As with other pocket Internet camcorders, features are rather few and far between. The HM-TA1 does offer a handful of digital effects, including monochrome and sepia tone shooting, as well as a soft skin option. There’s also electronic image stabilisation, although you can’t turn this off. Other than that, it’s essentially point and shoot, with no option to configure focus, shutter, or aperture manual, nor any scene modes to bias the automatic controls for specific conditions. The 4x zoom is digital rather than optical, too, so reduces resolution. Also, although there's a port for outputting analogue composite video and mono RCA audio, there is no HDMI connection available nor any way of playing back the HD footage at its full resolution on a TV directly.
Performance and software
With its decently sized sensor and Full HD shooting, the HM-TA1 provides reasonable image quality. In optimal conditions, colour is faithful with no obvious bias in hue. Compared to the 720p footage shot by Flip’s HD models, there’s a lot more detail too. Whilst the level of picture sharpness won’t be giving premium HD models much to worry about, it’s certainly streets ahead of what any camera phone is currently capable of.
We’ve now become accustomed to pocket Internet camcorders providing brighter, more colourful footage than you might expect in low light, and Panasonic doesn’t break with this tradition. In fact, the HM-TA1 manages more faithful colour in poor illumination than competitors like Flip’s Mino HD, although the image isn’t noticeably brighter. There is some grain evident, but it’s not completely unsightly. So overall the HM-TA1 is near the top of the league for this class of camcorder where image quality is concerned.
As with other pocket Internet camcorders, the HM-TA1 has an integrated USB 2.0 plug, so you can hook it up to your computer without any extra wiring. This slides out the bottom on the left-hand side, where it is hidden behind a flap. It also has software built in, which installs automatically when you first attach the camcorder. This is HD Writer PE 1.0, and it offers the usual modest selection of features. Once you've copied files to your system, they can be edited. You can trim or divide your clips, join multiple clips together, add simple transitions, and place titles at the beginning of the sequence. However, for some strange reason there's no tool specifically for trimming the beginning and end off a clip.