The 1080/50p format the HDC-SD600 records can be a prickly beast, however, when it comes to doing anything other than viewing it back via the camcorder itself. Plug the unit into a lovely big 1080p telly via HDMI and you'll be able to enjoy your top-quality recordings in all their progressive glory. But pop out the SD card and stick it in a laptop or games console and you might be less happy with what you see.
Even a relatively powerful PC may struggle to play 1080/50p footage smoothly without the correct software. We tried a number of different media players with varying results. QuickTime couldn't open the files at all, Windows Media Player stuttered throughout, and even good old VLC had a tough time -- and this was on a quad-core computer with 8GB of memory.
Only Nero Showtime and the supplied HD Writer AE 2.1 software were able to facilitate smooth playback of our 50p test clips. Likewise, editing can be awkward without first converting your recordings to another resolution or format, since few applications support Panasonic's take on 1080p.
This is a situation that may change very soon, however, as software updates could be released to accommodate Panasonic's codec, and in the meantime there are workarounds. It's also not an issue that affects any of the HDC-SD600's standard 1080i recording modes, which can also produce some images of excellent quality.
It's a shame that the old issue of HD video format incompatibility has to raise its ugly head again, just as the world was settling into AVCHD. But it's really the only problem we have with the SD600. If you were to press us, we might admit to being mildly annoyed by the cramped and occasionally awkward touchscreen control system. We are slightly miffed by the absence of a bundled HDMI cable -- but it's a problem in no way unique to the SD600.
We could also raise the point that, as mentioned earlier, colours can sometimes come across as unnaturally strong. In many respects, this comes down to a matter of taste. And in any case, it's only something that affects full auto mode and can usually be corrected by setting the white balance yourself. Apart from these eminently forgivable issues, there's honestly not a huge amount to complain about here.
The fact that Panasonic has produced a camcorder with such high capabilities at such a low price point is something of a marvel in its own right. We'll admit that £600 is still a considerable slice of anybody's disposable income, but if you care about quality and you're not too worried about full manual operations, we're sure you'll find it easy to look past the HDC-SD600's minor drawbacks.
Edited by Nick Hide