However, the TA20 is equipped with Panasonic’s Intelligent Auto system, so will enable low light mode itself if illumination drops sufficiently. This also includes face detection, which is quite effective, although it only controls exposure, not focusing, as this is fixed. There’s an electronic image stabilisation system, too. It’s worth noting that not all the display is used by the live view when shooting video, just the top half. The remainder contains menu options. The only time the screen is filled with video is during the playback of stored files.
Panasonic has taken account of the fact that it’s hard to use a touch screen underwater, or when using gloves. This is possibly part of the reason for using a resistive rather than capacitive screen. But to make the main camcorder function always accessible, the record button is a physical rather than virtual thing. This is particularly important, as it’s possible to lock the touch screen so it can’t be used, to prevent accidental operation. The screen lock button displays a rather unnecessary array of information every time you press it, but it’s useful considering the extreme environments the TA20 is aimed at.
When it comes to the toughness, though, the TA20 shows Panasonic’s experience at making products able to resist rough treatment. The hardened chassis has the most secure locked doors we’ve seen on a camcorder in this class. Each one has a rubber flange, with a switch securing it shut to ensure a watertight seal. Another switch then locks the first one in place, reducing the chance of accidental opening to virtually nothing. Not one, but two lucky knocks would be required to get past this. The door mechanism and chassis hardening allow the TA20 to conform to a bewildering set of standards, including IPX8 waterproofing, MIL-STD-810F METHOD 516.5 SHOCK damage resistance and IP5X dust proofing. In layman’s terms, this means it can withstand a depth of 3m underwater, a fall from 1.5m onto a wooden surface, and it’s completely impervious to dust ingress.