Modified Panasonic SDR-SW20 waterproof camcorder

Ok, I needed tough video camcorder to record yacht racing events on-board. My modest requirement list was:

  • reasonable priced (well below U$ 1000)
  • waterproof
  • shock-proof
  • easy to use
  • fast start-up
  • wide angle lens
  • small enough to fit into Helly Hansen pocket

So, looking around, I didn’t find any suitable one. It should be SD card cam, due to shock resistancy requirement. HDD and DV cam’s cant cope hitting to the deck, during fast tack or other similar sudden ast of violence. I found some reasonable priced cameras like Panasonic SDR-SW20 and Sanyo Xacti VPC-WH1 and Xacti VPC-CA9. There are also more less known brands like Hammacher and Vivitar. Still, they had quite moderate normal focal-lenght lens. Panasonic has 43 mm (wide end) in 35 mm film camera terms. But I need wide-angle, cause there is no room on the boat and You relly like to catch all the action, not fragments of somebody or pieces of something. I made through search, but still didn’t find any wide angle, compact SD card cam.

So, I had to modify one. I bought Panasonic SDR-SW20 cause the wasn’t Sanyo waterproof at dealers shop. I also purchased Cokin 050S wide-angle “magnetic” adapter. It was obvious, that magnetic fixation cant cope action on the boat. So, I just glued adapter to the camera, using Loctite SuperAttack Ultra Gel instant glue. Cokin 0,5X adapter shortens focal length to required 22mm wide angle and now it’s much more usable on the boat. Cokin has M and S size adapters in their product line for different camera models. Size S fits to Panasonic SDR-SW20. Size M is too large and it’s not easy to make it watertight. Use only very small amount of glue to fix wide-angle converter to the camera. It’s good idea to cover joint with colorless silicone to make modification watertight.

I equipped my Camera with 16GB SD card. I accommodates 4 h 20 m of max quality or 6 h 40 m of std quality recording. Enough for 1 day shooting. Camera came w/o memory card, it was good. Who needs some crappy entry level card, usually found in the package. LiIon battery is small. You have to re-charge it every evening after shooting.

Sample movie (on-board of our Grand Soleil 42R, approaching a mark, spinnaker up, genoa down…)


  • cheap, camera + 16GB SD card + wide angle converter
    less than U$ 600
  • compact, fits easily anywhere
  • handy image stabilization
  • easy to switch on/off by opening/closing LCD lid


  • short battery life
  • image quality, no HD
  • no MPEG4 (MPEG2 only)
  • too small “Recording” indicator
  • wide-angle converter too small to provide full sensor image

Products mentioned:

Panasonic SDR-SW20 waterproof SD camcorder

Cokin Magnefix 050S wide-angle converter (size S)

SanDisk Ultra II 16GB SDHC card


7 Responses to Modified Panasonic SDR-SW20 waterproof camcorder

  1. mrsx123 says:

    This story had some good ideas, but I’m going to retweet it to my friends and see what they think. I’m always getting stuff in my email from them, so I might as well share some cool things I find. Thanks,

    Mary Fisher
    Average cost of homeowners insurance

  2. I purchased this camera 4 days ago and immediately took it to my swiming pool. After holding it in my hand I thought that there was no way this could possibly work or be waterproof. I was very wrong. I first trained myself on its operation and then tossed it in the pool. I got suited up in SCUBA and took it to the bottom at 6′ and held it at depth for 20 minutes. The film quality was excellent and no leaks. It was easy to operate underwater. The next day I took it to the Florida Keys. I took it immediately well past its rated depth of 10′ to 28′ and kept it there for several hours on at least six dives. I inserted a 8GB SD disk and took hours of video and over 100 stills. The quality was excellent both in video and stills.

    The flash is not designed for underwater use – so don’t waste your power. The camera has a limit on lighting so at some point it blacks out in the evening. (If you want more camera and light you can get it but it WILL cost MUCH more than this camera did!)

    The power/data port is very poorly designed and you should be very careful how you plug it in. The power/data opening is quite small but you should always take MUCH care and put a small amount of silicone on it each dive with a cue-tip. NEVER open this hatch with wet hands. One drop of saltwate inside will likely kill it.

    You can either use the software provided for offloading images – but if you have installed an SD card you can just pop the card out and upload directly.

    It produces fine quality video and stills. I would not take it under 30′ which is already 3X its rated depth. But at 28′ it worked like a champion. I honestly cannot understand all the whining about this camera and its ratings here – the camera worked FLAWLESSLY for me way beyoind its design limits. If I lost this camera, I’d definitely buy another one tomorrow.

  3. I used to be suggested this web site by means of my cousin.
    I am not positive whether this publish is written by way of him as no one else recognise such certain approximately my problem.
    You’re incredible! Thank you!

  4. I seriously love your site.. Very nice colors & theme.
    Did you build this website yourself? Please reply back as I’m hoping to create my very own site and want to learn
    where you got this from or just what the theme is called.

  5. If you are going for best contents like me, simply visit this web page every day as it gives feature contents, thanks

  6. Great post. I was checking continuously this blog and I’m impressed!
    Very helpful info specifically the last part :) I care for such information much.

    I was seeking this particular info for a long
    time. Thank you and best of luck.

  7. I got this web site from my pal who shared with me regarding this site
    aand now this time I am visiting this website and reading very informative content at this place.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: