The fall of the Flip has taken the wind out of the pocket Internet camcorder genre. But if you just want a cheap shooter you can slip into your jacket or trousers and not worry too much about, this format is still a valid choice. The concept makes even more sense if you throw in a bit of resilience to the elements, because then you really can take the camcorder wherever you like. Sanyo was an early adopter with the Xacti VPC-WH1, and JVC followed suit with the PICSIO GC-WP10A. Since then, we’ve had Kodak’s PLAYSPORT Zx3 and Zx5. But the granddaddy of toughness is Panasonic, and its latest entry into the market is the HM-TA20.
The specifications of the TA20 aren’t that groundbreaking, however. It’s based around a 1/4.1in CMOS with a gross 5.33Mpixels, which is fairly par for the course for a pocket Internet camcorder. Video is recorded at Full HD, 720p, VGA or iFrame resolution, the latter being the quarter-Full HD (960 x 540) format aimed at Mac compatibility. However, all of these operate at 30 frames/sec. The TA20 doesn’t offer a 60 frames/sec option for smoother motion. Digital photography is also available, with VGA and 8Mpixel options, plus both standard aspect and widescreen 2Mpixel choices. Finally, you can use the TA20 as a digital voice recorder, with a range of format options on offer.
All the TA20’s functions are accessed via a 3in touch-sensitive LCD, which uses resistive technology and isn’t the most responsive we’ve come across. It still offers more menu space than Kodak’s Zx3 and Zx5, making it a little easier to operate. Unfortunately, though, the range of settings isn’t so extensive, with no direct control over exposure or microphone level, unlike the Kodak competition. You get a 4x zoom, but it’s only digital, so reduces resolution when used. There is a small selection of digital effects available, including black and white, sepia tone, and soft skin. You can also manually enable low light mode and the built-in LED video light.