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Panasonic HDC-TM300 - Panasonic HDC-TM300
Other than the differences already mentioned, the TM300 is pretty much the same camcorder as the HS300. The use of flash memory means power consumption is 10 per cent less, so batteries will last a proportional amount longer. But the features which made the HS300 such an excellent camcorder remain. Chief amongst these is the lens ring, something so few HD camcorders offer. In auto mode, this provides another way of controlling zoom. But simply press the manual focus button and it switches to controlling this feature instead.
There's an assist function to make things even easier. This magnifies a central rectangle of the frame so you can see more clearly whether your focus is sharp. Although we like the focus knobs on Canon's HF S10 and Sony's HDR-XR520, Panasonic's lens ring is better still. It allows you to perform 'rack focus', also known as focus pulling, where you change focus to guide viewer attention. The Canon and Sony knobs are too slow to execute this popular piece of camerawork.
There are discrete buttons for toggling Intelligent Auto (iA) mode and PRE-REC. The former switches on Panasonic's automatic system which detects conditions and switched on functions such as Portrait and Low Light accordingly. The PRE-REC system spools footage until you hit record, tacking it on the front so you don't miss a shot. There are also buttons for disabling the optical image stabiliser and manual mode, but after pressing the latter everything else is operated via the touchscreen.
As usual for a Panasonic camcorder, manual settings are comprehensive. You can configure shutter and iris independently, and once the aperture is fully open you can add up to 18dB of video gain. There's even an onscreen histogram. However, these settings are harder to configure with the touchscreen than they were with the multi-function lens ring provided by the HDC-HS100 and SD100. The touchscreen also enables an AFAE option when in auto mode. This lets you specify a reference point for focus and exposure by simply touching within the frame. If this is a moving object the camcorder will track it across the frame, including human subjects picked up by the face detection system.
The only real missing feature with the TM300, as with the HS300, is that there is no specific progressive mode. The Digital Cinema option shoots x.v.Colour and progressive, but this also disables some of the features, in particular the AFAE function, so won't please the semi-pros. We wish Panasonic would follow Canon's leave and offer a true, separate progressive mode, because more and more TVs support this now and it's clearly the way computers display video.