Panasonic has re-profiled the SD1's tiny shape to make the SD5 easier to hold. A gently upward-sloping section at the back rounds out the shape and makes it more grippable. The zoom rocker is satisfyingly large, and a nifty joystick is well positioned for changing settings with the thumb.
The SD5 is small enough and light enough for a handbag or jacket pocket. Some argue that a little more heft is useful in a camera to make it steadier. It's a personal preference, but we found that despite its compact dimensions, the SD5's snug fit in our hand made it weighty enough.
The 69mm (2.7-inch) LCD screen pops out at the touch of a button. The monitor boasts a whopping 300,000-pixel resolution and has a wide 170-degree viewing angle. You can set the brightness of the screen to one of two levels.
One of the advantages of flash memory is that there are no moving parts in the recording section, which means the SD5 should be resistant to impact and harsh conditions.
The SD1's 1,440x1,080-pixel resolution has been improved to 1,920x1,080 pixels. Other features include a stereo microphone, 10x optical zoom and optical image stabilisation. As on Panasonic stills cameras, the SD5's lens is designed by Leica.
The SD5 will pause recording when it's held upside down, so if you forget to stop shooting when you drop your hand to your side and walk around, you won't get lots of footage of your feet. A pre-record moment also captures video 3 seconds before you press the shutter, so as long as it's pointing in the right direction you won't miss anything spontaneous. Still pictures can also be captured while video is being recorded.
Another interesting feature is intelligent contrast control, which measures ambient light intensity and adjusts contrast accordingly. This is designed to prevent blown-out highlights in bright parts of an image and black-outs in shadowy parts.
The SD5 is also compatible with Panasonic's Viera Link. Connect the SD5 to a Viera TV via an HDMI cable, and you can operate the camcorder using the TV remote control. The camcorder also comes with its own remote.
One small feature we thought was a nice touch was that the screen displayed actual numerical values for how long the battery would last, and an estimated amount of footage a memory card would hold.