If you have an HD TV, you might be considering upgrading to an HD camcorder as well. And Panasonic’s SD5 may just be the trick – so long as you have enough memory cards to support your HD habit.

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From video camcorders that record data unto a flash drive, to ones that use DVD recordable discs, users have a lot of models to choose from when purchasing a video camcorder. But more often than not, a user looks for a video camcorder that is small and compact, easy to use, and has that plug-and-play function that can make viewing, editing, and burning raw files easier rather than the media that it is going to use.

Panasonic’s HDC-SD5 is one of those High Definition video cameras that may be just what a user is looking for – it sports a small profile, is user friendly, has tons of connectivity options, and even comes with an editing software for creating and editing high definition videos. Just be ready to shell out a few extra hundred dollars for extra SD/SDHC memory cards if 40 minutes of high definition recording is inadequate for you.

The Panasonic HDC-SD5 shines as soon as one presses the record button, thanks to its 3CCD technology, AVCHD (Advanced Video Codec High Definition) recording format, and its ability to shoot videos in 1080i.


The package comes with an SDHC memory card (4GB), Battery pack, AC adaptor, AC cable, DC cable, Remote control, AV cable, Component cable, USB cable, and a CD-ROM with a copy of Pinnacle’s Hollywood FX 6.0 Studio for Studio 11. There is no HDMI cable in the box, which means that users must purchase one in order to fully enjoy their videos in high definition.

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The HDC-SD5 has a light feel to it as the unit only weighs 340g. It sports a small profile, with most of the operating buttons like pre-record, mode dial, delete button, LCD monitor open, recording start/stop, and menu button located at the back side of the unit. The unit’s internal microphones, speakers, zoom lever, and Photoshot button are all found on top of the video camera, while an HDMI terminal and USB terminal are cleverly hidden in a compartment under the grip belt. Finally, one may be able to find the reset button, disc copy button, power LCD button, and an auto/manual focus switch on the camera’s left side (when the LCD is opened).

The HDC-SD5 is compatible with both SD Memory cards and SDHC Memory Cards and may use these kinds of memory cards for still picture recording. However, only a handful of SD and SDHC cards are compatible for motion picture recording, with Panasonic clearly specifying which of their memory cards could record without any problem. Inserting both the battery and the memory card is easy as the cover opens easy and is well-labelled.

The unit is straightforward in terms of what it can do as its mode dial only has three functions: power off, record, and playback. Once the mode dial is switched to recording mode and after opening the LCD monitor, anyone can instantly record videos just by pressing the recording start/stop button.


The cursor button found on the video camera is small but responsive, and is mainly used for navigating through the unit’s menu and functions. During the recording mode, one has access to functions like contrast control, fade, colour night view, soft skin mode, backlight compensation, self-timer, flash, tele-macro, white balance, Iris or gain value, and even shutter speed and focus adjustments. When the unit is in playback mode, users may be able to playback or pause, stop playback, rewind, and forward recorded videos.

We tested the camera by recording several videos on the unit, with us using some of the recording functions to see how it looks like. Our overall experience with the Panasonic HDC-SD5 was pleasant. Functions like fade in/out made gave that dramatic effect, while colour night view, intelligent contrast control, backlight compensation, and soft skin mode were all able to enhance our videos. Taking photos was a snap and we were able to access the self-timer recording, built-in flash, red-eye reduction, tele macro, and image stabilizer functions whenever we needed to.

There are also other advanced functions like Guide line, Wind noise reduction, Microphone level adjust, Zebra display, Colour bar, as well as manual recording functions (Sports mode, Portrait mode, Low light mode, Spotlight, and Surf and Snow mode), focus adjustments, manual white balance adjustments, and even shutter speed/aperture adjustments available for more advanced users.


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When placed at HF mode (1920×1080), our 4GB had a maximum recording time of 41 minutes. The video camera was able to last for 110 minutes in continuous recording mode before we had to recharge the battery. We therefore recommend users to purchase extra memory cards and batteries to have longer recording sessions.

We were also able to instantly play back recorded videos and still photos by rotating the unit’s dial and by selecting the play icon. In this mode, the cursor will become the main control and can play, rewind, fast forward, or stop the video/photo. The playback mode also allows photo and video deletion/protection and video division, giving us editing abilities to a certain extent.

Users can also burn content from the video camcorder straight to a DVD with Panasonic’s DVD burner (VW-BN1 with an RRP of $329), record images and videos onto a connected DVD recorder or video device, and print photos directly from the unit via PictBridge. Recorded videos and photos can also be played back on any television screen via an HDMI, Component, or AV connection and has a maximum output of 1080i.

Finally, if one wants to add flair to the video that they’re going to share, users may add various special effects to their raw material with the Pinnacle software that comes with the unit.



There is no doubt that Panasonic’s HCD-SD5 will be able to give users the outstanding HD video quality they are looking for – the images we took were vibrant and surprisingly crisp, all thanks to the technology that Panasonic placed in this video camera. However, we just don’t like the fact that recording time is quite limited on the device (41 minutes in HF mode using the bundled 4GB SDHC card) and will force a user to either change the unit’s recording mode or purchase additional SDHC cards to accommodate more raw footages.

If purchasing additional memory cards is not your thing, then you’re better off purchasing the HCD-SD5’s sibling that uses 8cm DVD discs to record in HD, the HDC-SX5. Otherwise, Panasonic’s HCD-SD5 High Definition Video Camera is definitely a unit that will not disappoint and will satisfy users who thrive on high definition.

Product Specifications:

Recording Formats: AVCHD (Motion Image) / JPEG (Still Image)
Image Sensor: 1/6″ CCD x 3
F Value: F1.8 (Wide) / F2.8 (Tele)
Optical Zoom: 10x Variable Speed Zoom
Focal Length: 3.0-30.0 mm
Filter Diameter: 37mm
Lens Brand: Leica Dicomar

Video Compression: MPEG-4 AVC/H.264
Recording Modes: HG (13 Mbps / CBR), HN (9 Mbps / VBR), HE (6 Mbps / VBR)
Playback Modes: HG (13 Mbps / CBR), HN (9 Mbps / VBR), HE (6 Mbps / VBR)
Audio Recording System: Dolby Digital (Dolby AC3) / 2-channel

AV: Out
USB: Hi-Speed USB (USB 2.0)(mini AB)
Video component: Yes

Standard Accessories:

  • AC Adaptor
  • AC Cable
  • DC Cable
  • Battery Pack
  • Video Component cable
  • AV Cable
  • IR Remote
  • PC Cable
  • 4GB SDHC Memory card
  • Editing Software (HD Writer 2.0E)

Weight: 340g
Dimensions: 65 x 67 x 135mm

Panasonic HDC-SD5 HD Video Camera | $1899 |  | www.panasonic.com.au

For: Form factor; Video quality; Connectivity options; Ease of use
Against: Recording time (41 minutes in highest mode using 4GB SDHC card); Price of SDHC card
Verdict: If you do not mind investing a lot of money on SDHC cards, then Panasonic’s HDC-SD5 is a video camera that will provide you with video footages worth sharing in high definition.

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