Panasonic HDC-SDX1: Video and Image Quality

November 11, 2010 by Jamison Cush Reads (6,221)
Editor's Rating

Ratings Breakdown (1-10)

    • Image/Video Quality
    • 6
    • Features
    • 9
    • Design / Ease of Use
    • 8
    • Performance
    • 9
    • Total Score:
    • 8.00
    • Rating 1 to 10, top score 10

Video Quality
For a device that shoots AVCHD video, which generally produces a higher quality video than MP4, I was disappointed by the SDX1’s video quality. The colors appeared flat and the footage showed a bit too much noise for my liking. The edges were also soft and there just wasn’t the level of detail I was expecting for a 1920×1080 HD clip. In fact, the drop off from AVCHD to MP4, which tops out at a 1280×720 resolution, is noticeable but not salient. I might consider sticking with MP4 exclusively simply because it produces smaller files and is easier to handle in terms of uploading and editing than AVCHD.

The good news is that in low light, the SDX1 excelled with both video file types. While the image was noisy and the colors off, there was little in the way of digital artifacts and the detail level was surprisingly strong.

Stills Quality
The SDX1 shoots up to 2.9-megapixel jpeg stills, and the same issues present in the video – flat colors and soft edges – also appear on the digital photos. With the exception of the new breed of interchangeable-lens camcorders and flagship consumer models, I don’t expect much from camcorder stills. So I wasn’t disappointed by the SDX1’s output. They are cell-phone quality at best.

Sample Stills

Audio Quality
Like most camcorders in its class, the SDX1 does not feature an external mic jack. It does sport an on-board stereo mic and includes both a wind noise canceller and zoom mic feature. The wind-noise canceller is reasonably effective, and the overall audio quality is acceptable. However, I still remain convinced that all camcorders should have an external mic input.

Operation and Extras
The SDX1 ships with an AC adapter, AV multi cable, USB cable, CD-ROM with HD Writer AE, and a mini stylus pen. Panasonic doesn’t pack an HDMI cable with the device. Canon, Sony and others typically exclude the HDMI cable as well, which is one of my main camcorder pet peeves.

As far as the video file format goes, I love that Panasonic included both AVCHD and MP4. On this particular device, I prefer using MP4, even if it only tops out at 720p. MP4 files can easily be dragged and dropped from the storage media and are easily manipulated. AVCHD typically requires specialized software to handle it properly (along with a moderately powerful computer). Many video editing programs work fine with AVCHD, but the SDX1 ships with the awkward and buggy HD Writer AE.

With the notable exception of FlipShare (included with the Flip pocket camcorder), packaged software is usually functional at best, and that’s the best way to describe HD Writer AE. If you have a preferred editing program, like Apple’s iMovie, use that instead of HD Write AE.

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