Author:
Mike Adams
2/06/2009

Where do I start with the Panasonic SDR-S7 camcorder? I know that phrase probably isn’t the best way to start a review, but in this case it really isn’t a bad thing. If you are looking for a professional, full service camcorder, by all means look elsewhere. If you are looking for an easy to use, hard to screw up, easy to take on the go camcorder…this might be the one for you.

One thing I like about it is the portability. At only 2.3″ x 1.6″ x 4″ and weighing in at a little over a quarter of a pound, this little camera is perfect for slipping in your pocket and taking it on the go. And for the unit’s size, the video quality is pretty darn good…bordering on fantastic. (For an example of the recording quality, just check out the UC Davis Bookstore TechTalk Podcast Webisode 2…just make sure you are watching it in the High Quality setting on Youtube.) It is not HD, but it does record in 640×480 resolution at a 16:9 aspect ratio (gotta love widescreen), which can be turned off in the menu options (back to the standard aspect ratio of 4:3). Again, for the size of the unit itself, the quality is fantastic. The wind reduction is a help and the camcorder picks up sound quite well too. It comes with a 2.5” LCD screen so you can view what you are recording at a decent size.

My favorite feature (besides the recording quality and size) is the fact this camera records to SD cards (hence the reason for its small stature). There are no moving parts, making it not so prone to hardware failure. Plus, you can record up to an hour of High Quality video on a 4GB SD card…which suits my purposes just fine. But, if you want to stretch out that time, then just lower the recording quality in the menu options.

A couple of gripes I have with it though also have to do with its small size. Because it is so small and lightweight, the battery is VERY small, and you only get up to an hour of recording time with it. (Extra batteries can be purchased through Panasonic direct for about $75.) Also, since the camera is so small, there is no room for an external audio input, making it impossible to hook up a microphone to it. I would have loved this for interviews that we will be doing in the future for the TechTalk podcast, but I will have to make due. Good thing the on board microphone is pretty decent. The Panasonic SDR-S7 is not perfect, but I find it is perfect for what it is meant to do.

Pros:

  • Small, lightweight, and durable.
  • Video quality fantastic for the camera size.
  • Records directly to SD cards
  • Price

Cons:

  • Records in Panasonic’s proprietary file format “.MOD”, making it very hard to transfer from camera to computer without the included software. (Note: Mac users should open iMovie with the camera hooked up to import your movies. iMovie does recognize the file format…only if transferring from the camera.)
  • Low battery life.
  • No support for external microphone.
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