Panasonic’s top-of-the-range HD camcorders, such as the HDC-HS300 and HDC-HS200 are our current favourites at the premium end of the market. But the company’s lower-end HD models, such as the HDC-SD20 and HDC-HS20 haven’t convinced us quite so strongly. Now we have the HDC-TM10, which (despite the model name) is actually a newer model than the SD20 and HS20 generation.
Whereas the HDC-HS20 and SD20 looked like smaller versions of Panasonic’s higher-end camcorders, the TM10 uses a rather different design relying mostly on silver rather than black plastic, which some might find less stylish than the previous generation. However, most of the baseline features are the same. The sensor is an identical 1/6in CMOS with 1.47-megapixels, and the lens a Leica Dicomar with 2.95-47.2mm focal length and 16x optical zoom. However, the filter diameter has been reduced from 43mm to 30.5mm, as the camcorder is quite a bit smaller, weighing 278g rather than 321g.
The microphone has reverted to stereo, rather than the 5.1-channel surround array found on the SD20 and HS20. On the plus side, the Advanced Optical Image Stabiliser now has an Active Mode, which we first encountered with the HDC-TM350. This smoothes out camera motion even more effectively than the basic setting, and is intended for when you’re using the camera when walking or otherwise in transit. We found Active Mode generally competent, although it does appear to cause a slight reduction in image quality, which is presumably why Panasonic has kept the original setting available.
Being a TM model, the TM10 comes with flash memory on board. In this case, you get 8GB, which is enough for an hour of footage at the top quality mode, but you can use the SD card slot to add more. Panasonic is still offering 17Mbits/sec as its top data rate, rather than the 24Mbits/sec Canon and JVC now provide for their latest models. The top three quality settings record Full HD at 1,920 x 1,080, but the bottom HE mode uses 1,440 x 1,080, as with HDV, and allows you to fit three hours of footage within the supplied memory. You can also take still images at 2.1-megapixels, which equates to the standard HD resolution of 1,920 x 1,080.