I have at last purchased a new digital high definition camcorder. I chose the Panasonic SD9 HD camcorder for it’s size, weight and functionality as well as price. I purchased it through Amazon and got a free 8GB SDHC card with it.
Once it arrived I was amazed by the small size of it and how light it was, especially compared to my 1st 8mm camcorder I bought 15 years ago which is now out of service.
This now means I have another option for recording astronomy, not just my webcam, Meade DSI Pro or Canon DLSR. The first thing I need to figure out is how to attach the SD9 camcorder to my telescope. I am hoping to find a simple 37mm threaded adaptor which will fit directly onto the front of the camcorder which will allow me to connect the other end as 1.25″ or 2″ eyepiece.
The manual mode of the camcorder does allow you to change the shutter times from 1/25 to 1/8000. This was useful for those night shots, especially when shooting the footage below that I took of the moon, which I took using a 1/4000 shutter speed via a tripod on full zoom which is 10x. You can also change the apeture setting as well. (From viewing these videos you will see that the viewing ratio has changed in YouTube as the moon looks a bit elongated, plus note you will not really see the HD quality on these videos).
There is a larger zoom than 10x, but this is digital and you lose quality and gain pixelisation when using digital zoom, so it’s not recommended to use it, and a good thing is that in the menu you can actually turn off the use of the digital zoom.
Viewing the files recorded in the AVCHD format is tricky, Windows Media Player will play the files but you may need to install special codec onto the PC to get it to work. Each file is located in a folder called “stream” as an .MTS file.
There is a supplied CD which allows you to first download the video footage to your PC and then edit it via an included program, which can output your video as MPEG2. Though as you have probably seen from the YouTube videos that the ratio is different as YouTube has squashed the videos.
The quality of the recordings are very good, the picture is clear and the sound good, but at the moment I don’t have an HD TV though, so I am probably not getting the best from the camcorder.
There are other accessories to buy though such as macro lenses, so I have an idea of using the camcorder with a macro lens on and to record meteor showers by leaving the camcorder on a tripod and recording for 2hrs at a time, so then I should hopefully then get some footage of some meteors.
So far I can thoroughly recommend the Panasonic SD9 camcorder, the only downside at the moment is that spare batteries are hard to find and expensive.