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 Good Gear Guide newsletter!
Most Popular Reviews
- 1 LG 2017 OLED TV range full review: W7 Signature Wallpaper, G7, E7 and C7 UHD TVs
- 2 Tag Heuer Connected Smartwatch and Android Wear 2 review
- 3 Subaru XV 2017 review
- 4 Samsung 2017 QLED Q7 TV: Full, in-depth review
- 5 Kogan Atlas UltraSlim Pro laptop: full, in-depth review
Latest News Articles
- Microsoft's Beam becomes Mixer, adds four person split-screen streaming to battle Twitch
- Microsoft's Story Remix uses machine learning and mixed reality to make your movies awesome
- New IoT malware targets 100,000 IP cameras via known flaw
- Facebook launches tool for capturing 360 video inside VR
- Sony's PlayStation 4 Pro finally adds 4K video support for local files
PCW Evaluation Team
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
- Garmin Fenix 5 fitness tracker smartwatch review
- MSI GE72 7RE Apache Pro gaming laptop review
- LG 2017 OLED TV range full review: W7 Signature Wallpaper, G7, E7 and C7 UHD TVs
- Which flagship TV is best? Sony 4K HDR Bravia 2016 versus LG 4K HDR OLED 2016
- 10 Blu-ray movies / Best looking Blu-ray movies
- FTSocial Media Executive / Specialist (Facebook) - online gamblingNSW
- TPPrimary Support Officer (Level 1)VIC
- FTNetwork Deployment ManagerVIC
- TPBI ConsultantNSW
- FTManager - Commercial ClientsACT
- FTClient Onboarding ManagerNSW
- CCVDI EngineerACT
- CCSenior Communications Advisor - Australian TelcoVIC
- CCProject ManagerVIC
- CCDesigner - Salesforce Marketing CloudVIC
- FTSenior iOS DeveloperNSW
- CCPHP DeveloperNSW
- FTIT Support / Desktop SupportSA
- CCSolution Architect with Magento experience wantedVIC
- TPLevel 2/3 Technical Service AnalystOther
- CCProcurement & Contract SpecialistNSW
- CCInfrastructure Test ManagerNSW
- TPSenior Java Developer - Contract till June 2018QLD
- CCJava DeveloperACT
- FTJunior - Mid Level Technical Customer SupportQLD
- FTTest AnalystVIC
- FTSenior Infrastructure Engineer (Windows & Virtualization)VIC
- FTChange Manager, Agile Environment, Financial ServicesNSW
- FTFull Stack .Net DeveloperWA