Panasonic SDR-H40

  • Review
  • Specs
  • Images
  • User Reviews
  • Buy Now
Panasonic SDR-H40
  • Panasonic SDR-H40
  • Panasonic SDR-H40
  • Panasonic SDR-H40
  • Expert Rating

    3.75 / 5


  • Solid video performance for specs and asking price, 30GB hard drive, 42x optical zoom, records to both SD card and HDD


  • Image quality takes a significant hit under dim lighting

Bottom Line

With its 30GB hard drive, SD card slot and 42x optical zoom, the SDR-H40 is a versatile little performer. If you're on the lookout for an affordable standard-def camera for casual use, it is definitely one of the better buys on the market.

Would you buy this?

The SDR-H40 is the entry-level model in Panasonic's new range of HDD/SD hybrid camcorders. Like the H60 and SDR-H280 , it records standard-definition video to either SD memory cards or an inbuilt hard disk drive (which in the H40's case, sports 40GB of memory for up to 36 hours of recording). While its video quality isn't anything to write home about, a bevy of user-friendly features – including a gigantic 42x optical zoom – lifts it head-and-shoulders above the majority of competitors. If you're not overly fussed by high-definition video, the SDR-H40 definitely represents good value for money.

Falling in line with its sub-$850 price tag, the SDR-H40 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 in optimum shooting conditions. It should certainly satisfy its intended user base of casual shooters, though as with most standard-def CCD cameras, bright lighting is an essential ingredient to attaining quality footage. While it can't compete with pricier models such as the SDR-H280 , most users will be satisfied with the majority of its video output.

By far the most impressive feature found on the SDR-H40 is its 42x optical zoom. This will prove incredibly useful for a variety of purposes, from zooming into your son as he scores the winning soccer goal to capturing distant bird-life without spooking it away. The advanced O.I.S really works a charm here, although shaky-handed individuals may want to invest in a tripod if they plan to frequently max out the zoom. A 2000x digital zoom is also included, though like all digital magnifications, this is essentially a pointless and unusable gimmick (it could prove useful for a B-grade spy movie though).

If you're a fashion aficionado who prefers flashy good looks over functionality, the SDR-H40 probably won't be your bag. With its squat, boxy design and old school silver finish, it almost resembles a throwback to the previous generation of camcorders (no doubt this was a conscious decision on Panasonic's part to make its premium 'high-def' models look cooler). While it certainly won't win any points for style, the H40 is pleasingly compact for a HDD camera, making it an ideal, if ugly, travel companion.

The SDR-H40 sports the usual array of advanced camera settings, including four white balance modes, six programmable AE modes, 16:9 and 4:3 recording ratios, auto and manual focus and adjustable shutter speeds. As with the H60 and H280, the miniature directional stick is located at the back of the unit in easy reach of the thumb. Personally, we find this makes menu navigation easier, though this is obviously in the eye of the beholder, as some users will doubtlessly prefer the LCD-mounted stick found on the JVC Everio range. At the risk of committing the greatest of reviewing sins, we'd have to advise you to try before you buy.

Like most standard-def HDD camcorders, the H40 records video in the MPEG2 format. For those who would prefer to bypass the editing process altogether, the H40 is fully compatible with Panasonic's VW-BN1E disc burner, which offers one-touch copying to DVD without the need for a computer. Once again though, you'll need to use an AC power adapter to gain access to your footage. (At $329, it's also a bit on the steep side, though the device remains entirely optional.)

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?