Aside from the headline 50p recording mode, Panasonic hasn’t made hugely significant improvements to image quality. The previous generation was already excellent in this respect, though, and the TM700 is still better. If you analyse frames very carefully side-by-side, it is possible to discern a little more detail in good lighting. Low light sensitivity is also marginally improved. So overall the TM700 offers the best quality video currently available from a consumer camcorder.
We’ve had a brief period of calm where video formats are concerned. The four most major camcorder brands have focused their attention on AVCHD at a 1080i resolution, and all the main video editing apps now support this kind of footage. Panasonic’s 1080p mode throws the formats open again. Macs can’t currently cope with 50p footage at all, but we found we could load the footage into AVCHD-capable PC software and edit it, although without a 1080/50p preset you lose half the benefit. So whilst this footage has the potential of being stunningly smooth, you won’t notice until peripheral devices and software catch up. You won’t even be able to watch the footage on your TV in all its glory unless you have one which supports 1080/50p natively.
Overall, the HDC-TM700 produces a killer combination of consummate manual control and best-of-breed image quality. And with a price already similar to the outgoing models, you should look no further than this if you’re in the market for a top-end HD camcorder with semi-pro capabilities. Panasonic has cemented the lead it acquired in 2009, and upped the ante still further, making this the camcorder to beat in 2010.