizer buttons on the body and did not burry them in the menu system. Sometimes quick access is necessary, especially image stabilization when the zoom is extended. Kudos to Panasonic for realizing that.
I had no issues holding the camcorder or shooting with it for extended periods of time, mostly due to its weight.
Menus and Modes
Hitting the menu button on the LCD panel calls up the SDX1 menu, which is broken into video, stills and camera setup submenus. There is also an information icon that when pressed explains what each menu item controls. This is a great feature, particularly for first-timers, and I’d like to see more manufacturers embrace it.
The SDX1 features Panasonic’s Intelligent Auto, which is a glorified dummy mode that handles the focus, white balance, exposure and shutter speed. Experience users can set the SDX1 to manual mode with the press of a button. That opens up the white balance controls, shutter speed, iris/gain value, and manual focus. There is also a manual focus assist mode that displays the focus area in blue on the LCD.
From the video submenu, the SDX1 presents the following options
- Scene Mode: Sports, portrait, spotlight, snow, beach sunset, fireworks, scenery, low light, night scenery, night portrait
- Zoom Ratio: 20x optical, 23x Intelligent Zoom, 50x digital, 1,200x digital
- Record Format
- AVCHD, 1080/60i: HA (17Mbps), HG (13Mbps), HX (9Mbps), HE (5 Mbps)
- MP4: 720/30p, 540/30p, 480/30p
- Facial Recognition: On, off, set (up to six faces can be programmed for automatic recognition and focus/exposure priority)
- Name Display: Displays name assigned to programmed faces
- Face Framing: Off, all, primary (only frames the preprogrammed face for the dominate face in a shot)
- AGS: Pauses recording whenever the camera is tilted downward
- Auto Slow Shtr: May slow shutter down to 1/30 to record brighter video in dark settings
- Digital Cinema Color: Records more vivid colors via x.v.Color technology
- Shooting Guide: Warns users the camera is panning too fast when the camera is moved rapidly
- Wind Noise Canceller
- Zoom Mic
- Mic Level
- Picture Adjust: sharpness, color, exposure, white balance adjustments
Many of the video modes carry over for stills, but there are some dedicated still features.
- Scene Mode
- Zoom Ratio
- Facial Recognition
- Name Display
- Face Framing
- Picture Adjust
- Picture Size
- 4:3: 2.9M, .3M
- 3:2: 2.8M
- 16:9: 2.1M
- Picture Quality
- Hi-Speed Burst: records 30 or 60 stills per second
- AF Assist Lamp
- Shutter Sound
There are also a handful of camera settings available for tweaking.
As I mentioned, 2.7-inches is just too small for a touch screen. In fact, most touch-enabled smartphones are 3.5 inches and up. I would rather sacrifice compact size for at least a three-inch screen. Compounding the issue are all the information icons Panasonic crammed around the edges of the screen. Unfortunately, it seems most entry-level and mid-range camcorders sport 2.7-inch displays these days.
Fortunately, however, Panasonic included plenty of display controls to adjust the screen brightness per the shooting situation.