Panasonic HDC-SD9

Panasonic HDC-SD9
  • Panasonic HDC-SD9
  • Panasonic HDC-SD9
  • Panasonic HDC-SD9
  • Expert Rating

    4.00 / 5


  • Ultra lightweight design, stunning 'full HD' video resolution, improved battery/SD card arrangement, solid still images mode, Face Detection technology


  • SDHC media not cheap, no external microphone jack

Bottom Line

The HDC-SD9 is an evolutionary upgrade of the SD5. While the majority of changes are arguably minor, they combine to lift the camcorder head-and-shoulders above its predecessor, not to mention the majority of competitors.

Would you buy this?

When it comes to releasing new hardware, Panasonic certainly isn't a company to rest on its laurels. Early in 2007 it unveiled the world's first high-definition SD/SDHC camcorder (the HDC-SD1); a model that was superseded less than six months later by the HDC-SD5. Now, barely a year since the technology first made its appearance, the prolific manufacturer is aiming for a blistering hat trick with yet another SDHC model – the HDC-SD9. While it remains a fairly nominal upgrade, the HDC-SD9 does benefit from a host of significant improvements, making it a punctual yet worthy successor.

So what's new about the HDC-SD9 to justify its (arguably premature) existence? To be honest, when we first got our hands on the unit we were plagued with a vivid sense of deja vu. In terms of appearance and components, it feels almost identical to its predecessor, sporting the same trio of 1/6-inch CCD sensors, 10x optical zoom lens, AVCHD video codec and 1920x1080 pixel resolution.

However, further investigation uncovers some intriguing new additions; including – crucially – the ability to record footage in 'full' 1080p HD (the previous model offered interlaced video only). Dubbed '25P Cinema Mode', this recording option offers rich, true-to-life colours that mimic the feel of celluloid; handy if you're into short filmmaking. Other new features include a 75x burst shooting mode for still photos, Face Detection, which automatically adjusts the exposure to present faces in the best possible light, and Intelligent Shooting Guide.

Intelligent Shooting Guide is a new shooting mode aimed squarely at the entry-level user. It basically acts like a know-it-all friend; alerting you when you're doing something wrong with handy on screen messages. In theory, this is supposed to help you create error-free footage from the moment you start shooting, but during testing, we found its advice to be a bit hit-and-miss (at times it neglected to mention we were panning too fast, despite shaking the camcorder like a maraca). It also assumes you know basic shooting terminology; which might leave the odd novice in the dark. With that being said, it remains a very interesting feature that is bound to improve in future hardware releases.

In terms of design and build quality, the HDC-SD9 could pass for the SD5's genetically enhanced twin brother. Measuring 65x67x126mm and weighing just 275g, it is slightly smaller than its predecessor, making it the world's most compact 3CCD HD camcorder (a distinction previously held by the SD5). While this might give jittery-handed individuals moment for pause, the advanced image stabiliser thankfully goes a long way to making your footage shake-free. The old adage 'practice makes perfect' naturally applies here.

Another notable difference between the HDC-SD9 and HDC-SD5 is the placement of the battery and SD card slot, which has been shifted to the back of the unit instead of directly underneath. This is a huge boon for frequent tripod users, as you no longer have to unscrew the camera to remove cards or swap batteries. Taking a cue from JVC's Everio range, Panasonic has also moved the directional stick – used for menu navigation – so that it resides near the LCD. While it feels more naturally placed due to its close proximity to the menu screen, it also required two-handed operation when selecting modes or making adjustments. Personally, we kind of prefer the old back-mounted stick, but it remains a teensy quibble. (Incidentally, the menu is well laid out and simple to use, with plenty of manual options for a hands-on approach, including focus, audio, aperture and shutter speed.)

One thing we would have liked to see changed is the lack of an external microphone jack. As it stands, you're stuck with the SD9's inbuilt microphone. It's just as well then, that the 5.1-channel surround sound it captures is of a particularly stellar quality. Home theatre owners will naturally benefit from this hugely; with the subtle combination of ambient sounds putting you back in the moment where the footage was captured.

As you've no doubt gleaned by now, the HDC-SD9 uses SD memory cards to record video in the AVCHD format. Both standard-def and HD footage are supported, with a 16GB card capturing up to two hours of 1920x1080p video. During our testing, it gave a close-to-faultless performance despite some rather drab lighting conditions, with stunningly vibrant images enriched with razor sharp detail. While it did exhibit some minor noise issues at dusk, this is a common fault found in almost every camcorder including prosumer models. In any event, the Colour Night View went some way to alleviating this problem, offering smooth, monochrome-free footage. All up, we were hugely impressed with the quality of our output, including still images which we found worthy of making medium-sized prints with. This makes the SD9 one of the few camcorders on the market that can double as a compact camera; thus bolstering its value for money.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about the price of SDHC cards. Although the RRP has plummeted since its introduction, the media is still far from cheap. Currently, 16GB cards will set you back around $400 a pop; a far cry from the likes of DVD or Mini DV tapes. Of course, it could be argued that the benefits of SDHC media far outweigh the costs, including longer battery life, sound-free operation, smaller camcorder size and instant 'cable-free' playback on SD-compatible computers. Irregardless of its merit, it is becoming rapidly obvious that flash memory media is where the future of camcorder technology currently lies. Also sweetening the deal is the inclusion of a 32GB SDHC card in the sales package.

The HDC-SD9 will be available in March for an RRP of $1869. A $2299 kit version will also be available, including a mini-HDMI cable, a VW-BN1E DVD burner for computer-free disc copy, and Pinnacle software for AVCHD editing.

Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Show Comments


James Cook University - Master of Data Science Online Course

Learn more >


Sansai 6-Outlet Power Board + 4-Port USB Charging Station

Learn more >

Victorinox Werks Professional Executive 17 Laptop Case

Learn more >



Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Louise Coady

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?