Panasonic appears to be covering all bases. The company has a camcorder in pretty much every format and type, with the HX-WA10 spearheading its upright options. It's the waterproof member of the range, with non-waterproof options also available. But it has a few other surprises in store as well.
This is very much a format that sits in between the pocket Internet camcorder and conventional 'Handycam' style models. So it has features somewhere in between as well. Panasonic calls this a Dual Camera, because it's also aimed at shooting still images reasonably well. As such, the WA10 comes equipped with a sizeable 1/2.3in CMOS, with an effective 11Mpixels whether capturing video or stills. The sensor also features back-side illumination technology, where the wiring is located behind the CMOS pixels rather than in front of them, allowing a greater amount of light in, thereby boosting sensitivity. We've universally been impressed with the benefits of this technology, so it's very welcome here.
Some pocket Internet camcorders, such as Kodak's PLAYSPORT Zx3, have similarly sized sensors. But one feature none of them has is an optical zoom, and Panasonic's HX-WA10 offers a modest but still useful 5x factor. Panasonic also takes advantage of the extra pixels on the sensor to provide a 12x advanced zoom. This crops into the CMOS frame rather than blowing the image up, so in theory preserves resolution, although you're still shooting with a reduced area, so light sensitivity will be affected. However, the 60i and 60p modes can only benefit from 6x Advanced Zoom, and you can't use it all when shooting video.
With its upright format, the WA10 is intended to be held a bit like a gun. However, you don't operate it using your index finger. Instead, the primary functions are accessed using your thumb and an array of buttons on the back behind the lens. Here, you can trigger video recording and take a picture. In between these buttons is a zoom rocker, and beneath a button for toggling the Intelligent Auto mode. The latter detects shooting conditions and attempts to set scene modes accordingly, for example enabling Low Light in poor illumination, and Portrait when it picks up a face. Yes, there's face detection on hand here, too, which will set focus and exposure according to any human face found in the frame. There's image stabilisation, too, although only of the electronic variety.