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Panasonic debuts flash HD camcorders

Panasonic's latest flash-based models serve up just a few changes from their predecessors.

Though announced a few weeks ago overseas, Panasonic now thinks the time is right to allow its newest camcorders to grace American soil. The AVCHD HDC-TM10 and SD10 replace their older siblings, the TM20 and SD20 at the same prices, with a couple of improvements. (The hard-disk-based HDC-HS20 remains in the lineup.)

For one, the TM10/SD10 eschews the unnecessary 5.1 surround audio in favor of a more basic stereo mic system. The new models also switch from a Leica to a Panasonic lens, though they're still 16x zooms. The lens does incorporate Panasonic's new Active optical image stabilization, which is designed to compensate for additonal vibration incurred while walking and other secondary motion. Finally, as is typical, the newer models are a bit lighter and more compact than the older ones.

I don't know if the new lens is significantly better than the old, but chances are the camcorders will be relatively similar. That means if you can find a bargain on the current models, it's probably worth the savings rather than waiting for the new ones.

As with the 20 series, the TM10 and SD10 differ from each other only by internal memory; the TM has 16GB built-in, and the SD models have none. The prices will remain unchanged, however, when they ship in September; $549.95 for the HDC-SD10 and $599.95 for the HDC-TM10. The TM10 will be available in black and silver models, and the SD10 will be basic black.