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Like many people, I use a camcorder purely for filming family, holidays, family events etc, and chose to upgrade to the Panasonic HDC-SD600 just days before a family holiday to America.
Previously I was using a very early Sony Handycam (that recorded straight onto DVD). The Handycam DVDs looked fine on our old tv but the picture quality on our new HD TV was not all that great, so an upcoming trip to America was the prompt to upgrade.
I have always used a 35mm camera (film and later digital) for photos of the children as they were growing up, and never regretted the investment as we have beautifully clear pictures of the children from babies onwards, and was looking for the camcorder equivalent.
I was at first tempted by the Panasonic HDC TM700, because of its small size and glowing professional reviews. The price tag however, made me hesitate - my kids were now teenagers - would I get anything near value for money from it? It was then that I discovered that the SD600 had just been launched, which appeared to offer the quality of the TM700 without the manual options which hand on heart I suspected (as with my 35mm digital SLR camera) I would never actually use. I have no intention of making anything creative or arty, or even approaching professional - I just wanted a small, easy to use camcorder that gave me quality pictures.
For approx £500 (still a lot I know) this camcorder gives me exactly that. The zoom (optical 12X) is brilliant for filming kids in the sea etc, and I have found the picture quality to be stunning. It is so easy to use, that on a recent family holiday I had a hard job tearing it away from my own children and my nieces!
The touch screen is very intuitive, and having used it successfully on two family holidays already without even reading any instructions, I have to say that the only downside I have found is that it's ease of use can make you slightly over confident and liable to not actually read what it is saying on the screen. Several times I have thought I was not recording when I was, and vice versa. While providing a more 'interesting' and honest record of your holiday it can be frustrating to record your child climbing up the rocks and then to stop recording (thinking you were pressing 'record') just as they jump off into the water! The fact that I (and the children) made this same mistake shows that it is easy to do, but now that I am aware of it, and remember to pay attention to the on-screen information, it doesn't happen. There really isn't any excuse other than carelessness, the screen is visible even in bright sunlight (I was initially worried about the camera not having a viewfinder, but it really is no problem).
I was unsure what kind of memory card I would need, but after reading lots of 'professional' reviews, settled on a 16GB SanDisk Ultra, which gave me plently of recording space for a family holiday (and I record a lot!).
The camera also takes 'still' photos which are more than adequate for family photos - as you would expect they are not as clear as with the 35mm, but the great zoom is very very useful.
This is the only HD camera that I have, so it is impossible to compare to others, but all that I can say is that it's very easy to use, small enough to pop in your handbag, and the picture quality is brilliant! Very, very pleased.
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