Panasonic has joined the pocket camcorder party with this stylish little number. But do you need it in the age of HD-shooting smartphones?
The HM-TA1’s lens brings to mind the murderous HAL 9000 computer from 2001: A Space Odyssey, but it means you no harm.
Rather, it’s looking to elbow its way past the Flip Mino HD and Kodak PlaySport into the overcrowded pocket camcorder scene and attract some attention.
Its specs certainly give it a fighting chance. With a 2in screen, f2.8 lens and slide-out USB connector it’s got the basics in place, while its 5.33MP CMOS gives it a significant advantage in raw pixel count over the pocket market’s pack leader.
The TA1 also offers a Skype webcam mode, a builtin video light, YouTube uploading and four different video resolutions ranging from Full HD at 1920x1080p at 30fps, down to the rarely seen Apple iFrame standard of 960x540. Stills can be shot at four resolutions between 3264x2448 and 640x480.
While the specifications and features are among the most impressive in the pocket-portable market, the TA1’s build quality is slightly less reassuring.
The toybox feel of the camcorder’s plastic chassis is matched by the loose feel of some of the terminal covers.
We’d definitely recommend using the supplied USB extension cable, as the TA1’s built-in USB slider was pulled out of true simply by being left plugged into a USB socket to charge, and required a surprising amount of force to return it to its housing. We’d also like to have seen an HDMI output.
The TA1 also offers slightly mixed performance. The mono-mic’s sound pickup is sharp, loud and very clear, but the TA1 suffers from the common MPEG problem of dealing with subject movement far better than it deals with camera movement.
Pans and walking shots stutter and suffer slightly from smears and artefacting. When shooting from a stationary position, however, the TA1’s strengths show through in its excellent fine-detail pickup and gorgeous colour reproduction, all lively reds and blues that burst off the screen but don’t ever bleed or float.
Panasonic HM-TA1 review
Colours and Skype mode impress, but the poor build quality and difficulties with movement reduce this to an also-ran