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The physical features for enthusiast videomakers are also comprehensive. The TM350's relatively small size means an accessory shoe isn't built into the unit itself. Instead, a sliding door on the side reveals a bracket for attaching an L-shaped shoe attachment, which is supplied in the box. This is a standard-sized shoe, so will fit any third-party peripherals, and the attachment locks securely into place so you can leave it on if you use it regularly. Otherwise, you can store it in the box so the camcorder is lighter and sleeker. The TM350 also sports the requisite minijacks for an external microphone and headphones, although manual audio controls require a trip to the full menu.
There's not a lot to separate the top camcorders from Canon, Sony and Panasonic in terms of image quality, although the latter's use of three CMOS sensors rather than one does differentiate it slightly. In good lighting, the TM350 produces extremely faithful colours and plenty of detail, but as always it's low light performance which is the true differentiation. The TM350 maintains colour well as the illumination drops, although the image can be dark without Intelligent Auto mode's invocation of the Low Light scene setting, or manual exposure adjustment. Using either of these methods, the TM350 provides one of the best low light performances we've seen from a consumer camcorder, although improvements over the TM300 are minor.
So the Panasonic HDC-TM350 takes an already winning formula and makes it even better. Sadly, Panasonic only plans to sell a few hundred TM350s in the UK, after which the model will be discontinued, and you can only buy them in Panasonic stores. If you can get your hands on one, and are looking for the best 'prosumer' camcorder currently on the market, we suggest you buy the TM350. But the improvements over the TM300 are not so great that you should feel aggrieved if you have to settle for the latter instead.
Scores In Detail
- Image Quality