The Panasonic tm-900 video camera arrived today, and thus far I am very impressed. This is a prosumer model, designed with pro-style features, but geared towards a consumer market. Generally, cameras in this class are more clumsy with the pro-features than the pro cameras as the assumption is that those features are used occasionally.
This camera is capable of 1080p filming as well as 1080i (1080p is not standard for cameras utilizing the AVCHD format). It has a Leica Dicomar lens, 3.5″ touchscreen LCD screen, and a viewfinder (which is unusual) that utilizes a small LCD screen allowing menus to be navigated through the viewfinder. It is also 3D capable with the purchase of an additional lens.
The main reason that we chose this camera is that is makes use of a ‘soft ring.’ This is a very user-friendly way to access those extra pro-features, like manual focus. Much like the buttons on a cell phone that change functions depending on what is on the screen, the soft ring that encircles the lens does different functions depending on what option is selected. This can be shutter speed, f-stop, focus or zoom. It can also be used to navigate menus (for example, when using the viewfinder). Thus far, this seems to work very well, with one caveat — make sure not to rub your finger on anything else when turning the ring as the friction will translate to sound.
To say that the software which came with the camera is unimpressive, would be generous. However, after playing with some other software packages, I managed to (relatively) quickly put together a passable short video complete with transitions and a separate audio track. An additional complaint — the battery life is a bit short at 60-90 minutes.
This camera is loaded with auto-modes for those looking for a great shot without a lot of fuss. It will automatically change scene modes, detect faces and smiles and adjust lighting to match, turn itself off if left on, pre-record 3 seconds of footage to ensure that you get the shot, stabilize your image, warn if you are moving too quickly, and a variety of other features to make shooting easier.
Some baby-specific features:
- The camera goes from standby to recording in .6 seconds by simply opening the LCD screen — great for capturing ‘firsts.’
- It has hybrid image stabilization, utilizing digital and optical stabilization to smooth out the image when laughing or tripping over toys.. Any kind of optical stabilization is unusual in this class.
- Low-light mode for filming the sleeping baby.
- Smile detection can be used to snap a photograph when the selected individual (baby) smiles.
Thus far, I would absolutely recommend this camera!