The last Panasonic camcorder that we had reviewed was compact and small enough to be slipped into your backpack without consuming too much space. Moreover it even came with an 80 GB hard drive that could record 72 hours of video at its highest mode. Now, the SDR-S26 is quite similar in looks but comes in a much smaller form factor. Had it been any smaller the SDR-S26 would have actually fit into your pocket.
To start with the Panasonic SDR-S26 measures in at 56 x 65 x 107 mm, so it easily allows you to wrap your hand around it with ease. Moreover the camcorder weighs just about 235 g – making it very light to carry around. The main reason for the S26 to be so undersized and light is mainly due to the fact that it doesn’t feature a hard drive. However it does come with an SD card slot that supports a maximum of 32 GB – a limiting factor of the SDR-S26. So going by the maximum memory supported the camcorder will be able to record a maximum 7 hrs of video in XP mode (10Mbps), which is the highest quality that it can record. However you can achieve close to 27 hrs of video recording in LP mode (2.5Mbps).
The camcorder comes with a 2.7-inch LCD display with a 270-degree swivel. The overall display quality feels a little underrated as it lacks the crispness that you would normally find in other camcorders. Navigation is controlled by a dedicated joystick along with the menu button placed just below it. However, a few additional buttons, that obviously wouldn’t be used too often, are placed just where the screen sits when closed – these include the Trash Can, AF/MF and Optical Image Stabilizer. Having said that, the SDR-S26 comes with an option called “Web Mode” where the recording time is locked at 10 minutes. However the VideoCam suite will need to be installed to seamlessly upload the files to YouTube. An Intelligent Auto function is also thrown in allowing the camcorder to decide the most suitable mode when shooting.
The mode selection dial and record button are conveniently placed just behind the camera allowing you to switch between modes with ease. A feature that overshadows most of the other camcorders is its whopping 70x zoom along with its optical image stabilizer – a real piece of work considering its miniature size. Here the image stabilizer does a very good job at handling camera shake even at full zoom. However it is recommended to make use of a tripod when shooting at 70x.
Moreover owning a camcorder that has a high zoom isn’t quite enough. Where it really needs to perform is the speed at which it focuses and that the Panasonic SDR-S26 does pretty darn well. The accuracy and speed at which the camcorder focuses is commendable.
Menu navigation as usual remains the same as with most of their midrange camcorders. So there really isn’t much that can be said here. However if you are a first time user you just might find navigating between settings a little confusing as they are again not labelled appropriately.
Design wise the SDR-S26 overcomes the technical flaws that overshadowed the SDR-H90. The battery compartment is neatly placed towards the bottom along with the A/V, power and USB connector placed just below the mode selection dial. This was something that was really amiss with the SDR-H90. To maintain its diminutive size the battery extremely small and can be easily compared to the size of a normal cell phone battery. However with its limited 32 GB of memory I personally don’t think that you would be requiring a bigger battery than what is provided.
Performance wise the SDR-S26 did a far better job at recording video than the SDR-H90. However it is not something exceptional that one can really brag about. With that said the camcorder maintained a decent balance of color without making the overall video too oversaturated. Here again the reds did have a slight orangish tinge. The cameras night mode did a decent job under low light.
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