The humble camcorder has often made budding Spielbergs and Scorseses of us all, ever since their bulky introduction many moons ago. Many a holiday, christening or wedding has been faithfully recorded by budding handheld enthusiasts, who saw moving pictures as a great complement to, and even superior to, normal still photography, and whose presence would often send the most gregarious person into paroxysms of shyness when the camera was on them!
As technology has progressed however, camcorders have also sought to keep up, including the transition to DVD which came about a few years back. The strides forward in digital storage, including larger in capacity but smaller in size digital memory cards and chips which then allowed the camcorder to become even smaller and even more convenient to use.
One thing has often bedevilled the use of camcorders though, and that is their inherent delicateness. From personal experience, I have had to get rid of one camera as sand from a Turkish beach comprehensively found egress into the workings of the camera. This, however, shouldn’t be read as a slight on Turkish beaches (!), more an example of how older cameras lack the build quality of newer ones.
Another problem was that, often, holidays often consist of water-borne activities; whether it be snorkelling, a boat trip or even jet-skiing, videoing these types of moments caused many problems, as the slightest splash could break the camera. The same goes for skiing, and any other adventure sport activity. You may well want to record what you were getting up to on the slopes, but for fear of having your delicate piece of equipment ruined you might have demurred.
So, after posing these questions and pitfalls we come to one of the solutions. The Panasonic SDR-SW21 is a camcorder that is specifically constructed with these types of situations in mind. It is of a thoroughly sturdy and rugged construction, with compact dimensions and design, with a width of 35mm, a height of 68mm and a depth of 117mm. The super compact camera also weighs, without the battery, a mere 238g. The SDR-SW21 is specifically designed to be tough, and is completely dust proof. This would have been ideal for my ruined camera above, as it keeps out any nasty particles which can get in, including sand.
The toughness of the camera doesn’t end there though. The SDR-SW21 is also completely shockproof up to a height of around 4-5 feet, meaning that you do not have to watch in frozen horror as it tumbles from your grasp once or twice – the way it is constructed means it should be able to survive such falls. The camera boasts a superlatively simple menu set-up which makes it very accessible, and there are numerous features which make for easy transfer. These include a Youtube mode, which records in the right format for the site and then allows for direct upload.
The real feather in this camera’s cap though is its waterproof function. Once you have simply sealed the battery compartment and AV connection covers and activated the underwater mode, you are able to take to the river, sea, lake or pond and indulge your Attenborough tendencies! The SDR-SW21 is waterproof, in seawater too, up to 2m, so whilst it might rule out deep water exploration, this is a great function. It can allow you, for instance, to film you and your family out snorkelling, or to take snapshots of the aquatic life darting around under the sea.
The camera comes with the now standard viewing monitor, which is a 2.7″ LCD screen. The camera also has a number of different shooting options, including settings for low light and capturing sport images, and an impressive array of zooming options; namely, a digital zoom of around 10x-25x and a super digital zoom of 10x-700x. The camera uses SD/SDHC memory cards to record, keeping the camera light and durable, as there is no mechanism to damage from dropping.
The only two niggles, and they are slight, is the lack of a High Definition option and the jittery and rapid zoom. The HD option is really the only thing missing that holds the SDR-SW21back from being almost the perfect camera – but it is not something that totally ruins it. Similarly, the zoom is hard to handle softly, but again with practise you will become used to it.
All in all, this is a fine camera for those who want to do a bit of video-recording in more extreme conditions, and do not want to have to worry about their prized gadget being broken easily, and it does this very well.