The Panasonic SDR-S7 is an exceptionally small digital camcorder that records standard-definition video to Secure Digital memory cards. The S7 is so small and lightweight that it is hard to believe it's an actual camcorder. It has the look and feel of a toy, and though it may seem insubstantial at first glance, there really is a very capable video recording device within its deceptively simple body.
Standard-definition camcorders really need a good hook to grab the attention. With HD camcorders throwing out all sorts of excellent bells-and-whistles (not to mention their superior video quality), it's not easy for an SD camcorder to stand out. The S7 does exactly what a standard-definition camcorder should: takes decent quality video and provides consumers a compelling reason to choose it over another model: its remarkable size.
Design: Highly Portable, High Temperatures
The Panasonic S7 is roughly fist-sized, and can be easily enveloped in the palm of one's hand. It's small enough that a young child could use and operate it without much difficulty. I really cannot overemphasize how small this camcorder is. It looks like a traditional handheld camcorder that has been zapped with a shrink-ray. It's light and very portable, perfect for slipping into a pocket or bag. If you're annoyed at having to carry around a big bulky camcorder on a vacation or to a special event, the S7 is the kind of camcorder that you can bring with you and forget about it until you really need it.
The plastic casing is adequate, but definitely doesn't give the impression that the S7 will be a particularly durable camera. Dropping it would almost certainly result in some chips or other damage. Hang onto this camcorder.
The button layout for the S7 is a little irritating. Because it's so small, there's not much Panasonic can do. Most of the controls are located on the left side of the camcorder, the side that the LCD bezel swings outward from. Accessing the menu buttons and viewing what's happening on the LCD screens requires the shooter to angle the camcorder slightly, and it's still difficult to figure out exactly what you're pressing and what the result of all that pressing is. Trying to adjust or modify settings while actually recording is not a good idea, really. Make sure you have everything in order before you press record, and keep in-use changes to a minimum.
The S7 has a rather curious quirk: because of its small size, the S7 runs very hot. So hot, in fact, that they decided to print a disclaimer right on the body of the camera. After 10 to 1t minutes of use, the camcorder becomes noticeably warm, never to the point of scalding, but enough to become uncomfortable after extended periods of use. This is, as Panasonic notes, not a malfunction. It's a side-effect of the camera's very small size.
Overall, the Panasonic S7 is a solid performer, cranking out DVD-quality standard definition video and recording it directly to Secure Digital memory cards. The camera can hold just about 50 minutes per gigabyte, so a 4GB card can contain 3.5 hours of video, while a larger, 16GB SDHC card can hold over thirteen hours. That's a lot of recording capacity for such a tiny little camcorder.
The 10x optical zoom is handy, but not always easy to wrangle into producing a clear, shake-less shot. The camera is very susceptible to hand jitters and tremors.
Like most Panasonic camcorders, the S7 also features the intriguing buffered recording. The camera is constantly buffering three seconds of video, even when not being used. When you click record, the camera has already been going, and will save the buffered three seconds onto the start of your video. This is a cool feature if you're trying to catch a quick event, like someone swinging at a baseball. You might not hit 'record' in time, but if you hit it at all you'll have a chance of capturing that fleeting moment.
Though it's not without its quirks, the Panasonic S7 is a successful, appealing portable camcorder. Its major selling point is its size, and that alone makes it incredibly appealing. Thankfully, it's also very good at taking high-quality (though not high-definition) videos.