Panasonic SDR-S26-K digital video camcorder
Standard-definition flash memory camcorder with ultra-powerful 70x optical zoom
- 70x optical zoom, attractive lightweight design, novice-friendly iA mode
- Poor night mode, 'Web Mode' is a poorly implemented gimmick
The Panasonic SDR-S26-K digital video camcorder is a solid performer in the standard-definition space. It offers an impressive array of features for the asking price, the highlight of which is its ultra-powerful 70x optical zoom.
Price$ 549.00 (AUD)
The Panasonic SDR-S26-K is an ultra-compact camcorder that records standard-definition video to removable SD memory cards. Its main claim to fame is its 70x optical zoom lens, which is considerably more powerful than the average entry-level camcorder (most models offer an optical zoom of between 10x and 40x). This makes the Panasonic SDR-S26 an excellent choice for outdoor shooters, as you’ll be able to get intimately close to distant objects without affecting the picture quality (provided you’re armed with a tripod, that is).
It also comes packed with plenty of consumer-friendly features (some of which work better than others). This includes an Intelligent Auto (iA) mode with inbuilt face detection, a dedicated Web button for one-step YouTube uploads and an Advanced O.I.S stabiliser for shake-free recordings. While image quality isn’t stellar, it remains more than reasonable for the asking price of $549.
The Panasonic SDR-S26-K comes in a choice of three colours: red, black and blue. We tested the latter version, which sports a curious sky-blue finish rather than the typical navy shade. It’s a bit unconventional, but not unpleasant to look at it. (We’d take it over boring old silver any day). With dimensions of 107x56x65mm, the Panasonic SDR-S26-K isn’t quite so compact as its pint-sized predecessor — the Panasonic SDR-S7 — yet it should still slip comfortably into a bag or jacket pocket without weighing you down.
Thankfully, the Panasonic SDR-S26-K has managed to avoid the protruding ‘ghetto booty’ battery that has marred so many of its siblings (see the Panasonic SDR-H80-K, Panasonic HDC-SD20-K and the Panasonic HDC-SX5 for some unsightly examples). Instead, the battery remains tucked inside the camera’s body, which lends the device a much classier appearance.
On the imaging front, the SDR-S26-K camcorder shares the same 1/8in CCD sensor and 380k pixel count as the SDR-H80. These are not particularly impressive specifications, even for the asking price. Most modern digital camcorders offer CMOS chipsets, which are said to provide more reliable video quality in low lighting. Despite these considerable handicaps, the Panasonic SDR-S26-K managed to impress us during testing. When we used the camera in optimum lighting, our footage exhibited accurate colours that were relatively free of noise. Naturally, things rapidly changed for the worse when we moved to a dimmer environment, though the grainy results were still acceptable for private home viewing. Unfortunately, the lack of an inbuilt lamp or decent night mode means you can’t really use this camera in the dark.
For navigation, the Panasonic SDR-S26-K uses a traditional joystick interface, which is located on the outside of the LCD cavity. We’ve never been fans of this arrangement, as it means you have to use both hands to make menu adjustments. On the plus side, the stick is responsive and easy to use, which is not something that can be said of every camcorder's control scheme. Considering its low price tag, there are a decent array of modes and features available on this camera; including face detection technology, adjustable iris and shutter speeds, multiple white balance modes, manual focus, 16:9 and 4:3 recording ratios, face framing and the usual digital effects and scene modes. For novice users, the standout feature will probably be the iA mode, which adjusts camcorder settings to suit the situation at hand. (It’s essentially an automatic Scene mode, but it works, and that’s all that really matters.)
We were less enthused with the SDR-S26-K’s Web Mode, however. This ‘feature’ merely shuts off recording after ten minutes — which is the maximum length for a YouTube video. While this does save you the trouble of having to trim down your movies, it also means there’s no room for error (for example if the blog or skit you’re shooting goes over by a couple of seconds, the camcorder will refuse to record the extra footage.) We’re willing to give camcorder gimmicks the benefit of the doubt, but broken camcorder gimmicks are another matter entirely. Panasonic really needs to go back to the drawing board with this one. (On another note, do we really need to clutter YouTube with more unedited videos? The Panasonic SDR-S26-K’s Web mode clearly encourages you to upload directly from the camera, which is rarely a good thing.)
Aside from that one caveat, the SDR-S26-K is a decent little performer. It might not be the smallest flash-memory model on the market, or the most feature-packed, but the inclusion of that 70x optical zoom more than makes up for any shortcomings.
Join the PC World newsletter!
Most Popular Reviews
- 1 Sony Xperia Z5 Premium review: Is the world ready for a 4K phone?
- 2 D-Link Taipan AC3200 Ultra tri-band modem-router review
- 3 Dell XPS 13 (2016) review: Making the very best Ultrabook
- 4 Microsoft Surface Book review: The verdict on Microsoft's first notebook
- 5 Telstra Wi-Fi 4GX Advanced III review: Testing the world's first 600Mbps wireless hotspot
Best Deals on PC World
Latest News Articles
- Nvidia's pricey Shield Android TV adds some value with 4K YouTube and Netflix HDR in US
- Netflix's Fast.com download tester takes its war against slow ISPs directly to the user
- Nearly 100 classic NFL games headed to YouTube
- Netflix isn’t big on virtual reality for the obvious reasons
- Netflix loosens up streaming video, letting users choose their cellular speed limit
GGG Evaluation Team
First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.
For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.
The Fujitsu LifeBook UH574 allowed for great mobility without being obnoxiously heavy or clunky. Its twelve hours of battery life did not disappoint.
The screen was particularly good. It is bright and visible from most angles, however heat is an issue, particularly around the Windows button on the front, and on the back where the battery housing is located.
My first impression after unboxing the Q702 is that it is a nice looking unit. Styling is somewhat minimalist but very effective. The tablet part, once detached, has a nice weight, and no buttons or switches are located in awkward or intrusive positions.
- FTNetwork Engineer | Routing & switching | Design, implementation, L3 supportNSW
- CCSenior Business Analyst - NV1VIC
- CCTechnology Team Lead / Senior Developer - JavaNSW
- CCAccess Control Administration / Help desk OperatorACT
- CCBusiness AnalystNSW
- CCiOS Developer x 2NSW
- FTFunctional Business Analyst Dynamic AXNSW
- FTSenior Full-Stack .NET DeveloperVIC
- FTPeoplesoft CRM DeveloperWA
- CCData Engineer | Real Time StreamingNSW
- FTSenior Network Engineer - Australian Systems Integrator - Immediate interviewNSW
- CCTechnical System Engineer (Linux/Mobile/SQL)160524/TSE/vmtAsia
- CCBusiness Systems AnalystQLD
- CCSenior Program DirectorNSW
- CCEnd to End Project Manager - PMO and GovernanceVIC
- CCIT Environment and Deployment SpecialistQLD
- FTOPEN _ ASAP_Technical Specialist COEACT
- CCMS SCOM AdministratorVIC
- FTSOA Tech LeadNSW
- CCNetwork Consultant - Bandwidth Assessment | 3 month contract into Defence | NV1+ACT
- CCMicrosoft System Engineer - NV1ACT
- CCProgram Business AnalystVIC
- CCMultiple Oracle Fusion SOA/BPEL Developer OpportunitiesVIC
- CCIT Systems AnalystACT
- FTAzure ConsultantQLD