Anyone who's ever dropped their mobile phone in their pint will appreciate waterproofing. While you can't really drop it in your Carlsberg, the rugged Panasonic SDR-SW20 standard-definition camcorder will survive a spill or spot of rain. Available now for around £260, will it stand up to the beatings of most sea-side holidays?
Available in red or silver, SW20 has a small, sleek design. It's less round than most camcorders, with a slim and flat form factor closer to a mobile phone's candy-bar body -- but larger -- than a camcorder's barrel shape.
This makes it easier to hold the camera with a different grip: the standard thumb-at-the-back grip or a thumb-at-the-front grip. A second record button on the front right-side of the camcorder makes shooting easier with different hand positions. It also has a textured surface for extra grip.
The 69mm (2.7-inch) LCD screen flips out, but unusually doesn't twist over for self-portrait shooting. The small size means the controls are placed in the screen well rather than at the back, which makes it harder to see both the screen and the buttons you're pressing at the same time. This can be a problem when focusing manually, when you need to use the click pad and still look at the screen
The headline feature is the SW20's robustness. It can be submerged up to a 1.5m-maximum depth for swimming and snorkelling. It's also shock-proof and can stand up to being dropped from up to 1.2m. Its seals are designed to keep dust and water out, with a hatch for AV Out and USB connections and another protecting the battery and SD/SDHC memory card slot.
The battery is closer to a compact camera than the usual chunky camcorder cell, although this does mean that higher-capacity power packs cannot be swapped out with the bundled battery.
The SW20 boasts a 1/6-inch CCD. It manages a focal length of 43.4-439mm with its 10x optical zoom lens, shooting at 4:3 or 16:9 aspect ratios. Stills are captured at a rather meagre VGA resolution, good enough for Internet sharing, but not much more.
The stereo zoom microphone follows the 10x zoom, so you will be able to hear what you are focusing on, even if it is further away. This isn't as effective underwater, though, especially when underwater mode is activated. This reduces the sensitivity of the mic as well as adjusting the white balance.