Considering its virtually identical optics and electronics, not surprisingly the HDC-SD5 provides almost the same video performance as the SX5, with the same failings. In decent lighting conditions - such as broad daylight - it performed very well in our tests, with great colour fidelity and the detail you would expect from an HD camcorder. But the small CCDs did make themselves evident more and more as we reduced the level of illumination. The level of grain in low light is quite high, with little or no colour. The AVCHD recording format only serves to accentuate these problems.
However, since AVCHD support is now virtually ubiquitous in editing software, the footage can readily be brought into Ulead VideoStudio 11 Plus or Pinnacle Studio 11 Plus. The one exception is Adobe Premiere Elements, which still resolutely avoids AVCHD, even though it's now in its fourth incarnation. If you simply want to watch your footage on a TV, the Panasonic offers a comprehensive set of output options, including HDMI, component and composite analogue - but no S-Video.
Although it's quite a bit more expensive, we still prefer Sony's HDR-SR8E as the king of consumer HD camcorders and Canon's HV20 as the most accomplished sub-£1,000 camcorder for the more serious videomaker. But the compactness of the HDC-SD5 makes it a very tempting proposition if sheer portability is a major concern. Image quality may not be as good as HDV, and it lacks a few important features for the enthusiast. However, it still shoots great video and is very comfortable to use - plus the increasingly low price of SD cards mean they could end up being the winner of the current camcorder format wars.