Panasonic HDC-TM10 £499.99
22nd Jun 2009 | 16:22
Meet the world's lightest Full HD AVCHD camcorder
Panasonic HDC-TM10: overview
While it's not the 'lightest camcorder in the world', the new Panasonic HDC-TM10 does boast to be 'the world's lightest Full HD AVCHD camcorder'. Weighing only 280g, it shares this enviable accolade with its little brother, the equally dinky HDC-SD10.
Amazingly both of these camcorders are small and lightweight enough to fit in a jacket or trouser pocket. Although, you'll need fairly loose-fitting trousers if you want to try it.
On paper, at least, the silver/black Panasonic HDC-TM10 ticks all the right boxes. For starters, it offers a great way to record HD video (in full-fat, 1920 x 1080 resolution) and to capture detailed still photos. There's also a 16x optical zoom, with 40x and 1000x zoom modes available when you activate the digital equivalent.
Dual flash storage
The versatile Panasonic HDC-TM10 offers dual storage options – you can record your movies to the 8GB of built-in flash memory or save them out onto SD/SDHC cards, which can be slotted in to boost the capacity.
DINKY: it's the lightest full HD camera and its small size belies its power
Invest in a 32GB SDHC card, for example, and it could hold eight hours of HD footage filmed in the HDC-TM10's normal 9Mbps HX mode. The higher-quality 1920 x 1080 pixel picture modes – HA (17Mbps) and HG (13Mbps) – will obviously chew up more of the storage space.
The eight hour capacity drops to five hours 20 minutes for HG and four hours for HA. Conversely, the lower quality 1440 x 1080 HE mode (6Mbps) can eke out the available space to store around 12 hours of video.
Design and battery life
Of course, even the best technical specifications can be undone by a terrible user experience. So how does the Panasonic HDC-TM10 actually handle? What immediately strikes you is its compact size. It fits snugly into the palm of your hand, held firmly in place with a small, adjustable strap.
It's not cluttered with buttons either. There's an easy-access record button on the back next to the battery release switch. Below this, a simple slider enables you to flick easily between Record and Playback modes.
SIMPLE: Panasonic included as few buttons as possible to make it easy to use
Flip open the 2.7-inch LCD and you can start recording video and taking digital photos within a few minutes.
The LCD rotates 180 degrees and is touch-sensitive, making it easy to access the main menu and camcorder settings. In contrast, the buttons below the display are slightly unresponsive and require a firm push to activate.
At first, the Panasonic HDC-TM10 can feel slightly fragile. But despite its lightweight construction (we've held heavier mugs of tea...), it's surprisingly rugged. Admittedly, it's not the sort of camcorder you'd want to drop. But if you did, there's a good chance it would survive the fall.
TOUCHSCREEN: it's easy to operate and the interface is clear and simple
The small battery slots neatly into the main body of the Panasonic HDC-TM10, above component, HDMI, A/V and mini USB connections. This 725mAh cell can be juiced-up in about an hour and a half and you'll get roughly the same amount of continuous recording time from a full charge.
Bigger batteries are available if you need to shoot for longer. While Panasonic also supplies a DC cable in the box, which enables you to plug the HDC-TM10 into the mains via the battery charger. Very handy.
Video and image quality
Shooting video is straightforward – your thumb is perfectly positioned to click the record button, while your index finger takes care of zooming in/out and taking photos via the controls on the top of the HDC-TM10. The results are excellent.
The lens boasts a focal length of 2.95mm to 47.2mm and a 30.5 filter diameter. This gives the HDC-TM10 a smooth 16x optical zoom, which is supported by Panasonic's Advanced O.I.S. (Optical Image Stabilizer) and intelligent Auto (iA) modes.
Together they can make even the most amateur of home movie makers seem like a seasoned pro
OIS: image stabilisation eliminates all but the most violent handshakes - you've got to see it to believe it
The Advanced O.I.S technology has been designed to minimise hand-shake, which gets horribly exaggerated when using the zoom. Even the smallest hand movement can become a visible judder that will typically ruin a close-up shot.
So, O.I.S automatically detects and corrects any shakiness, enabling you to shoot more stable footage. And it does this 4,000 times a second. Does it work? Hard to tell. With O.I.S switched on, you've no idea just how bad your original footage was.
As for the iA (Intelligent Auto) mode, this is a familiar feature on Panasonic's Lumix digital cameras. It auto-selects the most suitable scene mode according to the shooting conditions. Combine this with AF/AE (Auto Focus/Auto Exposure) Tracking and you'll always get the best shot possible. Simply touch the AF/AE icon on the LCD and then touch the object or person that you want to track.
The HDC-TM10 subsequently ensures that your target remains in focus. The technology isn't perfect, however, and it can be thrown off when zooming or lose its lock when there are several people in view.
Connectivity and playback
Once you've had a chance to play around with the Panasonic HDC-TM10 it doesn't take you long to want one. Thanks to all the automatic aids, shooting HD video is close to effortless, whether you're tackling wide-angled landscape shots, macro photography or fast-moving action. The auto focus can cope with anything you throw at, recalibrating speedily when you shift from distance shots to close-ups.
There's also a clever pre-record mode that keeps 3 seconds of video in a buffer. This ensures that you never miss some important action because you were too slow to press the record button. We've all been there...
STORAGE: swap SD cards in an instant with the top-loading card slot
And when you're done, you can view your handiwork on your telly (using either HDMI, component or composite cables) and the HDC-TM10 supports VIERA Link if you have a compatible Panasonic set. Otherwise, you can hook up a DVD drive and dump video directly to disc or print photos directly from the camcorder to a PictBridge-friendly printer
The footage is crisp and clear, especially if you use the highest quality recording setting.
The 1920x1080 pixel resolution on the HDC-TM10 can deliver some truly stunning pictures with good colour balance and crisp definition.
In fact, the only things that affect what you video are your skill with the 16x zoom, your steady (or not so steady) hand and what you're actually filming.
You'll get better results with fast-moving objects if you don't compromise on the video mode you use.
Plug the HDC-TM10 into a PC using the mini-USB cable and you can obviously copy your photos and video off directly. Video footage is encoded in the AVCHD format as .MTS files. Panasonic supplies its fiddly HD Writer software for content management, plus basic editing and conversion.
Niggles? It's difficult to find many faults with the HDC-TM10 beyond its sluggish software. We could point out that the microphone doesn't always give you a clear audio track to go with the fantastic HD video. Its location on the top of the camcorder (rather than the front) can be an issue and there's no dedicated mic input. But this is really nit-picking for the sake of it. Overall the sound quality is good, especially if you're filming indoors.
If you've recently bought a camcorder, the arrival of the Panasonic HDC-TM10 will have you checking whether you can get your money back.
We liked: The HDC-TM10 is unbelievably lightweight, so much so that there are times where you almost forget you're holding it. The dual storage options mean that you can expand the capacity for long trips, while the various automatic settings make you look a far better cameraman (or camerawoman) than you actually are.
We disliked: Having to give it back
Verdict: Compact, powerful and versatile, the Panasonic HDC-TM10 looks as good in your hand as it does on the spec-sheet. And considering the price tag, it's a no-brainer buy for anyone who's looking for an easy-to-use camcorder that can record full HD video.
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