Test clips from Panasonic HDC-SD5

For the last year or so I have been using my Nokia N95 as my primary video recording device. As you understand, I am currently more serious about stills photography. But I need to do occasional video recordings and the quality of my N95 is great for a mobile phone, but not very good compared to a proper video camera.

So I wanted something better than the N95, but small and portable. I narrowed my possibilities down to two cameras recording straight to solid state memory. The Sony HDR-CX7 or the Panasonic HDC-SD5. After some googling and a quick test in the store I decided to go for the Panasonic. Mostly because I don’t like Sony’s stupid memory stick and because I read that the AVCHD-compression in the Sony camera had some issues with high motion scenes. According to what I have been reading the Panasonic is not as good as the Sony in low light conditions. But a compression that breaks into artifacts in high motion is worse than a problem with some noise in low light.

I also like the navigation on the Panasonic better. Sony rely on a touch screen that force you to use both hands when operating. The Panasonic lets you operate most of the menus with one hand on the back of the unit. In addition to this the Panasonic has a pretty useful pre recording function and good macro possibilities. So far I have only one issue with the camera. A low volume high frequency noise that is captured by the microphone while recording. A well known problem on tape based and HD based cameras, but I thought that wouldn’t be a problem on a solid state camera. Maybe it’s a problem with my camera only. I’ll have to investigate this further. You can hear the noise in the last test clip. Downloads at the bottom of this article.

Both cameras are recording AVCHD, meaning heavy compression and a native format that is not suitable for editing. For the record, the Sony camera can also record standard definition MPEG2 (not very good for editing either), while the Panasonic is AVCHD only. I am not going to use this camera for making hollywood style movies. I am going to make some quick demonstrations for my presentations and for my blog. And the occasional documentation of some events in my family.

When surfing around looking for reviews of these cameras I was disappointed of sites that claim to have a proper review up, but don’t provide any test clips for download.

So to help people that is about to buy a new camcorder I’ll provide you with some test clips and images here.

On Mac OSX you can import AVCHD to iMovie 08, Final Cut Express 4 and the latest version of Final Cut Pro. Because AVCHD is highly compressed in a way that is technically very difficult to edit the software trans codes the files into an intermediate format that is easier to edit. This takes some time and generates pretty big files, but I found the process pretty easy and well functioning in both iMovie 08 and Final Cut Express 4.

On Windows there are also several options for editing AVCHD. Sony Vegas Video and Pinnacle Studio Ultimate are two of them.

I have used iMovie 08 and Final Cut Express 4 to make the test clips. And decided to make the clips available in several different formats. All the 50p files are deinterlaced with the excellent JES Deinterlacer. All the files where originally recorded in the highest quality setting on the camera, to 1080i, 25 fps.

Here’s one of the files embedded as a flash movie (there’s no audio):

Or click through to Revver to watch it there. But to be able to judge the quality of the camera you need to download a high quality test clip. Choose from below.

The first clip is some simple tests in pretty low light and rain, a bit of zooming and panning over some trees to show high motion performance and a bit of experimenting with the tele macro function on the camera. I removed the audio because it was mostly noise and people talking nonsense…

Download any of these files (right click and “save as”):
Panasonic_HDC-SD5_Test1_720x400-25p.mp4 (57.2 MB)
Panasonic_HDC-SD5_Test1_1024x576-50p.mp4 (148.6 MB)
Panasonic_HDC-SD5_Test1_1280x720-50p.mp4 (307.3 MB)

And if you want to have a look at something that is close to the original files from the camera I have provided a monster file in the Apple Intermediate format.
Panasonic_HDC-SD5_Test1_1080i-AppleIntermediate (1790 MB)

The second clip is done in pretty good conditions with more light. I kept the audio on this one. Not much to listen to, but hey – it’s a test.

Download any of these files (right click and “save as”):
Panasonic_HDC-SD5_Test2_720x400-25p.mp4 (21 MB)
Panasonic_HDC-SD5_Test2_1024x576-50p.mp4 (49.5 MB)
Panasonic_HDC-SD5_Test2_1280x720-50p.mp4 (121.7 MB)

And that Apple Intermediate monster file for you to play around with:
Panasonic_HDC-SD5_Test2_1080i-AppleIntermediate (771.8 MB)

The last file is a special test in very low light conditions. Low ambient light in the room and one 25W standard light bulb to the left of my scene. With audio as well. In this clip you can clearly hear a noise that the camera makes. I’ll have to investigate this further. Very annoying. Don’t know if this is a problem with my camera only or a problem in general on these cameras.

Panasonic_HDC-SD5_Low_Light_Test_Clip_720x400-25p.mp4 (11 MB)
Panasonic_Low_Light_Test_Clip_960x540-50p.mov (33.7 MB)
Panasonic_Low_LIght_Test_Clip_1080i_AppleIntermediate.mov (375.5 MB)

And the stills? I probably won’t use this camera to snap stills, because I usually bring my Canon 400D for that. But I’ve provided some tests here as well. Nicely grouped into a set on flickr. Or you can download the image files from here.

I’ve uploaded some more test clips. More low light experiments and a couple of raw MTS-files directly from the camera.

Low light experiments in this directory. The file name indicates the settings. The main point here was to show the difference between a shutter of 1/50 and a shutter of 1/25. And you find the original MTS-streams of these files here.

And the original MTS files for some of the other test clips here.

Hope this helps when you surf around doing your evaluations.

Feel free to use the comments if you have any questions or want to share some experience with this camera, the Sony HDR-CX7 or AVCHD in general.

Update 2 – End of story
I have done more tests and the audio noise is too disturbing for my use. My conclusion is that the camera is excellent. It has just enough manual control, the image quality is very good and the files imports well on my mac.

But for me I need audio with no noise. So I need another camera or one with a possibility for an external mic. Conclusion: I returned the camera today. (And by the way, Oslo Kameraservice, or Fotoknudsen PRO that they have started calling themselves gave me a truly excellent service all the way). But I need to find another camera. Maybe a bit of patience and one of the new Canon models (HF10 and HF100) will be the solution?

If you need examples of the noise please feel free to download one of these samples and listen carefully in a set of high quality headphones. Probably no problem for most people, but too much for me. These clips have audio:

Test clips from Panasonic HDC-SD5

81 thoughts on “Test clips from Panasonic HDC-SD5

  1. @Pål: Now that’s fast. Having the camera for one week just cost med NOK 2K. Hahaha. But hey, I got that useless DVD burner and a full version of Pinnacle Studio Ultimate in the package. And yes, I’m currently using Macs, so Pinnacle Studio Ultimate is also useless for me. But my small company needed the expense on last years budget. 🙂

  2. Tim Weinhold says:

    Were you able to determine whether the whine being picked up by the microphone was a problem with your particular unit, or instead a problem with all HDC-SR5 camcorders?

  3. Rich Dunkelberger says:

    I recently purchased the Panasonic HDC-SD5. I am trying to download the .MTS files into Final Cut Express 4.0 and it absolutely will not recognize the files. I have seen many Internet posts with the same complaints. Any assistance would be greatly appreciated!

  4. The only method that works for me is to connect the memory card to the mac and import directly from the card. You need to connect the camera through USB, or take the memory card out of the camera and insert it in a compatible card reader.

    On my Mac it shows up as “no name”. In Final Cut Express 4 I choose “File”->”Log and transfer” and a window with thumbnails and an import option will show up as long as the card is mounted.

    I haven’t found a way to convert single MTS-files directly, but importing from the memory card works fine.

  5. @Tim Weinhold:
    Visited the store today and the exact same noise was at the demo camera in the shop. It’s not a big problem, but I can’t understand why a camera with no moving parts should make any noise at all. My contact in the shop should investigate with Panasonic. I’ll let you know when I have some more answers.

    Until then you can evaluate the Low Light test clip. You can clearly hear the noise in that clip.

  6. Hey Rich,

    Try a program called Voltaic… It’ll grab the clips right off the camera, convert them to AIC, and place them in the folder you choose.

    Grab it here.


    The nice thing about it is that unlike iMovie 08 and Final Cut, it’ll pull the AVCHD files off without requiring an Intel chip.

  7. twindaddy says:

    I have the SD5 — I love it. The high pitched sound is from a small fan inside the camera. Since it’s encoding using h.264 in real time, it’s got a hard working processor. The fan cools it off. In my opinion, it’s a design flaw that this is picked up on recordings. It annoys me as well since I also wanted a totally silent camera. I panicked the first day I got it and was ready to return it. After some research, I found several web sites (including this one) that confirm this.

    In any case, the pros of this camera far outweigh the cons. If you’re looking for a very portable HD cam that writes to flash, this is the one. If you’re looking for a camera to film the next Pulp Fiction, get something else. For home videos of my kids, it’s just what I need.

  8. Thank you for clarifying this! The fact that it is a fan explains why the noise vary in frequency as well. But I agree. The camera is very nice. Simply have a look at the test clips. Excellent image quality. In addition to this a lot of the features and the handling is also excellent.

    The noise is not more than what I’m used to from tape based or HD based cams. However, for my particular use I need it completely silent or with a possibility for an external mic.

    I’ll keep an eye on the new Canons when they’re available, or maybe Panasonic have moved the fan on the new HDC-SD9.

  9. All the clips are SD5 with no extra equipment. The built in tele-macro function is very nice and gives images with a nice blurred background and only focus on your main subject. Without having to add any adapters.

  10. Marc says:

    Your review and your clips convinced me to buy one of these little jewels. But unfortunately, I can’t find a way to make my iMovie ’08 to access the movies recorded on the SD5 – regardless if I plug the SD5 via USB or I stick the SDHC card in a card reader. Also, on XP, I can’t understand how to load the recorded movies in Vegas. A little help would be greatly appreciated !

    Thanks a million in advance, and keep up the good work.

  11. I’ve had success with both loading the clips directly from the camera and from the memory card when connected to a memory card reader. As far as I remember the clips showed up in iMovie for import directly as long as I started iMovie and then connected the card or the camera. In Final Cut Express 4 you have to open the log and import window.

    Right now I’m skiing in the norwegian mountains and don’t have access to the right tools. So I can’t test and give you a detailed description. You record clips and can play them back in the camera? But when you connect nothing shows up?

  12. sey says:

    First I have to thank you for the very good review. It was helpful for me before deciding to buy such a camcorder.

    I have two questions about SD5, maybe you or somebody who worte here have some solutions:

    1. I tried to transfer some movies from SD5 to my laptop (XP Vista) using USB cable. The camcorder shows the message “Please connect AC adaptor” 😦 The problem is that I do not have AC power supply all the time. It is realy not possible to transfer movies if camcorder runs on its own battery?
    Picture bridge option is working fine, but I see only the directory with pictures.

    2. Before buying the camcorder I read somewhere that it has “usb host” and I thought that this means the camera is able to play AVCHD movies from an external HDD connected with USB cable. Reding the manual I discovered that USB host is only usable with a USB DVD writer 😦
    Forgot to mention that my target is to watch the movies on a TV with HDMI input. This is OK with movies stored on camcorder SD card.
    But what to do with movies stored on DVD-AVCHD or HDD?
    If I connect the TV to the laptop and play the AVCHD movie the performance is not good. The same movie played with camcorder looks better that played with the laptop. Any suggestion what player/codec to use on laptop?

    Thank you,

  13. Dag says:

    Thanks for giving us the info on the SD5 !
    I am thinking of buying this camera as an upgrade to my old DV Sony TRV-20E but things are not as easy as they once where regarding to standards..

    I have a Panasonic LCD (I do not recall the model number, TX32-LX..)that does not have 1080i as a native format. I think the closest one is 720P. What do you think will happend when i connect the SD5 via HDMI since the camcorder does not support 720P ?

    One more: The flash clips you have posted are of great quality. What have you done to recompress into these ?

  14. To be honest I would have waited for the new Panasonic model announced at CES or considered one of the Canon cameras HF10 or HF100. Will be released this spring.

    They all support progressive formats.

    The flash clip here in this article is simply one of the H.264 files uploaded to Revver. I use Revver because they provide much better quality than YouTube.

  15. bohtho says:

    Thanks for the review as I just ordered the Panasonic hdc-sd9 and there is very few actual reviews of it yet. Hope it keeps all the pros of the sd5 and that it is not a “bomkjøp”.

  16. bohtho says:

    By the way, if I will experience problems on account of it being a japanese ntsc model, please do NOT tell me..;) But I’m pretty sure that will only be a problem if I were to use it to show video on an old standard cathode tv.

  17. Daggad says:

    Let us know how you do with the Japanese SD9 NTSC model. I do not think there should be any issues as long as you use an HDMI connection on your TV either.

    I am thinking of buying a SD5 from an foreign site. They are selling out these quite cheap now because of the SD9 release. And I do not think the difference is that big. As far as I can see the 1080P is only a mix of the 1080i 50 frames into 25P frames. Cant this be done in postproduction ?

    But with both camcorders there is something I do not quite understand: The CCD has a native resolution of 560K pixels (520K effective). How is it the possible to have a 1920×1080 (2073K) picture from the camcorder..? If this is interpolation of pixels then I guess this is cheating…or ?

  18. bohtho says:

    Yep, I´ll try to remember to post it here.

    I can easily see how PAL 1080i50 can be downmixed to 1080p25, but I don´t see how NTSC1080i60 can be downmixed to 1080p24 without strange behaviour. Anyway with all videos going on the web and media hubs these days I didn´t really care enough to pay more for PAL (and my european AppleTV specifically only supports NTSC 720p24, not PAL 25 frames, so it will be easier to get on there I think).

    I don´t think it´s interpolation but something called pixel shifting, which is common and not especially prone to deter picture quality either (like interpolation would).

  19. Daggad says:

    I have ordered the SD5 from Ebay. The seller is “electronic-king-inc” and they have loads of positive feedback so lets hope the best..
    My winning bid was usd 654,- for a new NTSC model incl the Panasonic DVD-burner and current diverter. This is equalent to nok 3500,- and the seller guarantees that there will be no import duty.. The cheapest price I have seen in Norway is nok 6995,- without the burner. I just had to take the chanse on this deal.. 😉

    I’ll keep you updated on how things work out !

  20. bohtho says:

    I bought my SD9 from Japan on ebay for 820 usd. I just tracked the package and it also got through customs without import duty 🙂

  21. Daggad says:

    Congrats bothoh 😉
    usd 820,- for a SD9 is a very good deal !!? I think I would have gone for that as well, but too late now I guess. Well whatever…I am looking forward to get the SD5 in my hands asap.

  22. @bohtho:
    Actually I have considered adding a forum, but have decided to let the comments be my forum so far. I know there are a couple of great pugins for wordpress that can enhance the comment functionallity. Guess I’ll have to take a closer look.

    Feel free to discuss as much as you like here. I have articles that are several years old that still sparks discussions…

  23. bohtho says:

    Right. So the sd9 has been in my posession for about 18 hours, and my first impression was: Damn, this feels flimsy! I guess I expected it to feel a bit sturdier than its 275g. Also I just assumed that the ring around the lens was manual focus. It is not. The manual focus is steered by the joystick which leaves less control. And of course they didn´t supply a HDMI cable with it, which has to be a “mini-HDMI” as well, which seems to be far apart here in Norway. So I haven´t tested it on my plasma yet. Importing AVCHD into iMovie 08 on my mac seems to work well, but I was dissapointed to learn that it didn´t support the 5.1 surround from the camera. It gets downmixed to stereo. I was thinking of getting a hold of Final Cut Express 4 for more options, even though it doesn´t support 5.1 surround from AVCHD either. Anyway the video looks fine in my computer monitor, but I haven´t really tested it yet as you understand.

    Does anybody know where to get a mini-HDMI adapter or a mini-HDMI-2-HDMI cable in Norway ? Are there any possible ways to get FCE4 or iMovie08 to pass through or keep the 5.1 surround audio ?

  24. Daggad says:

    Good to hear that it has arrived ! 🙂
    I saw that the SD9 was only 275g ! Wow..the SD5 is 340g. What have they tossed out !!? 😉
    They sell mini HDMI to HDMI cable at our local Expert dealer in Aalesund.. Let me know if you do not find it. Then I could pick one up for you.

  25. bohtho says:

    I´ll shoot some nature clips tomorrow for you in 24p and 60i, but I´m not sure what the best way to show you is … ? Share the raw MTS ? Upload to vimeo (converted, but still “HD”) ? Share mp4/mov (converted to 720p?) ? I have acquired FCE4 today so any advice ?

  26. Daggad says:

    Quote “@Pål: Now that’s fast. Having the camera for one week just cost med NOK 2K. Hahaha. But hey, I got that useless DVD burner and a full version of Pinnacle Studio ”

    Is the DVD burner useless ? I thougt that would be the only way for me to watch my DVD’s in full format on the LCD TV.. I read somewhere that if you where connected via USB to the burner and HDMI to the TV, then you could look at the actual files copied from the SD card ?

    I so not have a Blue Ray player or a PS3.

  27. I think you’re right, but for me it was useless. I wouldn’t watch anything that wasn’t edited. In other words, the content would go through a computer anyway.

    It could also be useful if you’re traveling without a laptop. You could burn DVDs with your files. But I rarely travel without my laptop…

  28. I don’t think so, but I must admit that I haven’t tried all the different options. What I did was that I edited in FCP Express 4 and transcoded to different formats.

  29. Just got the SD5 last Friday….didn’t even have time to read any of the instructions before I was off to a club for a show. I only had a 1GB SD card so I could only get about 10 minutes of recording….too bad it doesn’t take CF cards….I have a lot of those from my still cameras. 😉 Couldn’t figure out where the white balance and exposure controls were……didn’t realize that there were other menus accessed through the “manual” switch on the side….now I know! I wasn’t even looking for a video camera when I stumbled upon it at a store a few weeks ago. My last camera was one of the Sony TRV series 8mm Digital Video. I bought that about 8 years ago, and at the time it seemed phenomenal…..compared to the SD5 it seems like an old fashioned toy! I was walking by the video cameras at a store and saw several 3 chip models, so I had to look closer! 😉 I first looked at the Sony since my experience with them had been fantastic. Then I looked at the JVC models and then the Panasonic. I compared all three manufacturers side by side and the Sony and the JVC color wasn’t even close to the Panasonic! I think it is the most accurate and vibrant color that I have ever seen other than a much larger cinema / television camera. I have used the professional 3 CCD cameras before of course a big detractor for them is their size….kind of like carrying a small suitcase on your shoulder!!! I plane on buying several more of these…..but probably ones with a hard drive. I am more of a still photographer so I don’t know all of the tricks for video. Is there a simple way to connect the SD5 to an external storage device or computer for recording? I am also looking at the Eye Fi SD card that has WiFi capability. Has anyone here used an Eye Fi card?


  30. barry says:

    I stayed down to dvd levels with the panasonic sdr-s10 (10mbit standard tv size vids..of course it is a “mini-hd” and will never be called that.) Same bizarre audio problems..but worse. Go for a canon indeed. I even have to specify deinterlacing…and luckily close enough to be editable everywhere. (Hd was out of the question because of editing) A chip off the bigger block…

  31. Gygrassy says:

    I bought a Panasonic Camcorder HDCSD5 recently,
    However, I discover that there is a thick white bar appears on the right hand side of the LCD screen when I press the joystick for manual control.
    I tried several camcorder of the same model and found the same issue.
    Can anyone tell me whether this is normal or simply a problem in this model of camcorder.

  32. I must admit that I can’t remember any white bar on the SDC5 I had. But as metioned in the update I’ve returned it so I can’t test that right now…

  33. Tony says:

    Just bought the Panasonic HDC-SD9, but I am wondering what kind of SDHC memorycard I need if I want to record in HD quality?

    There are so many different kinds of sdhc cards, there are really cheap ones and some very expensive, the price vary from 40-150 euros for 16 Gb.

    What are the differences between theese, if i pay 100 euros I am I paying for the “brand” or is an expensive that much better?

    What are the diffrences between class 4 or 6? Or is this just a marketing?

  34. Simon says:

    Right, I hope you dont think im a dummy but when i try to connect my SD5 to the computer via USB it says connect AC adaptor, but I dont have one??? I charge the battery by taking it out and placing it in a charger, Ive looked all over the camera and I cant even see where you would plug in an AC Adaptor!!

    I bought the camera at a Duty Free shop before a trip to Vegas and the box and other non essentials got left in the departure lounge.

    Basically all I want to do is edit my footage from the last 5 months in Sony Vegas 8 It wont take the raw .mts files I have backed up from my SD card so I was hoping that I could use the capture feature from vegas.

    Any help would be great.

  35. Paul W Mendez says:

    I can barely hear that noise from your sample. You need to just remove the audio track or add a nice little music soundtrack.

  36. bohtho says:

    Hi…. No, no fan noise on the SD9. I´m just getting tired of these compact hd camcorders´ tiny sensors. Too much sensor noise when shooting indoors. It may be better on the new CMOS based HD camcorders from Panasonic, but as I understand it sensors aren´t bigger.

    Selling mine on finn.no now and buying the Nokia D90.

  37. Jefferson says:

    I just bought an SD5 from Buy.com. It was only $399 with free shipping and I was able to apply about $240 in reward points (buy.com credit card, which I use a lot for business travel). So, after buying an SDHD card, it’ll run me $200 – not too shabby. We’re heading to Panama for the Christmas holidays and there will be some great scenery that I’ll want to capture – this is my first camcorder though so while I know a fair bit about digicams, video is totally new to me.

    Has anyone used it with a PC, instead of a MAC? From what I’ve read, it doesn’t produce .avi or .mpg files. I am NOT going to do a lot of editing, at least not so much to start and I just want to keep it simple – any advice?

  38. Stephen says:

    Has anybody had any trouble with red lines appearing randomly on the monitor screen and on the footage too? I tried reseting the SD 5 and reformating the SD card. Didn’t work. It’s a real pity because it happens just enough to be a problem for me. Many thanks on any feedback given.

  39. Michael Williams says:

    i’m putting 16gb card in mine and it just comes up check card. put the card into playstation and seems to work fine am i doing something wrong

  40. Bittor says:

    im having the same problem… my sd5 does not accept the 16 gb sd card…
    must i format it or something like that?

  41. Kevin says:

    I liked your review and it was really helpful. Since you have had the camera for a while have you had any issues with it?

    I am looking to get one and I will be using it with an iMac. Anything I should know about?


  42. Kevin says:

    I am not too worried about the noise unless it was a huf=ge issue as it will probably be voiced over or have some music put in. Plus I only have about 500 to spend. Anything else I should know? The video you shot on this looks awesome. I will be using imovie, forgot to put that in there

  43. Apart from the noise issue (that I can understand will be no problem for most people) I really liked the camera. Excellent image quality. Compared to the Canon HF10 I would say that the Panasonic has slightly better colors in good conditions but the HF10 is better in low light. And the build quality of the Panasonic feels slightly “flimsy”, but not too bad.

    You shouldn’t have any problems using it with iMovie.

  44. And: the “tele macro” function on the Panasonic is very nice. Giving you the possibility to shoot close in tele mode. That creates very nice close-ups with a nice blurry background.

  45. khan_cross says:

    thank you very much for your reviews and videos. helped me very much. maybe you can post also some experiences you made about setting to get the best quality out.

  46. khan_cross says:

    I need to know how did you get 50fps?
    I made test and have only menu option
    HG1920 – HN1440 – HE1440

    But I could not find anything about FPS.
    If you know please post how you get the best quality out of the cam. High resolution is not so important for me but great video quality. I shrink my videos down to 720×400 and film sport with fast moves.


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