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Panasonic HM-TA1 review:

Panasonic HM-TA1

One of the few extra features of the TA1 is that it can be used as a Webcam at 640x480, 320x240, and 160x120 resolutions. Panasonic uses Skype support as a selling point, but the software isn't embedded on the device; you'll need to download it separately from Skype. Also, the device can't stand on its own, especially when connected to a computer, so you'll need a support and something to angle it upward if you're using it on a desk.

HD Writer PE 1.0 software
The embedded software on the Panasonic HM-TA1 is mediocre in usability and features compared with software on competing minicamcorders. (View larger.)

A big part of why pocket video cameras are popular is the embedded editing and sharing software that makes getting clips off the device and onto video-sharing sites easy. Panasonic's Windows-only software is called HD Writer PE 1.0 and is basically an off-the-shelf package. It does the bare minimum of things such as organizing and simple editing, and playback and sharing is limited to YouTube or Facebook. (However, once a clip is uploaded, you can choose to attach the link to an e-mail.) The interface is boring and uses words like "Execute" instead of "Start upload." Overall, it's just a less-than-thrilling experience that makes sharing seem more like a chore.

The video quality and overall performance, on the other hand, are very good from the TA1. At 1080p and 720p resolutions, the movies are enjoyable to watch and good enough to be viewed on a large HDTV. Colors are bright and vivid and exposure is accurate. The electronic image stabilization seems to help keep video smooth with little visible judder when panning. And subjects appear sharp, but not oversharpened. Low-light video isn't as good, with a lot of noise and yellow blotching. (This is similar to the low-light processing we've seen in Panasonic's still cameras.) A built-in LED light in front can help illuminate dimly lit scenes, but it's really only OK for about 2 feet in front of the camera despite being blindingly bright. There is a 4x digital zoom should you want to use it, but it does degrade video quality. Lastly, Panasonic includes the capability to shoot in black and white and sepia, as well as apply skin softening with nice-looking results.

If the most important things to you are video quality and a small body, the Panasonic HM-TA1 is a fine choice. However, there are models from other manufacturers that offer more features and similar video quality for the same or less money.

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