Panasonic SD camcorders stretched to 78x zoom

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Facing competition from the Flip and other low-cost HD camcorders, Panasonic is still counting on standard definition to deliver as they unveiled three new 33mm wide-angle SD camcorders at CES, the SDR-H85, SDR-T50, and SDR-S50. While the new models are very similar to last year’s offerings, Panasonic did up the ante with new features, including a 78x zoom, SDXC support, and new optical image stabilization technology that maintains a steady image even when in full zoom.

The advanced OIS was on full display for all attendees. Panasonic had a bouncing camera zoomed up close to a small globe strung up approximately 40 feet away and 20 feet up. Despite the camera movement, the globe’s writing appeared steady and readable on the nearby display monitor. As the Panasonic rep proudly boasted, “We’ve led the industry forever in stabilization. At the price points these (SDR camcorders) will all come out at, it’s almost unheard of.”

So-called 70x ultra zoom was all the rage at last year’s CES, and this year’s models push zoom a bit further with 78x Enhanced Optical Zoom. Essentially, the 70x optical zoom range remains unchanged – it’s the camera’s sensor that extends the zoom a bit further, all while maintaining image quality.

In addition to SD and SDHC, the SDR cameras now support the new SDXC standard, which comes in card sizes up to 64GB. The SDR-H85 also includes an 80GB hard disk drive, good for approximately 74 hours and 30 minutes of LP footage. SDR-T50 has 4 GB of built-in memory, while the SDR-S50 has no internal memory.

Another new feature is the Wind Noise Canceller, which detects and suppresses wind noise for outdoor shoots while maintaining other natural sounds.

All three models will be available in black, with the SDR-H85 and SDR-S50 also coming in red or silver.
Panasonic did not announce any pricing, but the rep did claim that the SDR series is “the next level up” from the Flip and other low-end HD cameras in terms of cost. Last year’s Panasonic SDRs ranged from $299 to $399. Also, no word yet on when they will become available.

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