321 of 344 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
Arrived at Amazon August 17, arrived at my house August 19. Today is August 21, 2010.
Panasonic USA website still has this new camera on "Backorder" so Amazon seems to perhaps be the first place to have this! I placed a pre-order and have been waiting weeks for this . . .
What's in the box:
*USB "Extension Cord" About 40-inches long
*"AV" Cable about 4-feet long (composite Video-yellow connector, mono sound--white connector)
*Attachable hand strap
*Manual, misc. addenda, warranty/return survey
Stuff I wanted to know and could not find on web:
*(Real) Compatibility with IPAD--no direct support (the highly touted Apple iFrame capability means nothing as far as I can tell as to easily shooting video and directly bringing it into the IPAD). Of course moving any video into the IPAD is a big challenge. I own the Apple CCK Camera Connection Kit and was hoping this would allow me to plug the USB plug of the camera into this CCK adapter or the SD-card itself and import the video into the Apple photo app. I did easily get the still photos into the IPAD and it seems maybe the video too--but the video won't play (so how good is that). I believe this is because the high def 1920x1080P I was using at 12 Mbps (VBR) over exceeds the Apple allowable spec. (And it did not work with the iFrame content I shot at 960x540/30fps (approx 24 Mbps) (VBR). Perhaps if I had used the 640x480/30fps (approx 3 Mbps) (VBR) it would have worked--but who wants to save their precious moments in low def? (I believe the IPAD max bit rate is limited to 5 Mbps in the published spec). But don't dismay, here is the workaround: you can watch your videos on the IPAD (at the highest quality setting) by bringing them in through iTunes, directly into the GoodReader app (you can buy on iTunes). It's a fairly hidden capability of GoodReader (probably not to upset Apple too much)--but GoodReader allows you to play videos AND at higher resolutions and bit speeds than the Apple specs . . . but shhhhh, don't tell anyone, don't think we are supposed to know this. I was also able to import the video into iMovie and FCP 7.
[Addition Aug 28, 2010: Been using the above GoodReader technique on my vacation. It works, but is not perfect. There is an occasional stutter. If you demand perfect, stutter-free video on the IPAD, you will need to transcode the 1080P content to an IPAD compatible resolution/bit rate, then bring it into the Video area of the IPAD.]
*How long can your really shoot--apparently the references to 29min 59 sec (startlingly low) are the "single clip" time. Once you click stop, you seem to be able to continue to shoot (perhaps a total of 45 minutes as described in the manual)
[Addition Aug 28, 2010: The battery MUST be charged in the camera hooked up to a PC. Purchased a USB car cigarette charger for my road trip and it does not work. Also purchased an iGo portable USB charger and it did not work. Confirmed with Panasonic Tech Support you MUST charge the battery connected to a computer. If you choose to experiment with other in-camera charging techniques and the battery starts showing weird amounts of power in the on-screen meter, you will need to pull the battery out of the camera and wait 1 minute for it to sorta reset--before trying again.]
[Addition Oct 21, 2010: See important new info below on a $13.38 knock-off battery available through Amazon . . .]
*The AV out (I believe is called mini-USB connector) is only composite--no higher def cables or instructions on using it for higher def.
*There is no external microphone jack
*There is no external earphone jack
*Lens has no screw threads for attaching other lenses (see Flip Ultra HD lens wide/macro hacks on net)
[Addition October 21, 2010: Purchased magnetic Wide Angle Conversion lens from Amazon seller New World Video Direct = Panasonic TA-1 (HM-TA1) 0.45x Wide Angle Lens (HD) Black Finish W/ Macro (Modification Style) Magnetic Type. $59.00 Worked great. See my review on its product page on Amazon. Includes magnetic rings which have peel-and-stick super glue of some kind.
*Manual does not reference any other accessories other than a spare battery and SD-type memory cards (what I still found today on the Panasonic website).
*UW Housing - I am still dying to know if Panasonic will offer a low cost underwater housing for scuba diving (100 ft.)--and as of today, there is no sign that this may be a future offering.
[Addition October 21, 2010: Discovered a cool looking Underwater Housing from Ikelite on Amazon $246.95. Have not purchased at this point. On the manufacturer's site they show you some cool looking tiny video lights which go with it.]
Ikelite Compact Video Underwater Housing for Panasonic HM-TA1 Camcorder
*Video quality is awesome--what I'd expect from Panasonic (I own a Panasonic AG-HMC150--the AVCHD camera the Indie film makers love) and I am sorta a novice wanna-be indie video maker (it sometimes seems almost comparable in quality to images from this $4K-ish camera). Although this mostly automatic camera has few adjustment options, if you optimize lighting and other conditions it looks great. Certainly acceptable for point-and-shoot video kinda stuff. I am hoping I can use it for risky camera shots in future productions, where the camera might get damaged--then use the clips in "higher grade" productions.
*Still pics--seem good. Have not done extensive still pic study/comparison, but some quick looks confirmed they seem very adequate.
*Sound quality--seems good. Again note the sound is mono.
*Simplicity--more buttons that a FLIP, but they are logical/straight forward.
*Design/build quality--disappointing for a Panasonic Camcorder. It has two user access doors: Battery/SD-card and USB connector ejector. Both are very "flimsy." They have what appears to be a thin rubber "string-like-thing" holding the door on. Now as I told my buddy, in the past on many devices these would break in a few days. But I've been noticing on more modern electronics, these are more frequently being used--but now seem to be made of higher-tech materials so they seem to not break. Time will tell. This is my biggest concern over the longevity of this device.
*EXPENSIVE BATTERY--This camera (of course) seems to have a proprietary and very expensive battery--almost half the price of the camera ($74.95 list on the Panasonic website VW-VBJ10)--this is plainly price gouging. Shame on you Panasonic. And the manual scares the heck out of you, if you are even thinking about a clone/equivalent battery (threats of potential explosions, etc.). I searched and searched for the closest equivalent, but when it arrive the specs seemed like a 98% match, but I am not an electrical engineer and afraid if I use this $14 battery I'll damage the camera.
[Addition August 28, 2010: According to Panasonic Tech Support you can purchase other equivalent batteries but they MUST be 3.6 V/940mAh. The charging time when connected to a PC is 4 h 10 min for "45 min actual recording time." If you plan to use it on a vacation where you shoot more than 45 minutes of video per day, you will probably need a second battery . . .]
[Addition October 21, 2010: Purchased from Amazon $13.38 Battery from by "Panasonic Digital Camera Battery" = "Battery King" and it worked great. 3.60V, 1000mAh, Li-ion.] http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B003N6O02W/ref=oss_product
[Addition October 21, 2010: Purchased from Amazon $28.00 Charger for above battery "Synergy", ships from and sold by Super Deal = Yan Kwong Leung and it worked great.]
*"Exposed" lens--The lens does not have any fancy barn doors to protect it, like many of the modern digital still cameras (wish it did). There may be some kind of protective glass over it--but this old fashion, perfectionist is nervous over this. I'd feel better if they would have at least had a protective lens cap.
*No lens hood capability(?)--I'd love to put some kind of lens hood over the lens to protect the lens from reflections/glare, but again, there does not seem to be provision to attach one. And yes I know this is a "low cost" camera.
*Software--Is preloaded into the Camera and is nothing impressive as far as facilitating the use of the video on mobile devices, etc. (transcoding/conversion, etc.)
The build quality of the Flip Ultra HD--far exceeds the quality of this device. The USB connector ejector slider should win the prize for "Best throwback to Plasticky Trash to come out of Japan since 1960." I am embarrassed for Panasonic. This is definitely the Panasonics equivalent to the Toyota debacle of 2010. Sliding this "slider" to pop-out the USB connector, inspires me to prayer every time I go to use it--I am terrified the slider itself will break off at the almost microscopic stem/mount.
The anti-shake feature was another concern--since the few of these style camcorders which seem to have it, have not implemented it very well. This seems to work ok, but I need to shoot more video with it. I also just bought a camera stabilizer for this camera--since I want rock steady shots and want to achieve some Hollywood crane/action style movement . . . check this out . . . had to buy it from the UK and it ended up costing more than the camera, but WOW this is soooo fun "Mini Motion-Cam" [...]
(You also need a special adapter piece for ultra light cameras . . .) I would expect that future reviewers will complain about the shakiness of their video from a small camcorder like this--ATTENTION, all video cameras need tripods if you want to shoot rock steady video. No small hand-held camcorder to my knowledge shoots rock steady shots, becasue our arms/hands move! So calibrate your expectations accordingly. (If you surf the web, you may find video shot on a Flip Ultra HD camera using a tripod--that had the production value/quality of a Hollywood/Indie production . . . the FLIP I believe produces 720P video--this does 1080P and the image is even better.)
My dream camera for this genre would feature two user selectable resolutions/ qualities. High to allow you to watch on a big screen TV and low for today's super small screen/mobile devices. They would both be shot in parallel, so the user would not have to convert/transcode for instant gratification on a mobile device. After all, isn't this camera a mobile device? It is sorta implied that these quick, point, shoot and watch cameras are all about this. "Fast watching."
Would recommend this camera to friends and family without reservations. It does provide very high value and fun. Gave this 4 out of 5 stars due to the flimsy feeling doors/design/build quality and the outrageously expensive proprietary battery.
[Addition Oct 21, 2010: I am loving this camera more and more. None of the cheesy looking doors have given me any problems. The sound is pretty good. I took it to work and recorded a telephone conference call with it, then later transcribed the audio track. It was great--worked like a mini digital audio recorder. Also used it in this mode to record a narration for another movie I made. Pretty good quality sound--not as good as using pro microphones on a PC, but good enough for home movies. I've also learned about how to work with the MP4 files in FCP 7 Apple Final Cut Pro for editing. The MP4 files must be transcoded from the MP4 "capture codec" to Apple ProRes 422 (LT) "editing codec." Then, once you finish editing, you need to transcode again, back to an "output codec" (e.g. something which you can burn to a DVD or Blu-Ray disk, etc. I created a "Droplet" using Apple Compressor and now just drop my raw MP4 files onto it and it converts it to ProRes 422 (LT). Using the correct file format will save you from stuttering and hair pulling. And please use all video cameras on a tripod, hand-holding even with anti-shake still makes most people dizzy.]
159 of 175 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
Much lighter than I thought comparing with my old FLIP. I really love this color and compact design!
Powerful 4x digital zoom and LED light work perfectly when needed.
I took a sample video using 1280x720/30 fps mode and edited two files using software built-in for you. Even without selecting the highest quality 1920x1080 mode (Full HD) in this camcorder, you can see the video quality is amazing!
58 of 63 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
Vine Customer Review of Free Product
I have been wanting a video camera for years to record and share performances and shows. Many of my friends have the Flip UltraHD Video Camera - Black, 8 GB, 2 Hours (3rd Generation) NEWEST MODEL and I was excited to compare the two cameras. When I finally got my camera, I was disappointed to discover that I had to buy a specific kind of memory card to go with it (I purchased the Transcend 16GB Class 10 SDHC Card (TS16GSDHC10)). This would be slightly annoying after already paying so much for the camera itself. Incidentally, there is no clear indication on the product page that a card HAS to be purchased (unlike with the Flip camera that comes with 8 GB memory in the camera already) or suggestions for someone like me who isn't that familiar with memory cards on which type is best to buy BEFORE you get the product home. So -- without that memory card, the camera cannot be used directly out of the box.
When I was finally able to start playing around with the camera I found that it was a bit more complicated than the Flip, however Panasonic's buttons are clearly labeled and it is easy for anyone with some technical knowledge to use. As for the filming quality, for everyday filming the picture is very clear but when filming with bright stage lighting, the figures appear a bit washed out and fuzzy. I did notice that the Panasonic camera did a have a slightly higher video quality than the Flip.
Overall I am very happy with this camera -- it is small, has full HD, is easy to use, has a flashlight on the front, small but clear viewing screen and decent on camera volume. It is capable of taking both videos and pictures. It also has YouTube, Facebook, and Skype interfaces. A nice extra touch would have been if the product had come with a felt bag or protective case of some kind.
28 of 30 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
Vine Customer Review of Free Product
Rather than write a review right away, I decided to spend my time with my three little minivideo recorders (Flip minoHD, Panasonic HM-TA1, Flip ultraHD) and put them through the paces. Indoors, outdoors, dim lighting, bright, sunset, walking, driving, kids. It was fun.
The Flips are 720p video only recorders whereas the Panasonic is a 1080p video recorder & camera.
I thought all the cameras had their niches to fill. The older mino Flip is the most stylish and best built body of the three, though with the least picture quality. The ultra HD had very good PQ and the ability to use 3 AAA batts as backup (good for travellers). The Panasonic had the best resolution and most customization features of the three and a camera to boot.
The camera stills were okay - really best when outdoors with plenty of light. Fairly grainy, maybe blurry, when indoors. So while it is EXTREMELY convenient to have the ability to do video and stills in one device, the camera function should be a small consideration when deciding to purchase the Panasonic.
The videos themselves were pretty good when used outdoors, indoors, and even when outdoors at night I could get some passable shots with the built-in LED light (nice touch). The TA-1 also allows you to select 16:9 or 4:3 ratios & 1080p, 720p, 480p, iFrame, all at 30 fps.
I think for no-thought-to-use simplicity, the Flip ultraHD is probably the better choice. But if you're more willing to deal with a few more buttons and want a camera too, the Panasonic should be at the top of your consideration.
19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
Vine Customer Review of Free Product
This is a slick little modern marvel. It is so easy to use, you hardly need the instructions. It does not come with a card and uses a SDHC, not the standard SD (for video), but they don't cost much. I purchased a 8GB card and that is enough for over 1.4 hours of recording and playback. The card will set you back another $13, about the price of one HDV tape. It is far from being the best camcorder on Earth, but what do you expect for $170? It's great!
I use Mac and was easily able to drag the files into Final Cut Pro, it also will import it's files into FCP Express and IMovie. No capture at real time, just drag the file in. Editing it was easy too, slick! The quality of the video was better than HDV with limitations. The main thing I noticed was the need for tripod use, and yes the little baby has a tripod screw. Handheld movement is impossible to eliminate, and the playback seemed to amplify this movement with almost a image distortion. If you use a tripod, the image is amazing, truly amazing! The audio is okay, again, what do you expect for this price? It is not hi fi, it's ACC or MP3 quality, certainly acceptable if careful. There is actually some software in the camera for PC use, I don't need it, but it's there...I would not expect it to be fantastic. It loads with the built-in USB connection. The camera charges with the same USB connection, or even a low priced USB AC powered hub (I discovered).
This little camera can obviously go anywhere with great results if you use common sense, tripod, and imagination. It is not a professional camera, but it is not a toy either. It is not packed wit features and everything is done automatically. The white balance and color is fantastic and automatic - no override. The audio has a gain boost - no override. It is $170, hey, but you get a lot for that money! You, with effort, could actually shoot some pretty terrific video with this, can comparable with high end cameras. I have worked with corporate video for a number of years and I find this worthy of serious use, within the limits of knowing what you are doing. It could also be used by a 12 year old if you teach them the basics of being steady with it. It was a lot of fun and I was blown away with the results. It needs that tripod though, this I can not stress enough. I love the little thing! What fun to own. Thumbs up for fun. I give it 5 stars because it's something I will use, knowing it is not professional, it's still darn good for many things.