The box also includes a wrist strap and mini tripod. However, the battery is fully enclosed within the camcorder chassis, and can’t be removed. Amazingly, though, Panasonic has still managed to shoehorn a pop-out USB plug into the TA20 – a feat we’ve not seen in any other waterproof pocket Internet models. It lurks behind one of the sealed doors, with a little button triggering its release. You can then plug the TA20 directly into a computer, although an extension cable is also included. Under further doors can be found mini HDMI and a headphone minijack.
As always with a camcorder in this class, there’s editing software built right into the device itself, which installs on a host system when you first attach the TA20 via USB. This is HD Writer PE 2.0, which offers simple facilities to copy video from the device to your computer, and upload files to YouTube and Facebook. But it also lets you trim clips, place them in a sequence, add titles and transitions, and then output the results. However, HD Writer PE 2.0 is only compatible with Windows, and no Mac software is supplied.
With its reasonably sized sensor, the TA20 provides the level of video performance we’ve come to expect from pocket Internet camcorders – in other words, better than the price implies. There’s a good level of detail and colour is quite saturated but not inaccurate. Performance in poor illumination is also commendable. It’s not the best we’ve ever seen, but the low light mode gives the brightness a boost without obvious sign of grain. The TA20 performs well enough underwater, although there’s no filter available to counteract colour shift so the camcorder has to rely on its automatic white balance.
Taken purely as a pocket Internet camcorder, Panasonic’s HM-TA20 is decidedly average. It shoots decent video, but apart from the built-in video light it doesn’t have a particularly class-leading feature set. It’s a different story when the headline features of waterproofing and shock resistance are taken into account. In this respect, the TA20 is clearly top of the pack, with the most confidence-inspiring locking mechanisms on the market, belying its budget pricing. So if you’re just after a pocket Internet camcorder, there may be alternatives with more fun creative options available, such as Sony’s Bloggie Touch MHS-TS20K. But if you specifically want a camcorder that can take a licking and keep on clicking, the Panasonic HM-TA20 should be top of your list.