Aug 10
Panasonic SDR-H250

Panasonic SDR-H250

I have been using the Panasonic SDR-H250 camcorder for 2 years. This is a great small size camcorder for family use. Sometimes I use it to shoot Dr Lee health seminar for 2 to 6 hours in a day. This HDD camcorder is an upgrade from my previous Panasonic NV-DS65 camcorder with DV tape. I would say the difference in video quality and feature are very significant.

Here’s my review of this camcorder.

I bought this camcorder 2 years ago immediately after its release in Malaysia. The price was RM 2799 at Senheng electrical store for 3 years warranty. Actually, I just finished its 2 year interest free installment, at last! :)

Panasonic SDR-H250 special features are:

  • 3CCD 1/6″ sensor
  • Leica Dicomar lens
  • 30 Gb Hard Disk Drive (HDD) camcorder
  • 10x variable speed optical zoom
  • Optical Image Stabilization (OIS)
  • Crystal Engine image processing

 

3CCD sensor for superior image

3CCD sensor for superior image

Leica lens, stero microphone and mini light

Leica lens, stero microphone and mini light

Superior video

The 3CCD definitely produces superior color compare single CCD. In 3CCD system, there are 3 separate sensors for red, blue and green respectively. This results in more vibrant and true color, closer to what our eye sees. Red is red. Blue is blue. Green is green. When I first saw the video produced by this 3CCD camcorder, my response was “Wow!”

Combining 3CCD, Leica lens and Cyrstal Engine image processing, the produced video looks superior compared to the usual camcorder. Its video is even better than the newer Sony HD Handycam, HDR-SR11. The Sony HDR-SR11 has more features such as High Definition video, touch screen, 12x zoom, 60 Gb HDD and various ports. However, video from its single CMOS sensor cannot match Panasonic SDR-H250 3CCD sensor.

With better looking video, I thought this Panasonic SDR-H250 camcorder captures great photo too. Well, I was wrong! It produces only average quality photo with lots of picture noise even with adequate lightning. So, I don’t use it to capture photo.

The Optical Image Stabilization (OIS) system works also well in reducing video blurring due to hand shake. This optical stabilization system is far more superior than the previous digital stabilization system in Panasonic NV-DS65. Of course, using a video tripod is a better choice.

 

HDD system for convenient media operation

HDD system for convenient media operation

Storage convenience

For normal home use, Hard disk drive (HDD) video storage is the best choice compared to DV tape and mini DVD.

Firstly, the 30 Gb HDD in SDR-H250 can record video up to:

  • 27 hours in LP mode (lowest quality)
  • 14 hours in SP mode (normal quality)
  • and 7 hours in XP mode (highest quality)

Therefore, you don’t have to buy many DV tape or mini DVD disk for long hour shooting. For taking seminar video, you can shoot non-stop for several hours with exernal power supply. But for DV tape or mini DVD, you have to change the media every 1 hour, resulting in unwanted video breaks. Then you have to label each media to mark its content and sequence.

For Youtube video, using LP mode is more than enough. For creating 2 hours video in a 4.7 Gb DVD, you can use SP mode. And XP mode is for creating 1 hour video in a 4.7 Gb DVD. I mostly use the SP mode.

Secondly, you can playback, delete and transfer your video clip easily thanks to HDD random access capability. You cannot do that with DV tape.

Thirdly, transfering video file from camcorder HDD to your computer is lightning fast with USB 2.0.  It takes less than 5 minutes to transfer 2 hour SP video (4 Gb) to my notebook. But for DV tape, 2 hour video takes 2 hours to transfer. Yawn…

Finally, the head for DV tape may get dirty, resulting in incomplete overwriting of previous video data. You may see both new and old videos exist in alternate horizontal lines. In this case, you lose what you shoot. I have experienced this several times with my old DV camcorder.

For HDD camcorder, you just need to be careful not to drop it and damage the hard disk. However, Panasonic SDR-H250 has Drop Detect function that automatically park the drive head safely when you accidentally drop it while recording. This minimizes chance of data loss. Well, I never dropped it in 2 years.

Before buying, I thought the hard disk drive can be taken out and replaced like JVC camcorder. But later I realized the hard drive is fixed inside the camcorder. Anyway, 30 Gb capacity is good enough for me. And whenever I accidentally cut of the power supply while recording, data fragment is automatically fixed when I turn it on again. Neat!

 

Easy to use control

Easy to use control

Auto, manual and focus control, SD card slot and other buttons

Auto, manual and focus control, SD card slot and other function buttons

Precise zoom / volume stick, photo capture button and nice recording light

Precise zoom / volume stick, photo capture button and nice recording light

Ergonomic controls

The controls are ergonomically placed and easy to use. Delete button is placed at the lower part to prevent user from accidentally pressing it. I find the joystick control precise and fast to use. It is not too soft and not too stiff. I can easily operate the camcorder with only one hand.

The zoom stick responds softly and accurately to your command. You can even zoom in or out at different speed. In video playback mode, this control stick acts as volume control. The rectangle light turns orange color in video shooting mode and turns blue color in video playback mode. I like the way it dims in and out.

Flipping the LCD screen open exposes other less used control such as:

  • Auto, manual and focus slidder – Use manual to set brightness, white balance or focus manually
  • Reset button (never use it)
  • SD card slot
  • DVD copy button – Activates installed DVD program in your computer (never use it)
  • PowerLCD plus botton – Toggle LCD brightness (hardly use it)
  • Light – Cycles between light on, light on with extra sensor sensitivity (for very low light condition but with jerking video) and light off
  • Speaker – Don’t be fooled by this tiny speaker. For many times, I thought there’s a bird in my house or my phone rings when the sound is actually from this speaker.

 

SDR-H250 - menu

Setting interface

Recording interface

Recording interface

Playback list

Playback list

Playback interface

Playback interface

Intuitive user interface 

This Panasonic camcorder has intuitive and easy to use interface. The joystick acts as the main control. You can perform most function by moving the joystick up, down, left, right and press it. You only need one hand to perform most task.

The simple and useful guide at the bottom lets you know what action you can do with the joystick and other function buttons. I can easily use it without reading the guide book.

It is worth mentioning that the joystick is quite precise. Direction and pressing action are differentiated nicely. It clicks when I wanted to press it. And it moves to the side when I wanted to use its directional function. I seldom get it wrong, unlike certain joystick in mobile phone.

 

Panasonic SDR-H250 - highly recommended compact camcorder

Panasonic SDR-H250 - highly recommended compact camcorder

Ergonomic and precise controls

Ergonomic and precise controls

Clean design and simple to use

Clean design and simple to use

 

Improvement area

Panasonic could have make this camcorder even better with several improvements. Firstly, I find is very troublesome to transfer video files to computer. Since its USB port is blocked by battery, I must switch to external power supply in order to set up the connection. Here is what it looks like.

Messy wire for computer connection

Messy wire for computer connection

The Sony HDR-SR11 handycam can do this with battery power. So this shouldn’t be too difficult.

Secondly, this Panasonic camcorder uses hexadecimal folder system. Determining which folder is newer can be quite confusing. However, you can solve this by sorting the folder by date with your computer.

Overall, Panasonic SDR-H250 is a solid, neat and functional HDD camcorder that produces good video quality for home use. If your budget allows, you won’t regret buying it.

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2 Responses to “Panasonic SDR-H250 camcorder review”

  1. hanneke, the netherlands Says:

    Hi,
    I’m happy with this camera. I have a question though. how can i adjust the way the camera is naming it’s files? when shooting a lot of film on 1 day, i would prefer starting by 1 and ending at 999. In stead the camera is using sets of mov01 to mov10 and then switching to mov00a to mov00f etc.

    Hope you can help me.

  2. James Says:

    I don’t think we can change the file naming system unless Panasonic release a firmware update to change it. Meanwhile, you can sort the file by date in your computer.

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