As a sunburnt, beach-loving country it's no surprise that a whole range of waterproof camcorders are being released to cater to our every whim. Panasonic's HX-WA10 is a pistol-grip-style camcorder that can be submerged in water up to three metres for around one hour, and produces full HD videos as proof. It has a flip-out LCD screen that rotates around its axis and when closed. The screen covers the power, menu and selection buttons when it's shut.
As this is a waterproof camcorder, the buttons and flaps all need to be a little more rugged than those found on the WA10's land-dwelling counterparts. The battery flap slides down to reveal a slot for the rechargeable battery and, rather confusingly, another slot underneath; this is where the device's removable flash memory is stored (that's SD/SDHC or SDXC cards). Another one of these tricky flaps covers the ports for proprietary mini-USB and mini-HDMI connections. Thanks to its somewhat awkward configuration, smaller hands may find it difficult reaching around to the menu and playback buttons at the base, and the larger physical buttons at the top for recording video and still images. The zoom rocker (which reaches 5x optical and 12x digital) is nestled between these two silver buttons at the top.
On to shooting modes now, and the WA10 is quite well endowed for a waterproof camcorder, sporting Panasonic's own intelligent automatic mode (activated by a dedicated button) as well as a range of scene and colour modes. Should the mood take you, prepare to shoot footage in vivid, soft, soft & vivid, soft skin, monochrome or sepia colours. The WA10 also has a flash just underneath the lens that can be used for illuminating still images. The WA10 can record in 1920x1080 (60i or 30p), 1280x720 (60p or 30p), 960x540 (30p), 640x480 (30p) or voice recording.
For its size and considering its main purpose as an underwater camcorder, the video produced by the WA10 is very good. The electronic image stabilisation is a shame as it's not particularly suited to combating handshake — which is inevitable given the shooting configuration. Colour rendition and exposure when using the intelligent automatic mode is very good too, with little to no colour bleed visible. Still images at the 16-megapixel resolution are decent too. Though, as is the case with most camcorders, you'll want to use the images at a reduced resolution or for web display anyway.
One trait we did notice about the WA10's lens is that it tends to have difficulty autofocusing when zoomed in a fair way into the scene. You can see this in action in the video below. The 2.6-inch screen is decent for shooting outdoors and the big bonus is that it can be tilted to an angle that mitigates most of the ambient light reflection.
Underwater is where the WA10 comes into its own as the control buttons make more sense. The screen is easy enough to see below the surface of the water and all the seals stay closed, as they should. The WA10 shoots in MPEG-4 and takes JPEG stills. It can also take stills while recording HD video (though these are captured at 1920x1080 pixels).
The WA10 is one of the best waterproof camcorders we've tested, aside from its ergonomics. The HX-DC1 camcorder offers a similarly configured package for AU$299, without the waterproofing.