Panasonic HM-TA20 – rugged design, easy to use
Panasonic’s first camcorder was TA1 and it is was complete mess. It had OK video quality and didn’t have any advantages over others models in the market. The sharing and editing software too was mediocre and overall speaking; the TA1 wasn’t worth the sub $170 price tag. Fortunately, this isn’t the case with Panasonic HM-TA20.
The newer model is shockproof, dustproof, and waterproof update to its predecessor and TA20 has fixed a lot of things that were wrong in the first place. The design has been improved and so are the features. The newer model is also more user friendly and this is largely due to the big touch screen included. The software still isn’t as good as other competitors like Kodak but it isn’t the worst I have ever seen. You will need to pay extra money for all the durable features as well. If you don’t want the ruggedness, then there is a less expensive model offered for $30 less.
Panasonic HM-TA20 is dust resistant and waterproof up to ten feet (for around 30 minutes). This device is also shockproof and it survives drop up to five feet. However, I would recommend you not to test the shockproof abilities by throwing it around. I was also surprised to see that there isn’t any shielding on the lens or screen to keep away the damage and hence you will have to be very careful about the scratches.
Panasonic HM-TA20 review says that it has three doors, one of bottom, two on left side. They conceal the card slot and ports of this gadget. There is heavy rubber sealing to keep water and dust away and these seals are bigger than what I have seen on other cameras. There are also 2 doors to protect miniHDMI jack and headphones jack. There is USB pop out connector having double locks for preventing any accidental opening. There is a single lock on card slot and it is located at the bottom and hence it won’t slip open while gripping this device. Battery is sealed inside and it isn’t user removable.
Easy to carry
Panasonic HM-TA20 is a bit bigger as compared to the competing models but still it is easy to handle. Also, this device can easily slip inside pants pocket. There is bumper around outside edge and it gives some grip. There are just three physical controls – big record key located below the display, screen lock and power button located on right side. For everything else, there is the three inches touch screen and using it is easy too.
You get just top third of the display for framing the video and this is really frustrating considering the size of the display. Rest of screen real estate is occupied by zoom slider to zoom digitally and play back and menu buttons. Options for mode are quite modest – you get photos, videos and audio record. The stereo microphone quality is quite impressive. Options for menu too are limited. For the play back, you get to view the videos horizontally. Here, you will get more options like tagging the clips to upload on YouTube and Facebook and grab stills from trimming and video clips.
Panasonic HM-TA20 offers four different resolution – 540/30p, 480/30p, 720/30p, and 1080/30p. The first one is iFrame Apple developed format for simplifying the online sharing and editing. However, I won’t recommend you to use this option for anything else. There is no 720/60p option which is available on competitor’s models and it will be missed by people who love shooting fast moving objects.
Overall performance and quality of video is very good on the Panasonic HM-TA20 but it isn’t exception. This quality is nowhere close to what bigger camcorders can offer. At the 720p and 1080p resolutions, movies are pretty enjoyable for watching on the smaller sizes on computer display. However, when viewed at bigger sizes, you will realize that they lack in details and are relatively soft. The colours are vivid and bright and exposure too is good enough. Electronic image stabilization helps with the handshake but the results aren’t rock steady if there is plenty of movement. Just like other minicamcorders, there is judder while panning and motion blur for fast moving subjects.
Video taken in low light conditions doesn’t look good, there is plenty of artifacting and noise. In the front, there is LED light built in for illuminating the dim lit scenes. However, it is OK for just two feet in the front of camera in spite of being very bright. There is digital 4X zoom but using it will degrade the quality and the results are jerky too. The manufacturer has included capability to shoot in sepia and black and white. You can also apply skin softening for nice results.
Photo quality isn’t too good; the quality is similar to other minicamcorders in the market. You can use it on the Web but they are not as good as even point and shoot cameras.
Minicamcorders are selling well in the market primarily because of their embedded sharing and editing software. This software lets you take clips from the device and put it on video sites very easily. The software included on Panasonic HM-TA20 is HD Writer PE 2.0 and it is a basic one. You can do tasks like simple editing and organizing. Sharing and playback is limited only to Facebook and YouTube. But once the clip is uploaded, you can attach it to link on an e-mail. Interface is pretty boring. This software is improved as compared to the previous version but it still isn’t as good as what competitors have to offer.
Panasonic HM-TA20 price is $322.09. The price is on par with rivals.
After reviewing the Panasonic HM-TA20, I felt that it is an improved version of its predecessor. Video quality is improved but it could have been better for the moving objects. Overall, the quality is typical for this class. There are a lot of improvements done in terms of usability and design and I would readily recommend this device if you are looking for a durable minicamcorder.
- 4.4 inches x 2.5 inches x 0.7 inch (HWD)
- 5.5 ounces weight with media and battery
- SD/SDXC/SDHC up to 64 GB memory
- Five megapixels resolution, 1/4.1 inch CMOS sensor
- Three inches touch screen LCD, 230k dots resolution
- Fixed focal length lens, f2.8 49 mm (35 mm equivalent)
- MPEG-4 AVC/H.264 (.MP4) file format for video and audio
- 1,920×1,080 pixels resolution at 30 fps (12 Mbps; progressive)
- Electronic image stabilization
- Lithium ion built-in rechargeable battery
- 80 minutes battery life
- HD Writer PE 2.0 software (for Windows)