The SD5’s diminutive proportions do have their downsides, however. It has no accessory shoe, unlike the HDC-SX5, and no microphone input nor headphone jacks. So you’re stuck with the built-in microphone. And unfortunately, what looks like a lens ring actually just unscrews the built-in automatic lens cover. The fact that memory cards are loaded from the bottom of the camcorder could also prove annoying if you intend to use the SD5 with a tripod, as you will need to unscrew it to change cards.
Very few functions have their own separate buttons. In fact, apart from the LCD brightness and PRE-REC control, everything must be accessed through the joystick and menu. The PRE-REC system buffers three seconds of video at all times when enabled, so when you hit record this is tacked on the front. This means if you’re a bit late on the shutter you won’t miss the important bits – although you need to have the forethought to enable the PRE-REC function in the first place.
However, despite the lack of discrete buttons on the SD5, Panasonic’s joystick system is very user-friendly. This is located right where your thumb is during normal operation and with a quick press calls up the options, whereas flicks up, down, right and left navigate between them. The various options include most of the manual settings you might need. You can select indoor and outdoor white balance presets, manual or automatic modes. The iris can be varied from F16 to F1.8, with up to 18dB of gain added on the top, and the shutter from 1/25th to 1/8000th – with both options available independently.
The joystick is also used to toggle Colour Night View, which reduces the shutter speed, sacrificing frame rate in favour of letting in more light. There’s a Soft Skin mode, back light compensation, and intelligent contrast. The latter is a relatively effective system for bringing out the contrast in very bright areas and shadows, although it can’t work miracles. You can turn on fade in and out at the beginning and end of clips, toggle the Telemacro function, and access photographic functions including a 10 second self-timer, and the built-in flash. In fact, there’s virtually no reason to enter the full menu system for anything other than initial setup.