The Panasonic HDC-SD5, which was already announced in July, has been available in stores since August for just under £670 / €1,000. In the high-class consumer camcorder segment, Panasonic has always been a trusted name. The current model now adds support for recording at Full-HD resolution of 1920 x 1080.
According to Panasonic, the HDC-SD5 is the most compact Full-HD camcorder. This is made possible through the use of SD-cards as a storage medium. The Panasonic unit supports the current SDHC-standard for high-capacity SD cards as well, allowing the use of cards with more than a 2 GB capacity. Considering how far SD-cards have come down in price, this approach makes a good deal of sense. The first batch of 8 GB memory cards should arrive over the next few weeks and will store up to 180 minutes of video in Full-HD quality, according to Panasonic. The video files can be easily transferred to any PC via USB-2.0. A 2.7” display with a large viewing angle is an indispensable feature for Full-HD camcorders nowadays, as are a wide-range zoom (10x optical) and the option of adjusting a variety of settings manually. Compared to previous camcorders, the range of options isn’t quite as wide, though. On the bright side, a microphone jack for an external mic is still present.
The HDC-SD5 uses the AVCHD codec, jointly developed by Sony and Panasonic, which is also licensed by a number of other companies. MPEG2 support is also present for those who prefer to record in conventional quality. A nice side effect is that these video files can be edited using older video editing suites.
Panasonic also offers the HDC-SX5 as an alternative, which uses DVDs as a storage medium in addition to SD cards. The capacity of both media types can be combined, or the content of the SD-card transferred to the DVD.
Internally the HDC-SD5 uses a Leica lens and a 3CCD sensor. This is considered a very elegant technological solution, since three independent sensors are available, one for each primary color. This ensures finer color nuances. Beyond this, the camcorder also features Panasonic’s familiar image stabilizer, albeit in an advanced version called Advanced OIS. The stabilization process, which is triggered by data supplied by gyro sensors, occurs through re-aligning of a lens element and an adjustment of the optical axis. It is now performed eight times more often than before, namely 5,000 times instead of 800 times per second. The new image noise reduction technique called HD Crystal Engine is also welcome, as the noise level tends to increase with higher resolutions.
The so-called “Pre-Rec” feature also intrigued us. When this function is activated, the camcorder will constantly record three seconds of footage. When you press the record button, the video will thus always begin three seconds before that point. This increases the chances of capturing precious moments “on tape” that would otherwise have been missed. Of course, you’ll still need to point the camera in the right direction….