Underwater photo fun

Panasonic has come up with the SDR-SW20, its first waterproof video camera.

video camera 88 224 (photo credit: Courtesy)
video camera 88 224
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Digital video cameras are a great way to record and keep timeless memories of your family and friends at special occasions. However, with so many choices available today, deciding on the right product can be difficult. As we enter the hot days of summer, most of us plan on spending time at the beach or poolside, and water sports have obviously been considered for the next family vacation. If you're a camcorder enthusiast, you know that such locations make the perfect opportunity for memorable home movies, but on the other hand you naturally want to be part of the fun yourself. Especially for such dilemmas, Panasonic has come up with the SDR-SW20, its first waterproof video camera. Designed like a retro FM radio from the 1960s, this extremely compact camcorder combines the freedom of underwater functionality (up to 1.5 meters) with the convenience of recording onto SD or SDHC memory cards that are sealed behind a rugged rubber surface. This tough little camcorder is about the size of a remote control and around five cm thick. It features 10x optical zoom with a Zeiss lens, a built-in stereo microphone, and a highly reflective 2.7-inch LCD screen. As expected, the majority of camera functions are selected from within the menu screen, eliminating the need to fiddle with dials and buttons while underwater. In the center is a round control panel, encompassing the four-way directional pad and selection button, and manual AF/MF, auto, underwater, and menu buttons. The delete button is located outside of the control circle. Toward the back end of the SDR-SW20 is a rectangular plastic enclosure that opens via a small plastic tab. Here you'll find the AV out, USB and DC in terminals. The clever, rugged design of the camera protects against drops and is also dust- and shock-proof, with a sturdy body absorbing heavy knocks. Unfortunately, unlike most camcorders the SDR-SW20 does not feature a hand strap that enables you to ratchet it to the hand securely. Instead, shooters must deal with a thin wrist strap, which makes sense for underwater shooting as it does allow you to shift it around into a variety of positions, but is a little risky when on shore. To compensate for that, Panasonic threw an extra record start/stop button toward the lens end of the camcorder, which makes it conducive to an alternative grip method. The SDR-SW20 allows recording around three-and-a-half hours of standard-definition video onto the included 4GB SD card, which should get you through a day's worth of shooting, and the camera is capable of supporting up to 16GB cards. Swapping between cards though can be quite problematic, particularly if you're a long way from shore. With your hands wet, you'll be wondering whether a built-in hard drive might not have been a better option. The Panasonic SDR-SW20 is available at top electronics stores for NIS 2,999. [email protected]