Panasonic has launched some compact camcorders designed for young tearaways who want to make totally gnarly outdoors videos. We recently got our hands the ruggedised HM-TA20 and HM-WA10 and have the photos to prove it. We also got our mitts on the non-rugged HX-DC1.
The TA20 has the same form factor as Flip Video's mini-camcorders, so it will slip into your pocket without any bother. Similarly, it has a built-in USB connector -- so you can easily plug it into a computer -- as well a distinct lack of buttons, since it's operated primarily via its touchscreen. It's also possible to use the TA20 as a USB webcam too, which is quite handy.
Like the other two camcorders, the TA20 shoots 1080i video. It's waterproof down to 3m, shockproof from heights of up to 1.5m, and dustproof too. It records in the MPEG-4 AVC format, so it's compatible with plenty of online services and should prove popular with budding film makers.
If you need to shoot in very low light, you can drop the camera's frame rate from 30 frames per second down to 15fps, although this will sacrifice smooth motion capture. A mini tripod is also included, which should help narcissists shoot themselves with relative ease, and assist with recording those 'Leave X alone' videos that are so popular on YouTube.
The DC1 and WA10 take their design cue from Sanyo's Xacti camcorder range, which isn't surprising, as Panasonic owns a large percentage of that company. We're not complaining anyway -- the pistol grip design works well and allows for a sturdy grip.
If water-based activities are your bag, then you'll be pleased to know that the WA10 can be submerged in up to 3m of the wet stuff for as long as 60 minutes at a time. You'll need to give it a breather between sessions, though. Panasonic says 10 minutes should be enough.
The WA10 has something called 'backside illumination' built-in. That feature is intended to improve the camcorder's low-light shooting capability, as well as being unintentionally humorous. We'll see how effective it is when we get the WA10 in for review.
The DC1 is a pretty basic camcorder. It records in the MP4 format, can take 14-megapixel stills and has a 3-inch LCD screen. We reckon it might be just the ticket for young tykes.
Pricing and availability for all three camcorders is yet to be announced. Stay tuned for reviews of these gadgets soon.