Panasonic SD900 vs HC X900

pilsburypie

Active Member
Right all, mentioned my SD900 has LCD screen issues, which I am perfectly sure was just bad luck. Amazon refunded no issues. I then noticed the price of the X900 was coming down and decided to go mad and spend an extra £150 over the SD900 for the sole reason of wider angle (35mm vs 29.8mm). I did find with the SD900 the field of view was a little tight inside, but I was used to the near 28mm field of view of my GS500 with .66 Raynox lens for the last 5 years. Anyhow, that £150 will be forgotten in a few months and I hope to be using the camera for a good few years. I thought I'd write a piece comparing the 2 cameras from my own view point (only 2 hours use from both cameras!!!)

The SD900 and X900 are very similar. As mentioned the clincher for me is the wider angle of the X900 which I must say in the couple of hours use is noticable. But, strangely I do prefer the look and ergonomics of the older SD900.

Firstly the finish of the 2 cameras are different. The SD900 looked amazing. High gloss with sparkley bits under light. I did wonder though how durable it would be but still it looked top notch. The X900 is much more understated with a matt black finish. It doesn't feel as nice to the touch either.

The LCD screen in the newer X900 is not as good to my eye either. Although it boasts over twice the resolution of the older SD900 it has to accommodate 3D viewing (which I don't use). So I'd guess it may well be a 2 layer screen that has half the amount of pixels on each. Unfortunately this gives a grainy look to the screen. I remember thinking the SD900 LCD screen was fantastic - glossy and tack sharp. The X900 screen was a little disappointing with it being grainy and not seeming quite as sharp.

The button placement of the on/off under the LCD screen is better in the older cam too. Whoever decided to move it to where it is on the X900 needs shooting! It is right in the bottom corner behind the LCD screen by the hinge. If the LCD screen is tilted by even a small amount you can't operate it. This often means 2 moves of the screen to shut down - firstly remove any tilt, then turn off then close the screen. If the button was anywhere else, you could turn off then close the screen in one motion removing tilt and shutting at the same time. I know it sounds petty but it feels so wrong when you have to do it!

The record and zoom buttons have been removed from the edge of the LCD screen too. Shame as it was nice to hold the screen here for added stability so the record button was convenient.

They have removed the cover for the connections behind the LCD on the X900. This is a shame because although I don't think they will suffer too much from getting dirt in them, it just doesnt look as tidy as the SD900

They have also moved the 1080 50p button but this is neither better or worse for me. I just leave it on anyway. Not sure why this even needs to be a button as all the other quality settings are in the menu and I won't need to change quickly.

The LCD opening and closing is lighter on the X900 which is not as good as the firmer sprung SD900. When I was walking up the park today carring the X900 by the hand strap with the closed LCD facing downwards, it just decided to open itself with the small bounce of my walk. Daft.... I always carry my camera like this if I am doing some shooting so will have to find a different way of carrying or get a bit of sticky velcro to hold it shut. It also opens if removing from my camera bag and gets slightly caught. Bloody annoying!

One major thing I haven't done is download and edit any footage to compare quality. Pretty major I know, but I will be doing this over the next few days. Can't really see there will be a major difference, but this is a very important part! The SD900's footage was beautiful so even if it is exactly the same I will be fully satisfied.

The rest so far seems much of a muchness. So to conclude, I prefer the SD900 in every way except for one main reason. The X900's wider angled lens. I love getting in close. Inside I hate backing away to get people in shot, outside I'd rather get in close with my feet rather than zooming in. Sound is just so much better if you can get close especially outside. Start zooming in and I find sound just drops off. For my style of filming where the majority of my shooting is at max wide angle this is the better camera for me. Just wish they'd have stuck the lens in the SD900!

Additional info on video performance

I have been testing the video quality of the X900 over the last 3 days and I am not best pleased. Initially I wasn't "testing", just shooting footage but I noticed the picture quality didn't seem as sharp as the footage I took with the SD900. My initial thoughts were that I was at fault. I had taken the footage on a bright sunny day and there was quite alot of areas of sunlight and shade. I know that all digital sensors have limited dynamic range so put the softness down to my poor shot selection. This did however spur me on to do some more controlled scrutinising testing. The following day was much better weather wise, overcast but bright. I was very careful to shoot a range of subjects in a variety of modes (iA, manual shutter priority at different speeds ensuring no gain was added). I found that faces came off worst. When I got my SD900 I was taken aback at the piercing shaprness of eyebrows, eyelashes etc. A specific shot of my wife with a fur lined hat and baby son in a corduroy jump suit immediately jumped out as super sharp. As sharp as anything I had seen even on blu-ray. But the X900 just misses this again and again. I even took a load of footage as close to the stuff I had done on the SD900 to give it a good comparison, but on so many occasions watching both sets of footage after eachother I could definitely tell there was a difference. As I said, for some reason faces suffered the most. On static shots of high detail such as a flower bed full of dried leaved, rocks and plants it did seem much better - very close to the SD900. Due to this I was very careful to give the camera a good chance when focussing, but it just didn't perform.

So why is my X900 not as good as the SD900? Firstly a duff unit. Some how I can't believe my luck would result in this. The only reason I don't have the old SD900 is a LCD screen fail so to get a second faulty unit would really take the biscuit. I've not seen reports of faulty units (SD900) so must have been a one off. Unsure about real world reviews on the X900 as it is so new.

Could the newer WA lens be causing this? I did notice that the softness seemed to be throughout the focal length range, not just at max wide.

Could the so called 1/4 pixel shift be detrimental rather than beneficial?

Either way I was really disappointed in the inferior footage of the X900. I was willing to suffer all the other negatives of the camera just to get that extra bit of wide angled goodness, but certainly not at the expense of the beautiful image of the SD900. I must say though the image quality is still good, but not as good as the SD900. If I'd have got this camera first I may not have given it a second thought. It is much better than my old SD GS500 so I would have been under the impression this is where top end consumer cams are at. But they are not, the SD900 (TM900 etc) are where top end consumer cams are at. I shall be suffering the 35mm wide of the SD900 as my order for that cam is now in.
 
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PhilipL

Member
Hi

Right all, mentioned my SD900 has LCD screen issues, which I am perfectly sure was just bad luck. Amazon refunded no issues. I then noticed the price of the X900 was coming down and decided to go mad and spend an extra £150 over the SD900 for the sole reason of wider angle (35mm vs 29.8mm). I did find with the SD900 the field of view was a little tight inside, but I was used to the near 28mm field of view of my GS500 with .66 Raynox lens for the last 5 years. Anyhow, that £150 will be forgotten in a few months and I hope to be using the camera for a good few years. I thought I'd write a piece comparing the 2 cameras from my own view point (only 2 hours use from both cameras!!!)

The SD900 and X900 are very similar. As mentioned the clincher for me is the wider angle of the X900 which I must say in the couple of hours use is noticable. But, strangely I do prefer the look and ergonomics of the older SD900.

Firstly the finish of the 2 cameras are different. The SD900 looked amazing. High gloss with sparkley bits under light. I did wonder though how durable it would be but still it looked top notch. The X900 is much more understated with a matt black finish. It doesn't feel as nice to the touch either.

The LCD screen in the newer X900 is not as good to my eye either. Although it boasts over twice the resolution of the older SD900 it has to accommodate 3D viewing (which I don't use). So I'd guess it may well be a 2 layer screen that has half the amount of pixels on each. Unfortunately this gives a grainy look to the screen. I remember thinking the SD900 LCD screen was fantastic - glossy and tack sharp. The X900 screen was a little disappointing with it being grainy and not seeming quite as sharp.

The button placement of the on/off under the LCD screen is better in the older cam too. Whoever decided to move it to where it is on the X900 needs shooting! It is right in the bottom corner behind the LCD screen by the hinge. If the LCD screen is tilted by even a small amount you can't operate it. This often means 2 moves of the screen to shut down - firstly remove any tilt, then turn off then close the screen. If the button was anywhere else, you could turn off then close the screen in one motion removing tilt and shutting at the same time. I know it sounds petty but it feels so wrong when you have to do it!

They have removed the cover for the connections behind the LCD on the X900. This is a shame because although I don't think they will suffer too much from getting dirt in them, it just doesnt look as tidy as the SD900

They have also moved the 1080 50p button but this is neither better or worse for me. I just leave it on anyway. Not sure why this even needs to be a button as all the other quality settings are in the menu and I won't need to change quickly.

The LCD opening and closing is lighter on the X900 which is not as good as the firmer sprung SD900. When I was walking up the park today carring the X900 by the hand strap with the closed LCD facing downwards, it just decided to open itself with the small bounce of my walk. Daft.... I always carry my camera like this if I am doing some shooting so will have to find a different way of carrying or get a bit of sticky velcro to hold it shut. It also opens if removing from my camera bag and gets slightly caught. Bloody annoying!

One major thing I haven't done is download and edit any footage to compare quality. Pretty major I know, but I will be doing this over the next few days. Can't really see there will be a major difference, but this is a very important part! The SD900's footage was beautiful so even if it is exactly the same I will be fully satisfied.

The rest so far seems much of a muchness. So to conclude, I prefer the SD900 in every way except for one main reason. The X900's wider angled lens. I love getting in close. Inside I hate backing away to get people in shot, outside I'd rather get in close with my feet rather than zooming in. Sound is just so much better if you can get close especially outside. Start zooming in and I find sound just drops off. For my style of filming where the majority of my shooting is at max wide angle this is the better camera for me. Just wish they'd have stuck the lens in the SD900!

Thanks for the review.

I'm not surprised the LCD looks worse, this will be as a consequence of the "gimmick" of 3D.

The floppy LCD screen, no covers over the connectors, and the worse finish are all due to Panasonic reducing costs. I'd put money on the On/Off power button changing it's placement because it got rid of an extra bit of circuit board and reduced costs.

With with regard to wide angle I quite agree, although wide angle isn't as flattering to the subject. You could of course have got a very nice wide angle lens for the SD900 giving you even more wide angle options than you have now.

I'm sure once you get used to the differences you will be more than happy with the X900, is it £150.00 well spent, time will tell, either way it will be great camcorder.

Regards

Phil
 

pilsburypie

Active Member
I have got a Raynox .66 WA lens which vignettes on both the SD900 and X900 which will be being sold soon. I'm also enjoying not having to have an additional lens with the added size and weight associated.

I'm sure some of the things I mention I will get used to (not that I was used to the SD900!). The main thing is the final footage it produces. I'll test that over the next few days.
 

pilsburypie

Active Member
I have just updated my original post with my findings on the video quality - Not pleasing, X900 returned in favour of the older cheaper SD900!
 

PhilipL

Member
Hi

I have just updated my original post with my findings on the video quality - Not pleasing, X900 returned in favour of the older cheaper SD900!

Double check your settings. Are you sure the camcorder isn't deliberately recognising faces and making the shot more flattering and reducing details to make the skin look better. It has this mode somewhere in the settings in manual mode I think and switches in automatically in iA mode.

I'd also check the sharpness settings. The SD900 at default seems to add a lot of sharpness. It isn't inconceivable that Panasonic have reduced the default sharpening on the new models in iA mode or at the mid-point default setting in manual mode to help justify claims of reduced noise.

The true test would be turning off of sharpness on both models (needs manual mode) so they are on a level footing, then compare. As you haven't got the SD900 any more it is difficult to test now. You can see the tell tail signs of sharpening to try and compare, see here for the after effects of sharpening, although you need to see it full screen on a computer monitor to really tell.

While I wouldn't be surprised that the marketing of the X900 is just that and there is no real improvement, I don't quite believe it would be worse, so probably just setting differences. Try turning the sharpness up on the X900 in manual mode and see if it matches that of the SD900.

Regards

Phil
 

pilsburypie

Active Member
Phil - too late - the X900 went back this morning. I can see where you are coming from with the face recognition, but to reduce detail so much as to render the eyebrows and eye lashes looking slightly OOF would be a bad move for a setting. That aside I didn't turn that setting off/on in manual mode so whatever it was set as default was what I used. But even when a face wasn't in the shot, say the back of someones head, the hair still wasn't as sharp. You do mention the possibility of the default sharpness settings being different, maybe they were, but as already said faces were the worst with static inanimate objects being better. As for a side by side test, I don't have that luxury. A camera has to go back to get a new one - my bank balance wouldn't strech to 2..... my wife may divorce me too!

Just for testing purposes I wish I had the 2 to compare. If it was just a setting thing I would have thought Panasonic would have the settings as "wow" straight out of the box. I hope for their sake it is just settings as from my experience the SD900 was better.
 

cypher007

Active Member
this is worrying me now, as ive had one on order with Jessops for two weeks odd now, and it still hasnt turned up. its making me wonder if i should waitr to see what Sony releases or get the SD900. i did some googling last night and most sites that have reviews up say it is more or less the same as the SD900. some even think its better?
 

pilsburypie

Active Member
this is worrying me now, as ive had one on order with Jessops for two weeks odd now, and it still hasnt turned up. its making me wonder if i should waitr to see what Sony releases or get the SD900. i did some googling last night and most sites that have reviews up say it is more or less the same as the SD900. some even think its better?
This is just my findings - I may have had a duff unit or as PhilL says I didn't tinker with the sharpness settings.

Are you getting it delivered from jessops direct? - if so you have 7 days to return the product if you are not happy under the Sales of Goods Act and Distance Seller Regulations. Just take plenty of footage in good light and see for yourself. Although I have reported my findings, I don't want to spook people into not buying. There are loads of good reviews on the camera (maybe they are a bit biased or Panasonic won't send them any more of their gear!) and only my review that isn't so glowing. Try it and see. I for one will be very interested in your findings although I will be content with my soon to arrive SD900.
 

cypher007

Active Member
im not sure what im gonna do now, as i phoned Jessops today, and they still dont have the x900 in stock from Panasonic, even though they said theyd get it Monday this week. im starting to loose my rag with them. i might see if i can get a cash equivalent for the Jessops vouchers from the insurance company.
 

PhilipL

Member
Hi

The full review by Camcorder.info is up, jump straight to the conclusion here Conclusion - Panasonic HC-X900 Camcorder Review

Some areas, such as low light was slightly worse than the TM900, in other areas it performs the same or slightly worse.

10 out of 10 to Panasonic marketing, 0 to actually making any improvements. The only real improvements are probably a cheaper to manufacture camcorder for Panasonic!

So for the older SD900, get it while stokes last.

Regards

Phil
 

cypher007

Active Member
:facepalm: is it possible they may sort this stuff out with a firmware update? i really want the extra wide lens and stabability control this new model offers. i cant see how theyve managed to make it worse if the hardware is essentially the same, unless the new crystal engine 2 is actually a cheaper part.

i have had a similar experience with Panasonic over the TZ20 i bought last year. i did have a TZ5, which in good light took fantastic shots. i then upgraded to the TZ20, and noticed the build quality had dropped, they had gone for a mos over a ccd to get FullHD, and the zoom has slack in it. they then released a firmware update which did improve things slightly, but images still seem more noisy than the TZ5.
 

pilsburypie

Active Member
I shall be receiving my new SD900 tomorrow. I will then be able to test that under the same conditions as the first SD900 I had and also the X900.

In that review PhilL posted I can't believe they said they made improvement to the LCD screen. Tomorrow my memory will be refreshed with another look at the SD900 screen. I just remember that being "wow" sharp and the X900 looking noticably grainy in comparison.

How can the low light performance be worse on the X900? A major part of the marketing was 40% better low light noise.

Also the review PhilL listed really didn't cover the ergonomic points I made. They just said "made some minor changes/improvements". What I mentioned about power button placement, the omission of the record/zoom on the side of the LCD, the flap for the ports etc was not mentioned. Sure this is subjective but I can't see how this is anything but negative.

Just hoping fingers crossed that I am as pleased with my new SD900 as I was the first that malfunctioned.:rolleyes:
 

PhilipL

Member
How can the low light performance be worse on the X900? A major part of the marketing was 40% better low light noise.

Just that, it was marketing. Panasonic marketing department has been caught out exaggerating things out of all proportion. I bet they have their own devised very specific test that shows noise is less by 40% in case they need to substantiate the claims, but that test doesn't reflect any scene or usage in the real-world.

Just hoping fingers crossed that I am as pleased with my new SD900 as I was the first that malfunctioned.:rolleyes:

I'm sure all will be good, let us know.

Regards

Phil
 

pilsburypie

Active Member
Right all - received my new SD900 today and although I have been a bit busy, I have managed to shoot 5 mins of footage as a quick test. To cut to the chase I think from my limited testing it is as good as the first SD900 and better than the HC X900. My main model (my little girl) was not overly compliant today moving around back and forth on my close up shots which played havoc with the autofocus, but on the times she was still (being bribed with sweets) the picture looked nice and sharp. A more thorough test over the park this weekend will take place, but I will sleep easy tonight knowing the early signs are promising.

Things that strike me getting the SD900 back in my hands after my fling with the X900: The camera is so much better aesthetically and ergonomically. I said in my initial review that the finish was beautiful. It is. The super gloss with sparkley bits looks so much nicer than the matt finish of the X900. The camera also looks smaller - quite alot smaller, so I went onto the Panasonic site to see the exact measurements. The X900 is 4mm longer and 1mm wider. To me this is virtually nothing and indistinguishable, but it is the shape that makes the difference. When the LCD is closed on the SD900 the top edge is tapered to follow the rounded barell lines of the camera making it look an almost cylindrical cross section (apart from the flat base). The X900's LCD screen is not tapered off on top, probably to accommodate the 3D. This gives the impression of a bulkier camera and spoils the smooth lines. The LCD screen is much nicer on the SD900 too - glossy and sharp. I have no need for the 3D screen of the X900 so why should I suffer it's grainy appearance to watch my 2D footage? The screen also shuts more firmly too so it doesn't flop open when I walk. The little flap covering the ports neatens the side of the camera up when the screen is open - nice and tidy looking.

The power button of the SD900 is in the right place. With the LCD screen tilted I can turn off and close the screen in one motion. I have already used the record button on the side of the LCD screen in the 5 mins of recording I have done. Fantastic.

So what benefits does the X900 have over the SD900? The wider angled lens is better for my shooting, but I can overcome this hurdle. If I can't step back, I'll just shoot a little tighter! I'm sure I'll get used to it. Another thing in the X900's favour is the improved OIS, namely the 5th axis roll. Whilst messing around, the extremely good SD900's OIS doesn't take into account the roll and I will have to be that little bit more careful with this type of movement than I would have to be with the 5 axis OIS on the X900.

To conclude. I firmly believe in my limited experience the SD900 is a better camera and as a Brucey Bonus it is £200 cheaper than the X900. I'm sure many people will be very happy with the X900 - it still is a great camera, but I am bewildered how Panasonic can claim they have moved forwards. :nono:
 
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pudsi

Standard Member
Right all - received my new SD900 today and although I have been a bit busy, I have managed to shoot 5 mins of footage as a quick test. To cut to the chase I think from my limited testing it is as good as the first SD900 and better than the HC X900. My main model (my little girl) was not overly compliant today moving around back and forth on my close up shots which played havoc with the autofocus, but on the times she was still (being bribed with sweets) the picture looked nice and sharp. A more thorough test over the park this weekend will take place, but I will sleep easy tonight knowing the early signs are promising.

Things that strike me getting the SD900 back in my hands after my fling with the X900: The camera is so much better aesthetically and ergonomically. I said in my initial review that the finish was beautiful. It is. The super gloss with sparkley bits looks so much nicer than the matt finish of the X900. The camera also looks smaller - quite alot smaller, so I went onto the Panasonic site to see the exact measurements. The X900 is 4mm longer and 1mm wider. To me this is virtually nothing and indistinguishable, but it is the shape that makes the difference. When the LCD is closed on the SD900 the top edge is tapered to follow the rounded barell lines of the camera making it look an almost cylindrical cross section (apart from the flat base). The X900's LCD screen is not tapered off on top, probably to accommodate the 3D. This gives the impression of a bulkier camera and spoils the smooth lines. The LCD screen is much nicer on the SD900 too - glossy and sharp. I have no need for the 3D screen of the X900 so why should I suffer it's grainy appearance to watch my 2D footage? The screen also shuts more firmly too so it doesn't flop open when I walk. The little flap covering the ports neatens the side of the camera up when the screen is open - nice and tidy looking.

The power button of the SD900 is in the right place. With the LCD screen tilted I can turn off and close the screen in one motion. I have already used the record button on the side of the LCD screen in the 5 mins of recording I have done. Fantastic.

So what benefits does the X900 have over the SD900? The wider angled lens is better for my shooting, but I can overcome this hurdle. If I can't step back, I'll just shoot a little tighter! I'm sure I'll get used to it. Another thing in the X900's favour is the improved OIS, namely the 5th axis roll. Whilst messing around, the extremely good SD900's OIS doesn't take into account the roll and I will have to be that little bit more careful with this type of movement than I would have to be with the 5 axis OIS on the X900.

To conclude. I firmly believe in my limited experience the SD900 is a better camera and as a Brucey Bonus it is £200 cheaper than the X900. I'm sure many people will be very happy with the X900 - it still is a great camera, but I am bewildered how Panasonic can claim they have moved forwards. :nono:

Well, I hope you're wrong as I've just bought the HC X900M! I shot my Lads Football Match last weekend and it is STUNNING!!!
 

pilsburypie

Active Member
Well, I hope you're wrong as I've just bought the HC X900M! I shot my Lads Football Match last weekend and it is STUNNING!!!
Glad you like it. That is the most important thing. I just wrote about my experiences which could be very different from others:smashin:
 

PhilipL

Member
Hi

:facepalm: is it possible they may sort this stuff out with a firmware update? i really want the extra wide lens and stabability control this new model offers. i cant see how theyve managed to make it worse if the hardware is essentially the same, unless the new crystal engine 2 is actually a cheaper part.

i have had a similar experience with Panasonic over the TZ20 i bought last year. i did have a TZ5, which in good light took fantastic shots. i then upgraded to the TZ20, and noticed the build quality had dropped, they had gone for a mos over a ccd to get FullHD, and the zoom has slack in it. they then released a firmware update which did improve things slightly, but images still seem more noisy than the TZ5.

No I doubt it, Panasonic have never offered firmware updates to these types of camcorders before, and other problems on older models which some claimed were fixed by the service centre updating the firmware, that firmware was never offered outside of a warranty return.

Regards

Phil
 

12harry

Distinguished Member
pilsburypie - great unfolding story and thanks for keeping us informed.

+I wonder if the issue isn't due to rejigging the lens. Are they both branded Leica? (as was case earlier, I understand?).
In general it's been my LT belief that it is the WA end that determines the performance of a zoom. In SLR =still-camera days, the best solution was a dedicated WA lens as this would be sharp all-over with minimal distortion at the edges.
The trouble is that extending a lens doesn't make good "marketing-speak" whereas Pana is pushing the Wide-end.

Glad you found a decent supplier, willing to accept returns....so quickly, too. That's good service.

Finally, some have suggested it's the 3D that's to blame - but I thought several Panas take that " 3D Conversion Lens" + yr thoughts.

Good luck.
 
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SteBuck

Active Member
Hello i am new to camcorders and have ordered the x900 from very, with my staff discount its £559.99. I will be using it to film birds that fly quite high. Will it do a good job? thanks.
Steve...
 

pilsburypie

Active Member
The camera will give excellent results (as will the other earlier incarnations of the camera) in good settings. I'm sure in your trickier setting in the right hands it could do a good job, but you are putting it to it's limit.... by this I mean it sounds like you will be using it at long zoom lengths, following moving subjects most likely heavily backlit against a bright sky. TBH if I were attempting this I wouldn't be expecting very good results - more like shakey footage of a black bird shaped object with little detail and a white expanse of sky.....
 

12harry

Distinguished Member
Not a great bird photographer myself, but this may depend on just how far they are away. If it's a long way, which is often the case then you'll need manual Iris control to avoid the background swamping the exposure-control. However, if they are in the garden, say, then provided the background is moderately dull (so it's ignored by the Auto-focus) then again this should be satisfactory.
In both cases some shotgun micing may be needed to capture the bird(s) on their own, however, handling shotgun mics is really a job for a second crew member.

The 900 should be an excellent starting point . . . good luck.
 

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