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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  1. Looking forward to your comparison. Does the FZ150 have a 3.5mm mic jack? I thought I saw a cameralabs review on vimeo and he needed to use an adaptor. Forthcoming Panasonic V700 looks interesting too. 5 axis stabilistation:

    Problem is there's always another and better camera on the horizon!

  2. Thanks, sticktribe.

    The FZ150 has a 2.5mm mic jack. I use a $6 Hosa GPM-467 3.5mm to 2.5mm adapter

    If I were to buy a 2012 Panasonic camcorder, I would get the X900 and not the V700 because of the improved image quality provided by the 900's 3MOS system.

    I will shoot the test this weekend and post it early next week.

  3. Nice blog. I have that same Mennon hood on a 2010 model Panasonic SD600 (TM700 baby brother). I had the "shave" down the front of the hood so it doesn't vignette when wide. Are you experiencing that problem with the TM900? I just bought two TM900 but havent bought any hoods yet. Also didn't seem to like the X900 over the outgoing TM900... where are you getting the "improved image quality" from? Are you still going to post your tests with this camera? Thanks

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  5. Thanks, Dee. Yes, the Mennon had a vignetting problem, so I replaced it with a $50 aIR-Matte A2 Matte Box. The aIR-Matte has a few challenges, but it keeps glare out of the lens and it doesn't vignette - plus it allows me to slide ND filters in and out without time-consuming screwing and unscrewing:

    Here is a picture of it:

    On the X900 vs the TM900 "improved image quality" remark - I was leaning a little too far forward. Some people think that it's better (see the slashcam review) and some people think it's worse (see the camcorderinfo review). I think I'll hang on to my TM900.