Panasonic SDR-H60

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Panasonic SDR-H60
  • Panasonic SDR-H60
  • Panasonic SDR-H60
  • Panasonic SDR-H60

Pros

  • Huge 50x optical zoom, 60GB hard drive + SD-card slot, good value for money

Cons

  • Plain, uninspired design, struggle in low light levels, the SDR-H40 represents even better value for money

Bottom Line

As the 'middle child' in Panasonic's standard-def HDD family, the SDR-H60 arguably serves little purpose. It lacks the advanced features found on the SDR-H280, yet adds little of note when compared to the SDR-H40.

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Following in the footsteps of the SDR-H40 , SDR-H280 and HDC-HS9 , the SDR-H60 is yet another entry into Panasonic's 'hybrid' HDD/SD camcorder series. Slotting snugly into the middle of its standard-def range, this latest model sports a bigger hard drive and optical zoom lens than the H40 (up from 40GB/42x to 60GB/50x), yet lacks the advanced 3CCD camera system of the H280. While it remains a perfectly capable product when judged on its own merits, most users would be better off buying either of its stable mates, depending on their particular needs.

With the exception of the aforementioned memory and zoom lens, the H60 is practically identical to the H40, which retails for around $110 less. While an extra 20GB of inbuilt memory is certainly convenient, the included SD-slot makes it largely irrelevant; especially if you already have a few SDHC cards lying around. Likewise, the difference in zoom magnifications between the H40 and H60 isn't particularly noteworthy – for most users, a 42x optical zoom will be more than sufficient. If you want a camera that's superior to the SDR-H40, we'd therefore recommend bypassing the H60 altogether and snapping up a H280 (or better yet, the high-definition HCD-SH9.)

Like its H40 sibling, the H60 comes equipped with a single 1/6in CCD sensor with an effective pixel count of 400. In terms of image quality, it performed about as well as can be expected for a unit with these specifications; offering reasonable colour and contrast when shooting in optimum (read: sunny) conditions. As expected, image quality took a nosedive in low-light conditions; a problem that the rudimentary night mode failed to alleviate. (The slower shutter speed it employs rendered our footage blurry, indistinct and effectively worthless.) Nevertheless, it performed ably for a standard-def camcorder in this price range and its output will doubtlessly satisfy most entry-level users.

Undoubtedly one of the key selling points of the SDR-H60 is its massive 50x optical zoom; one of the largest we have seen on any camera. This is an extremely handy and versatile feature that will ensure you're always close to the action. Of course, one of the drawbacks of a powerful zoom is an increase in shaky footage; particularly amongst novice shooters who make up the H60's intended user base. Thankfully, Panasonic's acclaimed optical image stabiliser (O.I.S) comes to the fore here, with our test footage remaining consistently shake-free, even at higher zoom magnifications.

In terms of design, the SDR-H60 isn't the swankiest model to strut off Panasonic's production line. Compared to the ergonomic sexiness of the SD-SW20 and SDR-S7 (two models which are incidentally cheaper), the H60 almost looks like a relic from the past. With that being said, its compact dimensions (70x67x116mm) and well-balanced weight (340g) make it one of the more portable HDD camcorders on the market.

The SDR-H60 sports an average assortment of menu settings for a point-and-shoot model, ranging from adjustable shutter speeds to programmable AE modes. As with the H60 and H280, the miniature directional stick, used for menu navigation, is located at the back of the unit in easy reach of the thumb. This makes a nice change from the recent influx of cameras adopting LDC-mounted sticks. (Perhaps we're just traditionalists, but we prefer the old layout.)

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