Every gadget owner suffers to varying degrees from ‘the fear’ – that strange sensation where you want to take a shiny toy to a shindig but worry it’ll get damaged, so don’t.

If this sounds familiar, Panasonic’s SDR-SW21 could be the camcorder for you. It’s a super-compact, record-to SD-card model, and boasts waterproof, shockproof and dustproof credentials.

Armbands required

Don’t go throwing it in the river just yet, though. It’s ‘only’ happy up to 2m – and you have to ensure that the battery compartment and AV connections cover are fastened via their locks, and that the underwater mode is activated.

The shockproof side of things means you don’t have to watch in horror if the SW21 hits the deck, provided it is from less than 1.2m – around four feet in old money. And, though the cam’s dustproof capability might be unheralded, it is a useful addition if you’re heading to the beach.

Manual tweaking

More like a traditional camcorder in design and features than recent offerings from Creative, Aiptek and Flip, the SW21 serves up an solid platter of creative functions, such as manual modes, settings for low light, sports recording and horizontal on-screen guides that act as a spirit level to keep shots straight.

Panasonic SDR-SW21 review continues after the break...


With its sleek dimension and yoof-orientated colours – lime green, vibrant orange, as well as silver – it’s a shame this is only a standard-def model. Movies are in the MPEG2 format and stills, a woeful 640x480 at best, are JPEG. Fortunately, you can pick from three movie-record resolutions, and a 4GB SD card will give you 50 minutes storage at the highest setting.

Good times return with super-quick uploading of movies to YouTube. For PC users it is incredibly easy (the bundled editing software misses out Macs, we’re afraid) and only involves a handful of steps. And, while the software interface is a touch fussy, there is nothing to put off inexperienced users.

Tasty menu

Our tests involved getting physical with the SW21, and it certainly is a rugged, hard-working model. It also possesses a superbly simple and easy-to-use menu system. We did come across the odd surprise, most notably a zoom that’s uncontrollably fast. Want to zoom in gradually for effect and to build tension? No chance.

Having enjoyed HD visuals, standard-def can’t help but look vaguely prehistoric. The SW21 manages a creditable job with a decent slug of detail, but it’s all far too over-exposed and jittery to really impress.

Pack the SW21 with some HD technology and you’d be looking at a compact performer up to all the shocks and jolts of recording, with bags of potential for sharing clips. At the moment, it’s hobbled by its lack of high-def – and being able to survive a cliff-top fall just doesn’t compensate for that.


Stuff says... 

Panasonic SDR-SW21 review

Waterproof and shockproof powers mean this camcorder can roll with the punches – but its movie performance is far from knockout

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