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Simple is not always simpler!
I knew little about this piece of technology (the Panasonic HM-TA1.) before I laid eyes and hands on the actual gear itself so, in my usual gung ho approach, I tapped the little power button, pressed a few appropriate buttons and shot some movies and stills.
Did I get what I wanted? Not exactly. But after a five minute read of the instruction book I wrapped my tiny mind around how it actually works.
The Lumix TA1 is really quite simple to use and very powerful in what it can do: it’s sized like a mobile phone; it captures 3264×2448 pixel JPEG stills, large enough to make 28x21cm prints; it can shoot Full HD 1920×1080 pixel video with sound in MPEG4.
And there’s more: it has an inbuilt USB terminal so you can upload directly to YouTube, Facebook, Flickr or similar; the TA1 is also compatible with Apple’s iFrame video format (960×540 pixels/30 fps; it can be used with Skype’s IP phone service, becoming a Web camera for free Skype-based video calls.
One thing you can’t do: capture stills while shooting video … but you can later extract and store individual frames from a video sequence while in replay mode, as in the example above. Simple huh!
The camera is delightful to use: it’s small, easy to figure out the controls; when shooting movies it takes care of variations in exposure and auto focus. There are three video effect modes: B&W, sepia and soft skin mode.
There’s a USB terminal in the bottom of the TA1. This retracts into the camera body when not in use. Simply slide out the terminal and plug it into your computer’s USB port.
The camera appears to use an electronic image stabiliser but I could detect no quality loss, so I guess it’s using excess area in the sensor to steady the image. Works for me!
There’s no flash but instead an LED light source is built into the camera’s front, just beside the lens that can illuminate movies or stills. I found this a bit questionable: some shots of a PNG mask taken in total darkness at a distance of one metre showed underexposure and (after adjusting levels) substantial colour noise, as shown in the corrected shot above. As the LED light is close to the lens it can easily wash out the subject too!
Windows users will relish the built-in software — HD Writer PE 1.0 — which can directly upload video clips to YouTube, Facebook etc without having to launch a browser.
Quality: this camera can take surprisingly good images, when used with care. Although you have to forgo a zoom and there’s no ISO adjustment, it’s surprising how easily you can manage.
My message is: shoot movies all the time and extract still frames before you download the memory card’s contents. This way you get pretty neat 1920×1080 pixel stills.
Three colours: gunmetal grey, brick red and white.
Why you’d buy it: it’s small and delightful; you want Full HD movie shooting plus easy Internet connectability.
Why you wouldn’t: no zoom.
Image Sensor: 5.33 million effective pixels.
Metering: Not stated.
Sensor Size: 6.4mm MOS.
Lens: f2.8/4.1mm. 4x digital zoom.
Shutter Speed: Not stated.
Memory: SD, SDHC, SDXC.
Image Sizes (pixels): 3648×2736 to 640×480. Movies: 1920×1080, 1280×720, 640×480, 320×240 at 30 fps.
File Formats: JPEG, MPEG4.
Minimum Illumination Required: 12 lux.
Viewfinder: 5.08cm LCD screen (153,000 pixels).
Interface: USB 2.0, AV.
Power: Rechargeable lithium ion battery.
Dimensions: 53x104x17.83 WHDmm.
Weight: Approx. 93 g (body only).
Price: Get a price on the Panasonic HM-TA1 at Amazon..