Panasonic HDC-SD5 First Impressions Camcorder Review

The Panasonic HDC-SD5 ($999 MSRP) is the latest effort in the race to built the “world’s smallest [something],” in this case the smallest 3-chip, 1920 x 1080 HD camcorder. While the camcorder is less than thrilling, and only a minor upgrade to last year’s HDC-SD1, the world in which it lives has changed a great deal. Suddenly, AVCHD doesn’t look so off-putting anymore. Support for viewing and editing is popping up on a monthly basis. The HDC-SD5 does offer an increased capture resolution over last year, which topped out at 1440 x 1080, and a smaller, lighter body. The starting price has also dropped considerably (down $500 from last year). All these facts combined make the HDC-SD5 a lot more enticing than its predecessor. But it is worth diving into AVCHD just year? Let’s take a closer look.

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Performance

Video Performance

The Panasonic HDC-SD5 is equipped with three 1/6" CCDs, each with a gross pixel count of 560,000 and an effective count of 520,000, processed by Panasonic’s HD Advanced Pure Color Engine processor. Both the HDC-SD5 and HDC-SX5 have been downgraded in the chipset department—the HDC-SD1 and HDC-DX1 both touted three 1/4" CCDs. This means the HDC-SD5’s light gathering abilities will diminish due to the smaller pixels size.

The good news is that Panasonic has increased the resolution on both AVCHD models. The HDC-SD5 and HDC-SX5 both record in 1920 x 1080 "full HD," while the HDC-SD1 and HDC-DX1 top out at 1440 x 1080 anamorphic with a 1920 x 1080 output signal. Though we were not able spend a great deal of time with the HDC-SD5’s image, its playback on Panasonic’s plasma screens looked promising.

The HDC-SD5 should yield a bright light performance similar to the HDC-SD1 and HDC-DX1. 3CCD Panasonics tend to produce a vibrant color palette. Hopefully, the dreadful compression effects of AVCHD will not mar the HDC-SD5’s image to a significant degree.

Though our HDC-SD5 was not an official production model, Panasonic encouraged us to shoot footage onto the supplied 2GB SD cards so we could return to our testing room for an analysis. The real assessment will begin when we get our hands on one next month.

Low Light Performance

According to the specs, the HDC-SD5 is capable of a minimum illumination of 5 lux, though these numbers are always exaggerated by manufacturers. Again, the three smaller 1/6" imagers will most likely decrease the HDC-SD5’s light gathering ability. Those darn AVCHD compression artifacts will pile on in low light, amalgamating into a thick fuzz over the image. Don’t expect an earth-shattering difference in performance from the HDC-SD1 and HDC-DX1.

 

 

 

 

Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.

Sections

  1. Performance
  2. Format
  3. Auto / Manual Controls
  4. Still Features
  5. Handling and Use
  6. Audio / Playback / Connectivity
  7. Other Features/Conclusion
  8. Photo Gallery

What's Your Take?

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Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.
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