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Old September 9th, 2011, 05:46 AM   #1
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The little SD900 astounds me

Every now and then a camcorder comes along that blows the competition into the middle of next week. Years ago (1997) it was the Sony TRV900, a MiniDV palmcorder that was far and away better than anything from Panasonic, JVC, Canon and all the rest at that size and price.

Now in 2011 Panasonic take centre stage and rightly so - this 900 series is leaps ahead in quality and value and is it just a strange coincidence that the 900 number is used yet again?

You can buy the 900 in three versions - one with on-board memory, one with an internal HDD and the one I bought, with the SDHC card slot. The latter (the SD900) is the bargain of the decade, and that's simply because the price of flash memory is dropping all the time. Bargain? Well look at this. In 1997 the standard definition 4:3 TRV900 cost exactly twice what the SD900 costs today, a whole 14 years later.

And what does the SD900 have that the Sony didn't have? The list is huge, but how about 14.2mp stills as against the TRV900's 1/3mp stills to floppy disc. The 35mm wide-angle as against the 43mm; the 1920 x 108050p as against the 720 x 576 50i. The 16:9 vs the 4:3 and the 5.1 mics as against ordinary stereo.

Then the SD900 has touch screen technology with real intelligence built in, face recognition and an image stabilisation system the likes of which I've never seen before.

The SD900 enables full manual control of all the parameters bar the iris. You can still lock the exposure of course, it's just that internal ND does most of the exposure control, the twin iris blades only starting to close if it gets very bright.

Downsides? Very few. The tiny CMOS chip fan runs all the time to cool things down, and in quiet surroundings this can be heard on the sound track. But then again there's a supplied bracket that will allow you to use an external mic and/or a light, and you can monitor on headphones as well.

The side-screen is bright, colourful and sharp. It gets a bit washed out in direct sunlight, but it's still better than cameras costing 1000s more. The auto shut-off lens cap is neat, the hood is pretty ineffective (it's not aspect ratio shape) but the flash gun is powerful and has a very even spread for stills.

The battery has to be charged on-camera, a silly idea, and the supplied battery is only good for an hour or so. The bigger capacity battery costs nearly 1/5th of the camera price - crazy!

But on screen? Watching in 50p mode down HDMI the images are shockingly good, whatever the lighting conditions. The built-in mics are remarkably good and the OIS is the best there is. And all this for how much? I'm impressed, truly I am.

tom.
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Old September 9th, 2011, 06:52 AM   #2
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Re: The little SD900 astounds me

As you probably will have gathered from my enthusiasm on another thread on here about the 900 series I totally agree! Its the steal of the year (the SD900 especially so).

The only main thing you don't get with the SD900 (as opposed to the Twin Memory TM900) is the 3 second Pre-Record function (which I've never used on my TM900 anyway) and of course no ability to do ultra-long (many hours!) continuous recordings (which I've also never used on my TM900)....and of course no internal memory (32GB - which I HAVE used on a recent long holiday once all my 16GB SD cards were full!)

Whichever 900 series you go for I think its a stunning cam.
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Old September 9th, 2011, 06:55 AM   #3
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Re: The little SD900 astounds me

Completely agree Tom, the 900 series are astounding. I have had mine for just over 4 months, and I cant seem to put it down, it goes everywhere with me. I dont hesitate in using it regularly at weddings. Why lump an EX1 around, when the little 900 can deliver such stunning footage in reasonable light.
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Old September 9th, 2011, 07:34 AM   #4
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Re: The little SD900 astounds me

Hate to burst the 900 thing you have going (I also had a trv900) but it's arguable the tm700 set the bar not the 900. Just sayin.

Last edited by Les Wilson; September 9th, 2011 at 08:46 AM.
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Old September 9th, 2011, 09:35 AM   #5
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Re: The little SD900 astounds me

Used mine in Florida recently mostly in iA mode, the only gripes I have are: -

1. Highlights blow out really easily [I know this can be rectified in manual but I don't understand how yet]

2. Image stabilisation; I had this on all the time but it still seems jumpy even just walking along moving the cam as little as possible, I was expecting smoother :0/

Other than that it's pretty cool, [I have the HS900].

:0)
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Old September 9th, 2011, 10:46 AM   #6
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Re: The little SD900 astounds me

Barry. Get to know the manual settings, most cameras in auto are going to blow out highlights.
Image stabilisation is the best on any camera I have ever used, and I have used an awful lot. Remember, its stabilisation, not steadycam. Walking with any camera is going to introduce a certain ammount of movement in the shot. With practice you will see just how effective it is.
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Last edited by Colin Rowe; September 9th, 2011 at 02:19 PM.
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Old September 9th, 2011, 10:50 AM   #7
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Re: The little SD900 astounds me

Quote:
Originally Posted by Les Wilson View Post
Hate to burst the 900 thing you have going (I also had a trv900) but it's arguable the tm700 set the bar not the 900. Just sayin.
True Les, but the 900 series raised it
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Old September 9th, 2011, 02:34 PM   #8
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Re: The little SD900 astounds me

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Originally Posted by Andy Wilkinson View Post
As you probably will have gathered from my enthusiasm on another thread on here about the 900 series I totally agree! Its the steal of the year (the SD900 especially so).

The only main thing you don't get with the SD900 (as opposed to the Twin Memory TM900) is the 3 second Pre-Record function (which I've never used on my TM900 anyway)

Whichever 900 series you go for I think its a stunning cam.
The pre-record function would be of far more use if you could leave it on permanently. It switches off when you power the camera down. In manual mode the option for pre record is not available, you have to go into i-auto, activate pre record then go into manual mode. Shame Panasonic didn't make it a permanant, on in manual mode feature
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Last edited by Colin Rowe; September 10th, 2011 at 06:01 AM.
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Old September 10th, 2011, 05:19 AM   #9
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Re: The little SD900 astounds me

I know what you mean Colin but I beg to differ. This little gem of a camera is so good, so cheap, so small, so light, so sharp, so clever - I feel it's unfair to say 'I wish it also did this and that and the other'. Bigger, more expensive cameras will give you that; this mini-marvel is as perfectly formed at the price as 2011 will allow.

I did another tom-talk to a video club last night, 'Hi-Def, is it worth the bother?'. I took along my SD900 and also the 7.68x more expensive NX5 and talked the audience through the differences. Wait a minute, one filmmaker said. You're telling us the pip-squeak SD900 is better than that huge Sony in that

1) It has an active, lossless steadyshot?
2) It has face detection?
3) it has intelligent auto (that really does seem to be intelligent)?
4) has a remarkably good stills mode,with electronic flash capability?
5) Shoots 1080/50p mode, better than Blu-ray?
6) Has a side screen that's bigger and brighter, and a font you can actually read?
7) Has 5 mic capsules built in?
8) Costs far less, weighs far less, takes up less space?
9) You don't get shouted at to always use a different ND than the one you've got dialled in?

Yup.

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Old September 10th, 2011, 05:57 AM   #10
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Re: The little SD900 astounds me

Completely agree Tom. I think the 900 series are amazing technology and value. My TM900 is getting my EX1 very worried about possible redundancy. It wasn't a moan regarding the pre record function, merely a wish. For chaps like us, in the wedding industry, it would be very handy to have this as a permanent function. When a camera as good as this comes along, I think a lot of us can say, " wish it had this, wish it had that". it does not mean I am in any way dissatisfied with the camera, anything but. Its a joy to use, gives unbelievable images, and is so user friendly. Never before has aquiring quality HD material been so easy and straightforward. Must budget for a new i7 system to edit the stuff on. Spendings never ending.
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Last edited by Colin Rowe; September 10th, 2011 at 07:12 AM.
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Old September 10th, 2011, 03:15 PM   #11
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Re: The little SD900 astounds me

I have the SD900 and very much agree that it is a awesome camera for the price but 2 things, this could cause problems for all of us in the wedding or corporate work because of its price loads of people are going to be able buy one and there will be to many of us around for the jobs available,

The other thing is if i turned up to film a wedding with the SD900 people might think of it as a handy cam from jessops like uncle freds!! but on the other hand if i turn up with my EX3 people would more likley think they were getting something for there money!!

The 900 is easy to use handy in every way what astounds me is that you compare it to the ex's, i have used both and the sonys are far better in many ways and should be look at the price difference so can it really be compared with the sonys
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Old September 10th, 2011, 04:20 PM   #12
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Re: The little SD900 astounds me

Ian. Its already happening, everyone is into video production, inexpensive equipment capable of producing, technically very high quality footage has become available to the masses, and we all know that all you need is a camera etc etc. Its a market economy!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I personally stopped worrying about what the camera I was using looked like, a long, long time ago. All that has ever interested me is the quality that any camera can deliver. Hell, people are turning up, and shooting weddings with DSLRs!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

As far as comparing it to the EX cameras is concerned, I dont, they are completely different in many ways. What I do know is that the 900 cams are more than capable of covering a wedding from start to finish. And would easily deal with any corporate/ web video. I do own an EX1, beautiful camera, giving stunning results, and I use it regularly. But the Panasonic is being used more and more at weddings, and other paying jobs. I dont consider it B cam to the EX1 anymore, simply the other camera.
I am watching an edit at the moment, it is a point of sale video for a large holiday park. It was shot entirely on the TM900 in 1080/50p, edited in Edius and output as Mpeg2 1080/50, for replay on a 1080p plasma, via a WD TV media player. I can honestly say that the final result is stunning, It takes an awful lot to please me, this does.
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Last edited by Colin Rowe; September 11th, 2011 at 06:31 AM.
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Old September 11th, 2011, 04:49 AM   #13
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Re: The little SD900 astounds me

The other thing is if i turned up to film a wedding with the SD900 people might think of it as a handy cam from jessops like uncle freds!! but on the other hand if i turn up with my EX3 people would more likley think they were getting something for there money!!

This sounds like a given but it assumes that you get to "turn up" in the first place n.b. that you get the booking.

I've shot hundreds of weddings as a stills photographer, currently with 5DII's. However the number of weddings where a videographer has also been present is probably under 5%. But ..... nearly every wedding has a friend or relation trying to get something with a handheld camcorder - usually with the complete approval of the couple.

So there is a conflict: why are most couples having video but not using an actual videographer? Clearly they want video. Clearly its only a money issue in some cases.

Part of the answer is in the perception of poor quality cliche ridden wedding videography in the minds of potential customers. Just as it was up to a few years ago in the stills world.

But far more relevant is the customers perception that professional video will be intrusive and will take over their day. I know this from lots of pre-wedding meetings. Yet all the talk in pro forums is of using 2 or even 3 camera operators, steadycams and figrigs, auxilliary lighting, wireless audio and lavs, etc etc etc. If the client wants the sort of video that this can provide then fine, but those clients are few and far between. You are not filming Downton Abbey! (and yes I have worked at Highclere Castle many times).

If instead you can talk about how invisible the whole process can be you open up a whole new and larger market. Cams such as the low profile 900 series and audio devices such as the easy to hide Zoom series, together with unintrusive lightstands and various arms and brackets (instead of hunking great tripods) have transformed how you can operate. Its the 900 series astonishing low light performance that has really changed the game.

If you approach it from the point of view of selling the experience rather than selling the equipment you may be surprised at the positive reaction you get.

I've been using the 900 series as B cams for the past year. Its worked really well. One of the biggest problems is guests not even noticing them and inadvertently blocking shots.

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Old September 11th, 2011, 05:44 AM   #14
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Re: The little SD900 astounds me

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Originally Posted by Ian Thomas View Post

The 900 is easy to use handy in every way what astounds me is that you compare it to the ex's, i have used both and the sonys are far better in many ways and should be look at the price difference so can it really be compared with the sonys
Ian.
Here are a couple of TM900 Weddings.
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Old September 11th, 2011, 03:28 PM   #15
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Re: The little SD900 astounds me

Colin

Yes this is good stuff i don't doubt how good it is and unintrusive the camera is but i think that people would give me a funny looks if the SD900 was the main camera
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