1/4.1in CMOS sensor, 1,920x1,080, 1,280x720, 640x480, 960x540 (iFrame), 0.0x zoom, 100g
With Sony and Samsung already having failed to outperform Flip’s UltraHD and MinoHD models, it was inevitable that Panasonic would also try its hand in the mini camcorder market. We’re very keen on the company’s full-sized camcorders, so we had high hopes for its 1080p-capable HM-TA1.
Our review sample was a bright metallic blue, but it’s also available in black, violet and white. It’s a slender device, being around the same size as the compact Flip MinoHD. Build quality and design don’t live up to Flip’s high standards, however.
The all-plastic casing isn’t nearly as stylish as the Mino’s brushed metal. The numerous buttons lack feedback, and the power button wiggles about – though it’s just as fast to turn on as the Flip HDs. Panasonic has also opted for plastic flaps on the sides to cover the ports, battery and memory card slots – which makes the whole thing feel less sturdy. The MinoHD has a built-in battery and memory and the UltraHD tucks its battery well out of sight beneath the front casing itself – and why not, as you’ll rarely need to change the rechargeable battery.
Another complaint is with the awkward USB connector. A stiff slider on the bottom of the HM-TA1 must be pushed in and then across, this shoves the connector out through another flap, which then dangles off the camcorder. It’s not neat or easy to use, and pales in comparison to the satisfying flick-out connectors on the Flip models.
Another notably absent feature is HDMI, with only an AV output for watching footage back directly on your TV in low-quality standard definition. We’re guessing that Panasonic thinks you’ll be editing your footage, or uploading it, or possibly that you have a Panasonic TV with an SD card slot.
Using an SD card for storage does have its advantages, especially in terms of capacity. A 16GB SDHC card will hold approximately two hours and 45 minutes of 1080p video, around an hour more than the built-in storage of the 720p-only MinoHD. However, if you need to buy such a card, then it adds around £20 to the overall cost.