for £159.92 on 9-Jul-2009. The camera has worked well. It is light and easy to use. At the same time I also ordered 3 x SanDisk 8GB SDHC Secure Digital Cards (£11.50 for all 3).
Battery life is always a problem with camcorders and although the SD cards provide ample storage, I have found that actual recording time is limited to 35-40 minutes. This is because the battery will be out of juice by then.
The obvious answer is to buy a spare battery (Panasonic Model No. VW VBJ10). Now remember that the camera is great value at only £159.92, but the spare battery costs £103.99 ( or 65% of the cost of the camcorder - which included a battery).
Yes, there are alternatives, but you have to be careful. I bought one of the alternatives, but it was physically the wrong size.
So there are two problems:
1. Panasonic are charging way too much for their batteries, and that for me will be a disqualifier the next time I buy a product.
2. What is a good alternative battery?
Finally, there is one problem I have in actual use of the camera. The image size is 704 x 576 pixels which gives an aspect ratio of 1.22222:1 not 4:3. Even when shooting 16:9 the image size is still 704x576, except that the top and bottom of the video have been removed (letterboxed).
This is not a problem if you simply plug your camera into your TV set and play. The 16:9 picture is pretty good. However it does become a problem when editing videos and you have to tell the video software that you are using an aspect ratio of 0.8182:1 (576/704). Why? I don't know, but that is what it takes to work.