To indicate this is a different model to the TM300, the TM350 comes with a slate grey exterior rather than black. But otherwise it is identical, and this is no bad thing as the earlier model was already tremendously well endowed with features. In particular, Panasonic is now the only manufacturer integrating a lens ring into its consumer camcorders, although Canon’s LEGRIA HF S10 offers a handy knob for similar functionality. In auto mode, the TM350’s lens ring provides another, more easily controlled method for operating the zoom, allowing you to switch between different zoom factors more accurately. Press the function mode button on the side of the camcorder, however, and the ring converts to operating manual focus. There’s an assist function as well, which magnifies the centre of the frame so you can get a sharper picture more easily.
Unfortunately, the lens ring’s functions don’t extend to other manual settings, as they did with the HDC-HS100 and SD100. Instead, these are performed via the touchscreen LCD, unless you are using the viewfinder, when the lens ring still performs these adjustments. The only discreet buttons are for toggling the image stabilisation, Pre-REC video buffering function, and Intelligent Auto mode. The latter is Panasonic’s automated system for recognising conditions and setting the camcorder accordingly. For example, if human faces are found, the face detection system is enabled along with the Portrait scene mode, and the Low Light scene mode when illumination drops below a certain level.
The remainder of settings require navigation via the touchscreen, which is a little fiddly for adjusting shutter and iris. But at least these are not functions you will usually want to adjust continually during a shoot, unlike focus and zoom. The TM350 also offers Panasonic’s AFAE mode, which gives a little more control over focus and exposure without the need for fully manual adjustment, and is very similar to the system Sony has been offering for a few years now. Simply touch the reference point you wish to use within the frame. If the reference point is a face, AFAE and Face Detection will be allied, and this face will be tracked as it moves and the camcorder adjusted dynamically to keep it in focus and properly exposed.
Panasonic has included extra control buttons on the bottom edge of the LCD for triggering record and operating the zoom, which are a major boon when shooting two handed and holding the LCD to steady the camcorder.
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