Summary: Te zoom is great, the optics are fine for a cam with a zoom of this power. Obviously low light will suffer when zoomed, but we have been able to get some incredible shots with this camer. Unfornatunatley the software for viewing those shots is right out of the 90s. Primitive, buggy SLOW. So incredibly slow tht it takes hours to get from the point of importing the video to the point of viewing/ editing.
Summary: My Husband bought me this camcorder for my birthday and I loved the small size. I was able to fit it in the same bag as my regular camera. But the quality of pictures and video's it took was something to be desired. The pictures were always grainy and I could never get it to work outdoors. Well I didn't use it much, maybe 5 times and I went to use it on my Son's Birthday and the shutter would not open.
Summary: First of all, I am not new to camcorders and I read many many reviews here before the purchase. I have used a SONY mini-DV DCR-HC32 (entry-level) for 4 years so I have a benchmark to compare. For Panasonic SDR-S26, the sharpness of the video (played from the camcorder directly or DVD) was very poor. Basically the sharpness of the video is as good as some old VHS tapes, if you know what I mean: blurry. And it's true even at outdoor.
Summary: I bought this to replace a micro mv tape camcorder, but the quality of this one is many many times inferior to the older technology, particularly for still images. They are incredibly grainy. This camcorder is sadly very disppointing indeed, and not worth the money - indeed not worth buying at all, unless you want to share the disappointment. Be happy - buy something else.
Summary: I would go as far as to say that indoors, this camera is UNUSABLE. This is my 3rd camcorder in 15 years, the previous being Sony Handycams. As I own a Panasonic digital camera which takes very good quality photographs, I mistakenly thought this would match up in terms of quality. I wish now I'd paid more attention to the reviews which warned about the picture quality. Forget the still image feature - at a third of a megapixel it's no more than a gimmick.