Friday, January 27, 2012

Panasonic TM900 - First Impressions

As I've written in earlier posts, I've been looking at camcorders to complement the high quality shallow depth of field video capabilities of the GH2 for "run & gun" quick reaction shooting.  I wanted:
  • bulletproof autofocus,
  • 1080 24p and 60p,
  • manual audio gain,
  • mic and headphone jacks,
  • 180 degree (forward facing) flip-out LCD,
  • power zoom and
  • high quality stills.
As the only large sensor, interchangeable lens 24p hybrid still/video camcorder, I thought the Sony NEX-VG20 might fit the bill - but after renting it, I concluded that I didn't want to pay a thousand dollars extra for what was essentially an NEX-5N in a camcorder form-factor.  And it didn't have a power zoom.

My wife's Panasonic FZ150 does almost everything I wanted a camcorder to do, and I really like the quality of its images, but it didn't have a headphone jack, manual audio gain or 24p - so I started looking for a standard small sensor camcorder that did.

I wasn't locked in to Panasonic, but, once again, a Panasonic camera was close to being the best in its category, met all of my requirements - and cost a lot less than the VG20.

Here are a couple of pictures of my new (refurbished) TM900 with the Azden SMX10 Stereo Mic (used with the GH2 before I went wireless), 46mm-58mm step-up ring, UV filter from an inexpensive 58mm 3-filter set, and Mennon DV-s 58mm lens hood that I already had.  12.1MP JPEGs taken with the FZ150:

And here is a 14.2 MP JPEG of the FZ150 taken with the TM900:

First impressions?  The camera produces great stills and video - like most other Panasonic hybrid cameras.  One challenge that I consider major (others may not) -- the still flash is inside the lens ring and creates blinding glare when there is a filter on the lens.  I had to remove my UV filter to take the picture above. Horrible design decision.  And a minor challenge -- the TM900 is my only Panasonic hybrid without the ability to shoot RAW.  But these are minor nits, given the overall performance of the camera.

I will compare video from the TM900 with the FZ150 in a future post.

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