Hands-On With Panasonic’s 70X SDR-S26

img_2914At first glance, Panasonic’s SDR-S26 camcorder ($329) is just another flash camcorder: it records in standard definition. It has a cylindrical black body; sleek, but ordinary. It has a simple smattering of buttons on the backside, and on the inside when you open the LCD. And yet, it’s one of the most memorable camcorders announced at this year’s CES. That’s because inside its tiny body is a monster 70X optical zoom lens. That’s unheard of in a consumer camcorder this size. Even in DVD and miniDV models, which can have 50X or 60x, this would be a milestone. But particularly in a flash model, where the optical zoom often doesn’t exceed 10x or 12X, it’s just baffling. One has to wonder, how’d they fit it all in there? As we got hands on, our biggest concern was the image stabilization. The S26 does have optical image stabilization, similar to what you’ll find in the company’s Lumix cameras, but the fact is, it gets harder to keep the picture steady as you continue extending the zoom. We noticed some additional shakiness on the LCD as we pushed the zoom to its limit, but nothing too distracting. img_2915What really impressed us about the S26– aside from the fact that it even has 70X optical zoom– is how quickly the camcorder regained focus as we continued pushing the zoom. The picture remained sharp as we did this, and by the time we arrived at 70X we could still make out fine details, even on the LCD screen. As for the question of, “What can you do with a 70X lens?” Standing on the CES showroom floor we were able to make out tiny lines in the rafters, high above. The S26 will be available in April for $329. Until then, check out our hands-on video to see just how far the zoom goes, and what kind of details were were able to see from far away. [flq:f25786c8e5a78b431eedc300203dec18]

Best of 2009 CES Winner The SDR-S26 is the Best Camcorder of 2009 CES!
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  1. Mike Says:

    Where’s the hands-on video? Been trying to find it?

  2. Joanna Stern Says:

    We will get the video in there in a few minutes. Thanks!

  3. Robin Says:

    My biggest concern is how its tiny chip would perform under low light condition. Don’t expect too much from OS, at 70x you’v got to be kidding if you are shooting without a tripod.

  4. Mike ball Says:

    I just purchased this and damn it is slick. Yes SD on and SD… This sucker is built for the you tube set. If you’ve got an idea and want to shoot, this beats both the handicam and envirio in it’s class. I’ve got a couple hours of filming with it and the ONLY gripe I’ve got is where they put the battery… Which has decent life to it… You have to open the hatch on the bottom of the body… Not a huge deal, but a little annoying if it’s on a tripod…

    All in all it is solid in it’s niche.

  5. Alan Nicholls Says:

    Well I`d been looking forward to this one (I already a 40x Sony handycam)so when I needed the upgrade I went straight out and bought one 70x optical I thought would be a real leap ,but no. Are you sure Panasonic you`ve made a genuine 70x full optical zoom I dont think so,when my Sony was put onto pc then snapshotted I could print out pictures from any magnification, not the Panasonic anything above 20ish zoom comes out pixelated(that tells me the higher mag is digital)not optical.As a very high end user I require a lot from a camera and this one did`nt deliver.I seriously would`nt recommend this product to any of my contemporaries (bird and wildlife film makers).The second point is the automatic light comes on whenever the surrounding light is low,two things about that,firstly the battery drain is high and shortens you run out time,and wildlife does`nt like being spotlighted.My next point on this camera is dont try filming in good light conditions because you simply wont be able to see the screen,if you cant see the screen how can you see what you`re zooming in on ? and the battery drain again is huge .Lastly anyone looking for a camera for filming distant objects especially wildlife buy one with a viewfinder …. makes life simpler!

  6. Joe Says:

    Thanks to Alan Nicholls for
    that expose and discovery of
    the outright lie by
    Panasonic. If still shots
    are pixelizing after 20X zoom,
    then it is NOT a 70X OPTICAL
    zoom. It’s a 20X optical, 70X
    digital. And Digital xoom, as
    we all know, is about
    useless, regardless how well
    software tries to
    emulate optical.

  7. KENY Says:

    MAN I JUST ORDERED THIS OFF OF QVC ,I HOPE IT DESNT SUCK TOO BAD. I WANT TO USE IT FORFILMING ME RIDING MY BIKE IN TOWN AND POSING IT ON LINE. IS IT GOOD ENOUGH FOR THAT?

  8. Lupe Amaya Says:

    Can anyone help? I just received my camera I wanted to record a football game, after everyplay I would pause it till the next play. When I reviewed it, put everyplay as a separate scene. It didn’t record like a movie. Do I have to keep it on the whole time??? Also battery life sucks I had to buy 3 batteries to record one football game. Am I doing something wrong?

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