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Panasonic HM-TA1 Mobile Camera Review

Panasonic’s new HM-TA1 is a Full HD camcorder that fits in your pocket. Stickers on the device proclaim bear the Facebook logo, and proclaim that it’s ‘YouTube-ready’.

A third one encourages users to ‘Chat with Skype’. Add the fact that it doubles as a reasonably-specced still camera, and software for uploading photos and video to your favourite social network sites, and it’s clear that this is a camera aimed at the Web 2.0 generation.

At least, that’s the theory. But where many users will be busily uploading photos and updating their Facebook status using their mobile phones, Panasonic HM-TA1 will have to wait till they can plug it into a PC. Still, how many mobiles do you know that shoot genuine 1080p video – especially at this price?

Out of the box the camera looks shiny and flash, but feels a bit plasticky. The device itself is about the same size as a mobile phone. Pop-out flaps covering the memory card slot and battery seem rather flimsy, and feel as if they may break off in time.

Our biggest gripe, though, is with the full-size USB plug that pops out of the side of the device when a slider is pushed. It avoids you having to carry around a USB cable, but feels rather awkward and wobbly. The large buttons around the edges of the camera also gave us a little bother, being rather too easy to press.

This led to us accidentally switching the thing off more than once, as well as taking a few pictures when we didn’t mean to. On the plus side, the 2in LCD display is bright, clear and responsive. We may not have been impressed by every aspect of its design – but the HM-TA1’s specs certainly had us pleased.

Unlike some portable devices, with this camera, ‘HD’ means ‘proper’ Full HD. It boasts the ability to shoot 1080p video at 30 frames per second (fps), as well as a native ‘iFrame’ resolution capture for those who use Apple’s video editing software.

In addition, the camera takes eight megapixel still pictures – although these are interpolated from the camera’s native resolution of 2.1 megapixels. For those who need one, the HM-TA1 doubles as a webcam that you can use for videoconferencing among other things (which is where that Skype sticker comes in).

Video quality is very good – crisp, clear and full of detail. It handled a wide range of shooting environments, exposing detail in both bright and dark scenes.

You’ll need a steady hand, though – there’s no real image stabilisation on the HM-TA1, and if you’re not careful footage can come out looking a little wobbly. The camera has no built-in flash, but it does have a ‘torch’ light that makes some night-time filming possible.

Still pictures were decent, but not up to the standard of the camera’s video output. Still pictures fared well in normal conditions, and brought out some detail in shadowy scenes - but overall quality was on a par with that of a decent modern mobile phone, rather than a dedicated compact digital camera.

The only zoom available is a 4x digital type which, unlike a ‘proper’ optical zoom, simply enlarges the image without adding any detail. Results using this were predictably poor.

Claimed battery life when recording video is a decent enough 115 minutes, though at 1080p, you can only shoot continuously for up to 30 minutes. The camera accepts SD cards of up to 64GB, providing enough room for up to 10 hours 20 minutes of footage.

In spite of the camera’s promised simplicity, you’ll have to go through several menus in the bundled HD Writer PE 1.0 software suite to upload photos or video to your favourite social network.

Still, there’s nothing to stop you removing the SD card and using a flash memory card reader. It’s a shame the software only allows you upload images to YouTube and Facebook, and not other sites like LinkedIn, Tumblr or Flickr.

That said, the Panasonic still has it where it counts – video quality. While we weren’t blown away by its still pictures - or the promised social network integration - the ability to shoot classy full HD makes Panasonic’s HM-TA1 worth its £149 asking price.

This review about the Panasonic HM-TA1 was originally published on