Panasonic SDR-H85-K camcorder

A standard-def Panasonic camcorder with 75x optical zoom and an 80GB hard drive

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Panasonic SDR-H85-K
  • Panasonic SDR-H85-K
  • Panasonic SDR-H85-K
  • Panasonic SDR-H85-K
  • Expert Rating

    4.25 / 5

Pros

  • Good performance for the asking price, massive 78x optical zoom, OIS Active mode

Cons

  • Poor still image mode, not much different to Panasonic SDR-H80-K

Bottom Line

The Panasonic SDR-H85-K is an excellent standard-definition camcorder that offers some great features for the asking price. If you're on the look-out for a model that's user-friendly yet highly functional, it's hard to look past the SDR-H85-K.

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The Panasonic SDR-H85-K is a standard-definition HDD camcorder equipped with a 78x optical zoom lens and an 80GB hard drive. Like its predecessor, the Panasonic SDR-H80-K, it packs plenty of useful features into an ultra-affordable package (RRP: $649). Both lightweight and user-friendly, the Panasonic SDR-H85 is an excellent choice for families and casual users. For the asking price it also takes great looking video.

As its name implies, the Panasonic SDR-H85-K is a minor upgrade of last year's SDR-H80-K. Both models sport the same dimensions (64x55x107mm) and most of the same specifications — although the SDR-H85-K does add a few new features to justify its existence. For example, the SDR-H80-K's 60GB hard drive has received a 20GB boost, bringing the total to 80GB. This will net you around 24 hours of footage at the highest possible quality, or 102 hours in LP mode.

Panasonic has also added Active mode; an advanced form of optical image stabilisation. Beginners are sure to find this very useful, especially when employing the 78x zoom. Other additions include an AF/AE Tracking tool, a wind-noise canceller and support for SDXC memory cards. While far from essential, the above additions do help to boost the camcorder's value — and the previous iteration was good value to begin with.

SDXC is a new, high-capacity format from Panasonic with the potential to store up to 2TB of video. SDXC cards are also faster than their SDHC predecessors, boasting a theoretical transfer rate of up to 300 megabytes per second (300MBps). Naturally, the Panasonic SDR-H85 also supports the previous format — so don't fret if you already own a bunch of SD cards. (In any event, most users will probably make do with the SDR-H85-K's 80GB hard drive.)

For menu navigation, the Panasonic SDR-H85-K uses a tried-and-tested directional joystick. We personally would have preferred a touch-screen interface — as found on the Panasonic HDC-HS60 — but we suppose it gets the job done well enough.

All the usual camcorder functions are present, including adjustable iris and shutter speeds, manual white balance, 10 scene presets, manual focus, 16:9 and 4:3 recording, face detection and an array of digital effects. As mentioned, the SDR-H85-K also comes with Panasonic’s iA mode, which attempts to adjust settings on the fly to attain the best picture. It's basically just an automatic scene mode, albeit one that works quite well.

The Panasonic SDR-H85 also comes with a dedicated Web mode button. This restricts recording time to 10 minutes, which is the maximum length of a YouTube video. You can then upload your movies directly from the camera to the video-sharing Web site of your choice. A stills image mode is also included, but unfortunately there is no inbuilt flash.

To capture video, the Panasonic SDR-H85 uses a 1/8in CCD sensor with an effective pixel count of 0.8 megapixels. While this might sound measly on paper, it's important to note that modern sensors are considerably more sophisticated than the technology from a few years ago. Consequently, they are able to tease plenty of colour from relatively fewer pixels.

To test the Panasonic SDR-H85, we shot several videos in and around our office building, both indoors and out. In optimum lighting, our test footage exhibited accurate tones that were relatively free of noise. Images were not the sharpest we’ve seen, yet they should nevertheless satisfy casual users. Naturally, footage tends to look best on a CRT television or PC screen, as the flaws become readily apparent on large HD TVs. Nevertheless, the Panasonic SDR-H85 is an impressive performer for the asking price.

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Read more on these topics: Panasonic, camcorders, digital video

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