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Panasonic HDC-TM900 review

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Reviewed:

Summary

Our Score:

10

User Score:

Pros

  • Comprehensive manual settings and enthusiast features
  • Great image quality in most conditions
  • Option for 3D shooting

Cons

  • No 24Mbits/sec AVCHD mode

Key Features

  • 3 x 1/4.1in CMOS sensor with 3.05Mpixels
  • 1080/50p Full HD
  • 32GB flash memory built in
  • Lens ring and full range of manual settings
  • Compatible with 3D attachment
  • Manufacturer: Panasonic
  • Review Price: free/subscription

Panasonic’s camcorders have topped our list for videomaking enthusiasts for a couple of years now, with the HDC-TM700 and HDC-TM300 before it. The progression hasn’t been a huge one between each step, but when the core features are all present, there’s not so much to improve. The HDC-TM900 is another incremental enhancement, but it does have features to make it worth choosing over its predecessors.

The most significant difference is the ability to shoot 3D. Whereas Panasonic’s first 3D-capable consumer camcorder, the HDC-SDT750, was a full package including the 3D converter, with this generation Panasonic has switched to selling the VW-CLT1 attachment separately, and merely built in compatibility to key models from its latest range. These include the HDC-SD90 we looked at recently, and the HDC-TM900 on review here. The lens attachment will set you back a fairly hefty £280, but this still makes the combination cost around £200 less than the HDC-SDT750 did when it was released.

The same drawbacks apply, though. Calibration is advisable each time you remove and reattach the adapter, and this takes around 30 seconds. Virtually all the manual features are disabled in this mode, too, including the zoom. So you’re left with a single framing option and automatic exposure. Video is recorded in the side-by-side format directly onto the sensor, effectively using half its area for each of the two stereoscopic portions, so low light sensitivity is halved as well. Nevertheless, in adequate lighting results are decent, with a clear sense of depth, and good colour fidelity, although the level of detail is slightly impaired over 2D footage.

The Panasonic HDC-TM900 with optional VW-CLT1 3D lens attachment

Other than its compatibility with the 3D attachment, however, the HDC-TM900 is far more of a mild improvement to the HDC-TM700 than a groundbreaking new model. It is very slightly larger and heavier, but this is almost entirely due to the inclusion of a 3.5in LCD instead of a 3in one, which is a trade-off we’re quite willing to accept. Inside, the TM900 has identical specifications to the TM700. It’s built around a trio of 1/4.1in CMOS sensors, each with 3.05Mpixels. The lens has the same specification as well, providing a 12x optical zoom and 35mm equivalent wide angle, so you can capture more of the action at close quarters.

Panasonic has made slightly more use of the extra sensor pixels for its Intelligent Zoom system, however. This now extends the factor to 20x, rather than 18x. In theory, the Intelligent Zoom is better than a traditional digital zoom because it crops into the sensor rather than blowing up the picture electronically, and thereby preserves more detail. The image stabilisation system also takes advantage of the extra CMOS resolution. Now called Hybrid OIS, this combines optical and electronic systems for even greater vibration smoothing. We found this quite effective during testing, at least as good as competitor alternatives, and subjectively it seemed a little better.

KoolMoss

March 23, 2011, 4:35 pm

does it have nighttime shooting like some sony (DCR-TRV models)?

hellodavey

March 24, 2011, 12:08 am

I'm still waiting to update my sony hdr-hc3 hdv camcorder but no new camcorders seem to be able to match both its infra red recrording and its super slo-mo 240fps recording. Are there any upcoming HDD/flash based camcorders with these abilities?

James Morris

March 24, 2011, 1:06 am

Do you mean the infrared mode?

DaveH

March 25, 2011, 10:37 pm

Forgive my ignorance, but do I have to buy a PAL-specific version for UK use? (I'm still using an analogue camcorder and am a bit out of touch!). Maybe it only matters when playing direct from camcorder to TV rather, and is irrelevant if I edit footage on a PC and burn to DVD?

KevinM

April 26, 2011, 6:55 pm

Does it suffer from the notorious 'green colour cast' in auto white balance (AWB) mode that was the scourge of previous models from Panasonic? (Namely the 700 and 300 ranges)

Louie Wilkinson

September 18, 2011, 11:22 pm

The Panasonic HDC-TM900K camcorder delivers about as good a picture as is possible from a camcorder. I've used Sony, Canon, and Panasonic before, and all three make fine products. I've always been partial to Canon as I have many lenses for my still cameras, but my last DVD camcorder was a three chip Panasonic and that video of 7 years ago is still head and shoulders above the rest. A chip for each primary color makes a clear difference. I can watch that old video on a high definition TV and be quite pleased.

My first HD camcorder was a Canon ...the last tape based model they made. It works great, but the Panasonic is far better. Why?

The 5.1 sound is fantastic...even played on stereo speakers. The old issue with fan noise is gone...at least on my Panny.

The picture is as crisp as you can get. Each frame is worthy of a still photo. 60p is startling.

And best of all, the image stabilization actually works. My Canon barely does anything, and I have to use a tripod for everything or the picture is unwatchable... while the Panny's image stabilization is apparent right away. I zoomed out without the IS on and then hit the button. WOW. It really works. And the zoom is substantial.

My main complaint would be the Record Button placement. If you use the viewfinder, as I do in bright light, I mean real bright light as in New Mexico, the button is against your nose. You can't turn it on or off without movement. Of course, I like to edit, so this isn't a real problem...and you can always use the LCD screen.

Overall, this is a wonderful camcorder...and I've only begun to use it's features. But the main features, picture quality and sound, are top notch.

P.S. If you will buy this Camcorder I suggest for best deal at: www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/B004I1KPG6/trustedreviews.com-21

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