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Panasonic showed us an early sample of the HDC-TM700 at the end of last year, but if we’d told you about it then, we’d have had to kill you afterwards. Now, at last, we can bring you the first big camcorder release of 2010 – the initial benchmark the other manufacturers will have to meet or exceed. The TM700 is the heir to the HDC-TM300 and TM350, and it improves on them in some key areas.
The first surprise is a new flavour of Full HD. This is the first consumer camcorder to offer 1080/50p recording – yes, that’s a full 50 progressive frames of Full HD video every second. However, this isn’t part of the AVCHD standard so Panasonic has had to use a different file format. The video is recorded as H.264 running at 28Mbits/sec. Strangely, Panasonic hasn’t taken this opportunity to implement the top AVCHD option, and instead the maximum AVCHD data rate available is still 17Mbit/sec, rather than the 24Mbits/sec now offered by most of the other big names.
Panasonic is also sticking with its 3MOS system, and each of the three CMOS sensors remains 1/4in in size with a gross 3.05-megapixels apiece. However, a smidgen more interpolation boosts still image resolution to 14.2-megapixels, up from the 10.6-megapixels offered by the previous generation.
The lens has been upgraded, however. The new Leica Dicomar glass is now equivalent to a 35mm wide angle at its maximum width, which will allow you to record more at close quarters indoors, for example. Panasonic has also added a new flavour of image stabilisation called Power OIS. This can detect vibrations down to a 5Hz frequency and, in our testing, was able to iron out quite severe motion, so long as it was regular.
The TM700 has a relatively healthy 12x optical zoom like its predecessors, but Panasonic has followed the trend and augmented this with an Intelligent Zoom system. This makes use of the extra pixels the CMOS has above those required for Full HD, which boosts the zoom factor to 18x without the loss in quality normally associated with a digital zoom.
Being a Panasonic TM model, the TM700 records its video to flash memory and has 32GB built in. This is enough for over four hours of footage in the top HA Full HD 1080i mode, but only two hours 44 minutes when shooting 1080/50p. You can augment storage capacity using the SDHC slot, which supports SDXC so allows capacities up to 64GB. If one storage medium runs out of space in the middle of a shot, the TM700 will automatically switch to the other and continue recording without dropping a frame.
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