Panasonic HM-TA20 review
Pocket video cameras were all the rage a year or so ago, but the ubiquity of smartphones able to record HD footage has seriously eroded their appeal. Panasonic is hoping to reinvigorate consumer interest with the addition of a touchscreen and a rugged design.
Panasonic certainly has the track record to pull it off. Its Toughbook laptops have long been favourites of workers who need computing power in the field, and the HM-TA20 looks to have benefited from this experience.
Available in a bright, anodised blue or orange finish, the HM-TA20 feels solidly made. In typical rugged fashion, there are exposed screwheads, dramatically chamfered edges and, around the sides, a scattering of lockable, sealed flaps that allow the camera to be submerged in up to 3m of water - great fun at the beach. Even the pop-out USB arm is sealed away, and it's shockproof too.
The camera shoots 1080p video at 30fps, and there's even an LED video light next to the lens. Turn on the HM-TA20, however, and the positive first impressions quickly dissipate. The camera's user interface is cluttered and poorly designed, with large, clip-art style graphics. The software, stored onboard, isn't much better. Although it offers plenty of power, it's ugly and isn't easy to use.
The 3in touchscreen uses cheap resistive technology, which isn't particularly responsive. The integrated rechargeable lithium ion battery stops charging when you put it in “PC” mode (to transfer pictures and video) and there’s no built-storage – you have to supply your own SD card.
Quality makes up for this to some degree, with excellent results in good light. There's plenty of detail and footage looks more crisp than that of the Sony Bloggie Touch - our current favourite pocket video camera. In low light the difference is less marked, with grainy, but not murky shots the order of the day.
Where it really loses out to the Sony Bloggie, however, is in frame rates: drop to 720p and the Bloggie will shoot at up to 60fps for smooth panning and action shots; the Panasonic, on the other hand, remains steadfastly stuck on 30fps. We found the electronic image stabilisation to be less effective too.
Video quality may be good then, and the waterproofing is certainly a fun feature, but the Sony Bloggie Touch – with its bundled 360-degree lens, better software, superior stabilisation and smoother motion capture at lower resolutions – makes it look rather ordinary.
Author: Jonathan Bray
Resistive screen issue
Isn't that the only option on an underwater camera though? I admit that doesn't excuse the other flaws but that particular design choice is unavoidable.
By mistersaxn on 9 Jun 2011
A Godsend for Parents
I think you've underplayed the importance of this. As a parent of young children I've been waiting for one of these for years. Parents will know that kids are never happier than in the pool or on the beach and they tend to like to grab the camera off you at any opportunity, smear it with ice cream and then promptly drop it. This will be a big seller and I definitely want one!
By Chris_M on 10 Jun 2011
Missing the point?
Listening to the podcast I think you missed the point. We have a waterproof Sony camera. We don't use it underwtaer, but knowing we can use it on the beach or round the pool without having to worry about getting it wet is a big plus. We also don't have to worry about getting sand in it, as it's sealed. We were in the Caribbean at Xmas, and got lots of great photos in and out of the the waves!
By DJ2003 on 10 Jun 2011
Missing the point 2
Why do reviewers always think waterproof equals submerged?
My family and I love the great outdoors and having a video camera that can be used up a mountain in horizontal rain, on a soggy dog walk or in a kayak is a HUGE advantageand us it can be rinsed under the tap to clean it afterwards.
Being less extreme I can see many using it for recording water rides at theme parks or of course on the beach where the sand and salt can be simply washed off when back home.
Try any of that with the Sony and see how long it lasts.
I want one.
By Hamster on 16 Jun 2011
Price on Amazon has now gone up from £150 to £180.
Must be popular!
By Chris_M on 20 Jun 2011
- Second NatWest outage in a week after DDoS attack
- Ex-Microsoft exec Paul Maritz "too old" to do Ballmer's job
- Microsoft patches TIFF flaw in next Patch Tuesday
- HP builds Leap Motion into keyboards
- Spotify expected to offer mobile music for free
- Briton sues Microsoft over NSA data spying
- Microsoft takes down $2.7m click-fraud botnet
- 3D printed guns worth ten years in jail
- Government unveils £10m for "innovative" broadband, but quiet about last fund's fate
- Why teachers shouldn't be nervous about shift to coding
- Tech City: Easy to score when you move the goalposts
- How to remove SkyDrive from the Windows 8.1 Explorer
- Switching from iPhone to Android? Switch off iMessage
- Why is Google pumping more money into Firefox?
- Sky Broadband Shield review
- Samsung Galaxy S4: how to double your battery life
- Motorola Moto G review: first look
- IBM Watson meets Willy Wonka
- Google’s support policies shove users towards Chrome
- Lenovo Yoga Tablet review: first look
- Closer to reality: photorealism in computer graphics
- Windows 8.1: Top 10 advanced features
- Securing the Internet of Things
- Internet of Things: five unlikely hacking risks
- Life behind the wall: censorship in China
- 42 best Android apps
- 3D museums that never close
- 29 best Windows 8.1 apps
- Bring an old PC up to speed
- My PC is infected: what now?
- The importance of load balancing
- Windows Phone App Studio: an easy way to create your first Windows Phone 8 app
- The end of Windows XP support: what it really means for businesses
- Don't rely on Chrome's password vault
- Using Buffer to manage your social media
- Microsoft needs its own Steve Jobs
- Forget credit cards: hackers want your Facebook account
- Can't get fast enough broadband? Here's what to do
- Leap Motion and the battle against UI stagnation
- How to build a really bad network
There are dozens of exciting prizes up for grabs on PC Pro Competitions. All our competitions are free to enter. Try your luck.ENTER NOW