As Verne Troyer would have you believe, good things come in small packages. And camcorders don’t come much more compact than Panasonic’s latest addition to its SD card-munching standard definition crew, the SDR-S26.

The lack of hi-def may disappoint some, but this lightweight cam has plenty of tricks up its short sleeves. There’s a neat and tidy menu controlled by a four-way joystick and a Quick Start mode that means you can shout ‘action’ after 0.8 seconds. There’s even a battery so slim it looks like you’ve pinched it from someone’s mobile.

Supports SDHC

Available in red, blue and black, the S26 captures movies and stills to SD and SDHC cards using MPEG2 and JPEG. Storage capacity depends on the card, but in the cam’s XP mode you’ll cram 50 minutes of video on a 4GB SD card. Decent value.

If trumpets were used in reviews we’d have some kind of fanfare for the cam’s YouTube uploading function. But really all the web mode does is reduce resolution to an internet-friendly size and limit recording to a maximum of 10 minutes.

Uploading movies requires PC-types to use the supplied VideoCam Suite 2.0 software. Hook up the cam to your computer, open the software and press web mode on the S26.

You’ll then see YouTube-compatible clips in a software window and, provided you have a YouTube account, the upload process is straightforward.

The competition

Comparison models include Canon’s FS100, an SD cam with a similar bit of colour scheme variety about it.

The Panny’s 70x optical zoom dwarfs the 37x of the FS100, while its preferable optical image stabiliser chuckles in the face of Canon’s electronic one. The FS100 does deliver 1.7MP stills – and that’s a knockout blow to a cam that at best conjures up 640x480 snaps.

The S26 is on more productive form with creative features like face detection, colour night view and pre-recording mode. This last one prevents you missing vital shots. When activated it keeps three seconds of video in a buffer memory, so when you press record you’ll still have grabbed precious frames. Strange but true.


Low light letdown

You’ll be a happy camper with most of the movies the S26 produces as there’s a decent dollop of detail and fairly accurate colours. There’s some bleed on red objects, so play with settings for the best results. Audio is also crisp and clear.

In fact, the only bum note comes from a shoddy low-light performance that’s common for cams like the S26. It’s just annoying when you’re watching clips that go in and out of focus … and you weren’t trying to be arty.


Stuff says... 

Panasonic SDR-S26 review

Simple to use and dinky enough to fit in a jacket pocket, but low light shots can be grainy

Where to buy Panasonic SDR-S26: