Where Canon's HF10, HF100 and HF11 were our favourite camcorders in 2008, Panasonic's HDC-HS300 and TM300 have topped the bill in 2009. Although Panasonic naturally has new things in store for 2010, the company clearly felt a ‘last hurrah' for the existing generation was in order. And so we have the HDC-TM350, a limited edition update of the TM300.
There are essentially three differences between the two models. First of all, the TM350 has taken advantage of the ever-decreasing cost of flash memory, and now comes with 64GB instead of 32GB. This means it can store over 8.5 hours of footage even at the top quality setting, which will be more than enough for even quite extended holidays. The TM350 records either Full HD or anamorphic 1,440 x 1,080 HD, depending on quality mode, and the top data rate remains 17Mbits/sec. Panasonic does offer 24Mbits/sec in its AVCHD-based professional models, such as the AG-HMC151E, but hasn't brought this down to its consumer range yet.
The other two differences to the TM300 are less immediately obvious. The Advanced OIS image stabilisation has allegedly been improved, so the Active Mode is more effective at smoothing out the effects of a walking cameraman. Active Mode is an extra OIS setting.
In Auto, you can choose between standard OIS and Active Mode, and in Manual you can choose either or turn the camcorder off altogether. We found Active Mode did smooth out motion more effectively than the basic setting, although it also appeared to slightly reduce image quality compared to the regular setting when used in non-moving situations, which is probably why Panasonic has left the original mode still available. Panasonic also claims the image processor has been tweaked for mildly improved low light performance. This wasn't a particular area of inferiority before, however.