Review: Panasonic PV-SD5000
Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: Thursday, October 26, 2000
Last Updated: Thursday, October 26, 2000
knows about the success of the Sony Mavica line of digital cameras.
People love floppy-based cameras for the convenience of a cheap,
universal storage format. They forget about the slow read/write
speeds, and minuscule size of the floppy, and plop down nearly $1,000
for the privilege to own a floppy-based camera. Panasonic caught
on, and said, "why not use Imation's SuperDisk format, which
holds 120MB per disc!", and the PV-SD4090
was born (see our review).
The new PV-SD5000
($1099) improves upon that model, adding a number of higher end
features, as you'll see below.
might have gathered from the first paragraph that I'm not a big
fan of floppy-based cameras, and I want to make that clear up front.
The SuperDisk format confuses me even more -- if everyone had a
SuperDisk drive in their computer, then this would be great. But
the fact is, very few people have them -- and as a result, the SD
isn't nearly as universal as a floppy. So essentially, the SuperDisk
is as proprietary as all the flash memory formats (SmartMedia, CompactFlash,
Memory Stick, etc), but much slower. Of course, the cost is a big
factor -- a 120MB SuperDisk costs only $10, whereas a 128MB CompactFlash
card costs upwards of $300!
the issues I've raised above don't bother you, then feel free to
erase them from your memory. You came here for an opinion, and there
you have it! <grin>
on with the show!
in the Box?
PV-SD5000 has a great bundle, with everything you need right in
the box. It includes:
3.34 Mpixel Panasonic PV-SD5000 camera
PV-DBP5 Lithium-ion battery (rechargeable)
adapter / battery charger
featuring Adobe PhotoDeluxe and drivers
gets two thumbs up from this reviewer for including a nice Li-ion
rechargeable battery, as well as a charger which doubles as an AC
adapter. The battery reminds me of those found on camcorders (maybe
it's the same one). Panasonic says that you should be able to get
200 photos out of a fully charged battery. It takes 1h40 to fully
charge the battery.
includes a nice neck strap with the camera, and a lens cap with
a strap, which always earns points with me.
the Mac, plugging in the camera to the USB port gets you a disk
on the desktop, which you can then work with like any other storage
device. You can actually use the camera as a floppy drive if you
want! On the PC side, I understand that it works about the same
manual, while covering everything, seemed pretty cluttered to me.
SD5000 is a huge camera -- after all, it does have to hold a floppy
drive. If you're looking for a camera you can stuff in your pocket,
this is NOT it. Take a look at the photo below to see what I mean.
shown with Jeff's cool Nokia 8890 phone and a CompactFlash card
cameras dimensions are 5.68 x 4.38 x 3.25 inches, and the camera
weighs in at a very heavy 1.53 pounds! For comparison's sake, the
Canon PowerShot G1 I just reviewed, which I consider a pretty big
camera, had dimensions of 4.7 x 3.0 x 2.5 inches, and it weighs
didn't find the SD5000 terribly easy to hold, either. While there's
a grip for your right hand, it's not big enough to really get a
good hold of. There is plenty of room for your left hand, though.
One good thing about such a big camera is that it's well built.
It's not going to split in two if you bump into a wall or drop it
(not that you should try).
our tour with the front of the camera (see the first picture on
this page), we come to what I'm calling "the lens". This
same lens has been found on cameras from Canon, Casio, Epson, and
Sony. It's a 7-21mm zoom lens, which is equivalent to 35-105mm on
a 35mm camera. One thing I've learned after looking at the results
I got from this camera (see the gallery)
is that the lens is not everything. The photos on the other cameras
are light years ahead of those that I got from the SD5000.
onto the back of the camera, complete with a smudged LCD (oops).
Right here is what would eliminate the PV-SD5000 from my shopping
list -- it lacks an optical viewfinder. While the SD5000 has a beautiful
LCD display, it's no substitute for an optical viewfinder -- plus
it drinks the battery like crazy.
2.5" LCD is huge, bright, and fluid. As I said in the SD4090
review last year, this one is as nice as those found on Panasonic's
camcorders. The LCD's brightness is adjustable from within the menu
system of the camera.
and left of the LCD is a four-way switch, used mostly for menu navigation.
It also adjusts the volume and moves through pictures in playback
the right of that you'll find three buttons: Rec Mode, Menu, and
Flash. The last two need no explanation, but here's what you get
from Rec Mode:
Fine Mode (see below)
Mode (2X or 3X digital zoom, which lowers the resolution to 1024
x 768 and 640 x 480 respectively)
Image Rec Mode (AKA Movie Mode - more on this in the next section)
Rec Mode (Up to 5 images at one image every 0.9 secs at 1024 x
format (no compression)
few notes on some of these items. First, though Panasonic calls
it Super Fine Mode, it may not be so "Super" after all.
Files at this "low compression" setting take up only 450k
or so. A SuperFine shot on the also 3.3 Megapixel PowerShot G1 can
take up anywhere from 1.2 to 2.3 MB!
while I'm happy to see a TIFF feature on any camera, be prepared
to wait after you take the picture. It takes 2-3 minutes to write
a single TIFF to the SuperDisk!
following chart illustrates how many photos you can include on a
single 120MB SuperDisk. For regular floppies, divide these numbers
by 100 (!).
on SuperDisk (approx.)
sets of 12 sec movies
the right of those three buttons you'll find a nice big speaker,
which you can use to playback your movies, or hear the 5 second
audio clips you can attach to still images.
at the top left, you have the zoom lever. While the lever doesn't
move as much as I'd like, the zoom control was smooth and accurate.
top of the camera, you'll find a microphone, mode wheel, and shutter
mode wheel has five choices:
plastic shutter release button doesn't provide enough tactile feedback.
You cannot tell when the button is pushed down halfway... most of
the time I ended up pushing it all the way down without knowing
this side of the camera, you'll see the IO ports (hidden), and three
strangely located buttons. Under a solid, rubber cover, you'll find
the ports for USB, A/V, and DC in.
weird buttons are for controlling some "manual" functions,
that can be used in Manual Record mode. Your choices here are:
AF (1 - 2 meters)
AF (2.5 - 3.5 meters)
AF (near infinity)
[Compensation] (from -1.5EV to +1.5EV in 0.5EV increments)
[aperture] priority - f8.0
priority - f2.0
priority - 1/125
priority - 1/500
not sure why you only get those choices for the priority modes...
the other side of the SD5000, complete with SuperDisk. The disc
eject button requires the camera to be on to remove the disk. The
drive itself is safely protected by a plastic door that stays shut.
the bottom of the camera. Down here you'll find the battery compartment,
as well as a metal tripod mount. The battery compartment door is
sturdy, as are all the doors and covers on this camera.
going to discuss record (still and moving pictures) as well as playback
mode in this section.
SD5000 takes an unbelievable 11 seconds to warm up, before you can
start taking pictures. The lens doesn't extend until the very end.
I have no idea what's going on before then -- perhaps reading the
you're finally up and running, things don't get much faster when
taking pictures. You'll have to wait 7-8 seconds for the photo to
be written to the card before you can take another one. Panasonic
has come up with one nice feature to help out here though, called
RapidFire. This feature lets you take several photos (ranging from
3 to 12) which are stored in memory. Once you fill up your quota,
then they're all written to the disk. The shot-to-shot speed falls
dramatically while you've got this on, so this is one feature you'll
probably always want turned on.
menu system is really clunky. There are things in menus that shouldn't
be, especially in playback mode. Here's what you can edit in Record
Mode's menus (items in bold are for manual mode only):
(5 sec clips with each photo, except TIFF and continuous)
(cannot be used with RapidFire)
(equivalent to the Display button on most cameras)
balance (Manual mode only - auto/halogen/sunny/manual)
(Auto or Spot)
Shutter (no idea just how slow though -- see the nightshot
test for the disappointing results)
Lapse (Take a picture every so often -- from every minute
to once a day. Use the AC adapter of course!)
Rec - "This feature allows quick recording on a floppy disk
which is readable on this unit, however it may not be readable
on another floppy drive"
onto photo quality. One of my big complaints about the SD5000's
predecessor was the poor photo quality. Well, the SD5000 may have
a 3.3 Mpixel CCD and the same lens as the highly rated PowerShot
G1, but it's photos aren't even closed. I don't know what the problem
is, but the photos in our gallery seem
a bit too green and unsaturated. It's not just my camera though
-- take a look at the Steve's
Digicams gallery and you'll see the same thing.
macro mode, it came out way too dark and unsaturated.
in Program mode, the lighting was fine, but the sharpness
wasn't quite there.
Download a TIFF of this shot
got pretty weird with the macro test, too. When I set the camera
to macro mode, it quickly zoomed all the way out to wide angle,
and the image on the LCD darkened. When I took the picture, it came
out sharp, but way too dark and lacking color. So I turned off macro
mode, things lightened up, but it wasn't quite as sharp as before.
Panasonic says you can get as close as 6 cm in macro mode.
didn't get any better in our nightshot test, from Twin Peaks. The
shot above was taken focused out to infinity, with slow shutter
mode turned on. You'll find this shot in most of our other reviews
for comparison. (If you want to see the best shot, check out the
Canon EOS-D30 gallery.)
SD5000 has a movie mode as well, which lets you capture up to 12
seconds of QuickTime video (with sound) at 10 frames per second.
You cannot use the zoom during filming.
to view movie
(QuickTime format, 1.4MB)
the menu system, I found the SD5000's playback to be clumsy as well.
Features that are usually buttons on the camera body are forced
into the menu system, including thumbnail mode and zoom and scroll.
The zoom and scroll function specifically is implemented very poorly.
To zoom into an image, you must hit the Menu button, change Display
Mode to Zoom, hit Menu again, select the area you want to zoom into,
hit the shutter release, and then you're zoomed. But once there,
the only wait out is back -- you cannot scroll around in your zoomed
thing missing from Playback mode is information about the pictures
(aside from data and filename), such as exposure information.
between photos (high res to high res) takes 2-4 seconds, which is
nice surprise was a Multi Delete function, which lets you delete
a group of photos. Finally, someone besides Nikon has added this
features in playback mode including copying, DPOF print marking,
and slide shows.
Does it Compare?
Panasonic PalmCam PV-SD5000 is a camera with a lot of promise when
you look at the specs. But unfortunately, it doesn't deliver on
those promises. The slow processing speeds, clunky interface, and
poor photo quality leads me to believe this is a camera you should
steer clear of. For the whopping price of $1099, you can do much
better with one of the cameras listed below.
media - low cost per megabyte
mode with sound
I didn't care for:
too big and heavy
of SuperDisk benefit (aside from cost/MB)
are tons of other cameras you'll want to consider before you buy.
If you've got your heart set on a floppy-based camera, you'll want
to check out Sony's Mavica line. Otherwise, some other good 3.3
Mpixel cameras include the Canon PowerShot
S20 and G1,
PhotoPC 3000Z, Fuji
FinePix 4700, Kodak
DC4800, Nikon Coolpix 880
and the Toshiba
always, I recommend trying the SD5000 and its competitors out at
your local reseller before you buy!
how does the photo quality stand up? Check out the sample photos
in our photo gallery!
a second opinion?
Digicams PV-SD5000 review!
welcomes your comments or questions. Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.