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Panasonic HM-TA1 HD camcorder

Author: Kelvyn Taylor
Date: Wed, 24 Nov 2010 17:20:00 GMT

A pocket-sized HD video camera that’s also a Skype webcam

Not much larger than a mobile phone, the HM-TA1 is a video camera that records high-definition video at the 1080p resolution.

At the rear is a small but bright 5cm screen, below which are buttons for record, playback, snapshot and delete, plus one to activate the small light. There’s also a four-way dial and button for operating the menu, zoom and fast forward/rewind functions.

These sensitive buttons are flush with the case and easy to press accidentally, which made it annoying to navigate the menu or review recordings in poor lighting.

Videos are stored on an SD, SDHC or SDXC memory card (not supplied), which fits with the rechargeable battery under a flap on one side. On the other is the pop-out USB connector. This is a bit of a Heath Robinson affair, with a stiff sliding lever to press and push.

Above the USB flap is another for the audio/video output, which uses a composite video connection so you can’t play back high-definition videos on the TV, although you can use it to monitor videos while recording.

Very basic editing software is stored on the camera so that it can be installed when you plug the camera into a PC. It’s quirky, but it allows users to upload videos direct to Youtube or Facebook.

Video quality was excellent in daylight, but in darker situations the light didn’t help much. The wide-angle lens excels at close range, giving sharp images 10cm away. Image stabilisation is included, but using the zoom made videos grainy. A microphone and tiny speaker are built in, but playback volume was very low. There are four video effects to use during recording but they added little.

It did take decent still photos in good light, and when plugged into a computer it can be used as a webcam for Skype, though not in high-definition.

Pricier rivals such as the Kodak Zi10 offer more features, but at the time of our review some online stores were selling the HM-TA1 for well below its recommended price, which would make it much more attractive.

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