Panasonic loaded a lot of functionality onto the SDX1, and I absolutely love the webcam feature. It’s simple and effective, and while most computers come with a front-facing camera for Skype and YouTube uploads, the SDX1 undoubtedly offers better video quality and versatility. Here’s a sample I uploaded directly to YouTube.
Another feature worth mentioning is the auto focus/auto exposure tracking, which allows users to select a subject by touching it in the display, and the SDX1 will lock on and keep the object in focus as long as it remains in frame. I liked this feature on the TM700, and it’s still incredibly useful. However, I found the 2.7-inch display too small to accurately select the intended subject with a fingertip.
Programmable facial recognition is another feature that migrated down from the TM700. It’s set-it-and-forget-it, meaning users should only have to register faces once. I like it, and I think it could be incredibly useful, but I had some trouble getting it to consistently recognize faces. Programming faces in the device was also a hassle, as the SDX1 kept prompting me to take a better photo despite what I thought was an ideal shooting environment.
Just about all cameras have some mode of dummy mode that automates the settings and selects the ideal presets based on the shooting conditions, and Panasonic’s “Intelligent Auto” is among the best. It’s tough to fool and adjusted quickly to changing conditions. The manual pictures controls are all controlled through the touchscreen, so they are best left for controlled conditions and not on-the-fly adjustments.
For those venturing into the manual controls, Panasonic includes a focus guide that aids in correctly focusing the desired object. However, I couldn’t find any help with the exposure controls. Other camcorders offer “zebra lines” that indicate overexposed areas. I don’t expect them on an entry level device like the SDX1, but they would have been welcome. The SDX1 does include a shooting guide that warns users when the camera is panning or moving too fast. It can get annoying, as it seems to register any moderate movement as “too fast,” but I like the feature as a means to mitigate the rolling shutter effect that plagues many digital camcorders.
Panasonic promises optical zoom-like picture quality out of their Intelligent Zoom digital zoom feature. Unfortunately, it only extends the 20x optical zoom to 23x, which isn’t far enough for it to be very useful. Intelligent Zoom worked extremely well on the TM700, so I hope Panasonic pushes it out an extra 10x or 15x on future models.
Extending the zoom 20x also gives the optical image stabilizer a chance to show what it can do. Here’s an example of it in action, with me toggling it on and off.
Needless to say, it works.