Battery life is impressive at exactly two hours, although two hours and 18 minutes to recharge is on the slow side. This provides a greater level of creative control than the majority of video cameras, which group these functions together into a single exposure control. Adjusting the focus manually using the up and down buttons on the touchscreen feels clumsy. The fully automatic mode proved to be extremely adept at capturing high-quality video. Face detection worked superbly, and was completely unfazed when our subject was backlit against a bright sky.
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But more budget-oriented models like the HDC-TM10 sacrificed a little too much to be similarly dominant in their respective price range. All three models offer nearly identical features, the main difference between them being the recording medium used.
The HS60 captures video to a GB hard disk, so is a little larger than the other two, which are identical in dimensions. Other than these differences, the video features are the same. So there is now ample resolution for Full HD, and a healthy dollop of interpolation has been added to provide digital stills up to 5-megapixels. Video recording options remain the same as before, however. Despite the larger sensor, which would usually be accompanied by a reduction in zoom for basic optical reasons, the SD60 actually provides an increase in this area.
This takes the factor to a whopping 35x, which we found very useful indeed for capturing footage of the aerial displays of the Red Arrows flying team, for example.
Further aiding handheld shooting at extreme zoom is the extra image stabilisation mode, which was first introduced in the HDC-TM The fact that the SD60 has an optical image stabilisation system is already very commendable at this price, and the new Advanced mode adds extra dimensions to the correction, making footage more stable whilst walking, or at high factors of telephoto, when shooting handheld.
We found the new mode has clear benefits and is well worth having. Not surprisingly, however, the SD60 has little in the way of enthusiast features. The latter is almost exclusively operated via the touchscreen LCD. The LCD edge does have buttons for triggering record and operating the zoom, facilitating two-handed waist-height usage.
But all other settings require the touchscreen. A quick tap of the screen calls up the rapid function menu, with AFAE mode taking pride of place. Switch to manual mode, however, and more functions are added to this strip.
In particular, you gain the ability to adjust white balance, focus, shutter and iris. White balance options include two indoor and two outdoor presets, plus auto and fully manual modes. Manual focusing using the touchscreen buttons is a little fiddly, albeit aided by focus-assist fringing.
There are a few extra goodies available if you delve into the full menu. Perhaps the most surprising new feature here, however, is the Picture Adjust section, which lets you manually configure sharpness, colour, brightness and white balance offset between red warm and blue cold. This goes even further than the Image Effects now found in many Canon camcorders. Colours are also very faithful, although here the TM10 was about on par.
Colours remain remarkably strong in low light. Crucially, where the TM10 produced an unacceptably dark image in important types of artificial lighting, the SD60 shoots usable video. Verdict Panasonic appears to have finally cracked the lower end of the high definition market. We continually check thousands of prices to show you the best deals. If you buy a product through our site we will earn a small commission from the retailer — a sort of automated referral fee — but our reviewers are always kept separate from this process.
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