Taking your camcorder to the beach or on a camping trip is, almost without exception, a terrible idea. Sand, water and dust mix with lenses, tapes and electronics about as well as ice cream and ketchup.
But now Panasonic is claiming to have torched the rulebook with its SDR-SW20. An SD camcorder that will happily take the higher capacity SDHC cards, it’s positively begging to be dunked in the pool or sprayed with fine sand.
Chucking a shiny new camcorder out of the box and into a bath of water is not usually what we do, but the SDR-SW20 went straight in.
After the mild satisfaction of doing this wore off, we were pleasantly surprised to find it was still happy to shoot our gurning faces.
Hard knock life
It doesn’t look particularly rugged, but under the shiny anodised casing lurks a tough cookie. Drop it from any height up to 1.2 metres and it won’t break. Trust us, we tried. Several times.
The SDR-SW20 is also dustproof, so you can shoot pictures of the Pyramids or lions on safari without worrying that the mechanism will grind to a halt.
A Quick Start feature also means it’s made for the kind of rough-and-ready shooting you’ll need on these kind of trips. Put it in this mode and you’re ready to record half a second after flipping open the 2.7in LCD screen.
There are also two record buttons, one at the back and another on the side opposite the screen, and both are conveniently placed for different hand-holding positions.
The SDR-SW20 isn’t packed with features, but this is one of its charms. The menu is simple and easy to navigate, a thumb-wheel switches between record, play and still modes, and the zoom control sits on top. The latter, though, is a weakness, as it’s a little fiddly to use and should be a little bigger.
Shoot in daylight conditions and the footage is pretty impressive, though as light levels drop colour definition tends to suffer and the image can get grainy.
But aside from this minor drawback, the SDR-SW20 is definitely worth a spot in your safari rucksack or beach holiday suitcase.