Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Panasonic HDC-SD100 Questions and Answers

I got the Panasonic HDC-SD100 while out in Las Vegas at CES as part of the Panasonic/Crayon bloggers program.

Steve Garfield and Jimmy Fallon
Steve Garfield and Jimmy Fallon by Veronica Belmont, on Flickr CC BY-NC

Joseph Jaffe just wrote up a summary post on his blog, CES La Vie in HD!, and I commented:
I was just telling my wife that from now on, I'm shooting in HD. It just looks so good. I still need to spend some time evaluating the Panasonic HD camera to see if it meets all my needs, but getting a hands on evaluation like this is really the only way for me to determine if something is going to work for me. With so many features and functions, how do companies expect people to make purchase decisions? In the video I say that this was my first experience with a true HD camera. I've been paying around with a Kodak Zi6 I picked up for $178 at Radio Shack because I had no idea what to get for an HD camera. I didn't even know if I wanted one. But after using the Panasonic HD camera, I know I'll never go back to standard definition for my professional work. For one thing, the camera is so small! I have a cart with wheels to bring all my equipment to a shoot. I do have some open questions about the camera that I'll be researching.

1. Is the absence of Firewire a problem? iMovie 08 seems to require Firewire to capture live video.
2. Can I use this as a live camera via USB? I'm thinking for UStream and/or Mogulus.
3. Do I need to import via iMovie 08, or can Final Cut Pro import AVCHD footage?

I'll be looking into these questions and posting about them on my blog.

If any readers can help with answers, I'd love to hear them.
I'm starting to find out the answers.

1 and 2: Using the Panasonic HDC-SD100 for live video
The only way you can get the camera to operate as a webcam with a Macintosh is to have a Firewire connection. When you plug in the USB cable the camera lens closes. So you can't capture live video, and can't use it as a live camera for sites like UStream or Mogulus.

3. Importing AVCHD
I've been able to import into iMovie 08, then export an XML into FCP. That works fine and I've enjoyed seeing hte quality output of HD footage. Melissa Pierson found out that, "AVCHD support is available only on Intel-based Macintosh computers", so you can't use an older Macintosh. I did find a solution online to convert AVCHD footage into HDV 1080i Apple Intermediate Codec format Quicktime movies over here, How to edit AVCHD footage on Mac OSX? Final Cut Pro 6.0.1 and Voltaic to the rescue! I'll be giving FCP another shot at importing the AVCHD footage.

Pros and Cons
Let's look at the pros and cons.

I love the size of the camera, the quality of the output, and the directional mic. It was a lot of fun to carry this camera around at CES.

I don't like the fact that you have to remove the battery to plug in the USB cord, and that you have to plug in the power to import footage. The microphone jack is in the front of the camera in an awkward location and my microphone jack size is too big to fit into the jack.

No firewire support might be a deal breaker for me.

What's Next?
I'd like to try out a Canon camera with a Firewire port. Those are also AVCHD. I'd also like to try out an HD camera that saves video in native QuickTime. The $179 Kodak Zi6 does that, why can't a higher priced HD camera do it?


  1. Anonymous11:26 AM

    I just bought the Canon Vixia HF11 HD camcorder. It doesn't have a firewire port on it and I never thought of testing it for a live camera, but I'll let you know.

    I can confirm that Final Cut Express 4.0 has no problem importing and working with the AVHD footage right off the camera. This is only supported in the 4.0 release of the software and there is a new "Log & Transfer" choice under the File menu that is built exactly for this and works amazingly well.

    We should get together and do some tests with these cameras to see how they handle things. I've only had it for a few weeks and am going to be giving it a real first test this weekend. I'll keep you updated.

  2. Anonymous9:33 AM

    Steve, I know you have other cameras, but have you tried a Flip? I'm not sure what the limitations are, but it sure looks interesting to people on a tight budget.

  3. Hi Rebecca,
    I have not tried the Flip camera. Lots of people ask me about it and all I can say is that I've never tried it but people seem to like it.

    If they would send me one, I'd be able to comment more fully. Not sure why they haven't.

  4. For connecting the HD camera to a Mac via Firewire I'm going to look at these options:

    NewTek Tricaster


    AJA io HD

  5. Anonymous1:21 AM

    Hi Steve,

    I am using Canon HV30 - tape based HDV one, but I am capturing live, via FW800 port on my computer using Quicktime pro - works like a charm. I just bought Sonnet F2 amazing portable 1TB Raid drive, that I've configured as Raid 0. pretty amazing.

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