Panasonic HDC-TM40 Consumer Camcorder Review

If two of the primary purchase requirements for your next camcorder happen to be price and compact size then you’ll want to have a close look at Panasonic’s new HDC-TM40 (magnifying glass not included). Touted at the time of its release as the world’s lightest full-HD AVCHD camcorder (approximately 213g with battery and optional media card), the ultra compact HDC-TM40 weighs in at a very affordable $400. While concessions have to be made at this price, it is quite capable as an entry level camera.

The Box

Included with the HDC-TM40 you will find a very tiny battery pack rated for about 135 minutes of record time (at maximum quality) when fully charged. An AC adaptor and power cord are also included as well as an AV multi cable and USB cable for making that all important computer connection. Although the camcorder has an HDMI port, no such cable is included.

The owner’s manual and a CD-ROM containing HD Writer LE 1.0 for importing files to your computer, uploading to YouTube and Facebook, and performing rudimentary editing tasks round out the box contents.

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The Camcorder

Not included in the box is your choice of SDHC/SDXC memory card. Using a Class 4 (minimum, Class 10 preferred) or higher memory card can expand your recording capabilities by as much as 64GB beyond the HDC-TM40’s 16GB built-in flash memory.

Suitably small for stealthily obtaining those family-gathering YouTube moments, this camera can be a lot of fun. Smooth, steady shots are possible by using proper hand held techniques. Don’t expect prosumer level performance from this model however. Obviously, at this price point, performance and/or feature reductions were necessary. While it does shoot full 1920×1080 HD the single CMOS 1.2 megapixel sensor just can’t deliver the same visual punch as its pricier 3MOS brethren. Picture quality lacks the same crispness, with color reproduction capabilities taking a hit as well.

Unlike higher cost models, which use an automatic lens cover, the HDC-TM40’s lens cover is opened and closed by means of a manual switch alongside the lens housing. It lacks both a built-in accessory shoe and an external microphone jack. There is no manual ring for zoom, focus, iris or other such features and the menus are navigated by buttons rather than the much sexier touch screens we see on many of today’s model. How old school! But remember, these are the trade-offs one expects in exchange for lower cost.

This unit does have some very nice features, however. For instance, the 16.8x optical zoom is very handy when just that extra dash of covertness is needed by being able to shoot across the room or even the parking lot without losing detail as would be the case with digital zoom enhancement. While certain functions were shed in favor of lower cost, one that remains happily intact is the power optical image stabilization system, which helps to reduce blurring and movement due to hand-shake.

The Conclusion

While certainly not for the professional or even the prosumer level user the HDC-TM40 is well suited for the entry level/beginner user seeking to save a few bucks while still obtaining decent video footage. You probably won’t want to shoot your next indie on this camera, (although look at the number of them shot on cell phones and flip cams!), but it would be perfectly fine for family get-togethers, vacations or climbing up the sides of steep mountains. While a number of features were of necessity eliminated or reduced, in order to lower cost, several other very desirable features were retained in an effort to provide the public with a very low cost, very usable option. As always, consider your intended usage before purchasing. If your purpose happens to coincide with this camera’s design then it could be a well-made match indeed.


Tech Specs

Image Sensor: 1/5.8″ MOS

Effective Pixels: 1.19 megapixels

F Value: F1.8 (WIDE) / 2.6 (TELE)

Optical Zoom: 16.8x

Digital Zoom: 50x / 1200x (at maximum zoom)

Focal Length: 2.9 – 48.7 mm

Lens Brand: Panasonic Lens

Standard Illumination: 1400 lx

Minimum Illumination: 7.0 lx (1/30 Low Light scene mode); 1 lx (Color Night Rec.)

Focus: Auto / Manual

White Balance: Auto / Indoor1 / Indoor2 / Sunny / Cloudy / White set

Shutter Speed: Auto Slow Shutter; ON : 1/30-1/8000; OFF : 1/60-1/8000

Iris: Auto / Manual

Backlight Compensation: Yes

Image Stabilizer: POWER OIS [Optical Image Stabilizer]

LCD: 2.7″ Wide LCD (230,400 dots)

Still Image Recording Format: JPEG

Recording Image Size: [16:9] 2.1 megapixels (1920 x 1080)

Video Recording Signal System: 1080/60i, 540/30p

Recording Format: AVCHD standard compliant – HA / HG / HX: MPEG-4 AVC/H.264; MPEG-4 AVC file format compliant (.MP4) – iFrame : MPEG-4 AVC/H.264

Audio Recording System: HA / HG / HX : Dolby Digital (2 ch); iFrame : AAC (2 ch)

Microphone: 2 ch Stereo

Interfaces: HDMI, USB 2.0, AV Multi

LED Video Light: Yes

Standard Accessories: AC Adaptor, AC Cable, DC Cable(with included AC Adaptor); AV Multi Cable; USB Cable; CD-ROM (HD Writer LE 1.0)

Rechargeable Battery Pack: min. 1790 mAh / Lithium-Ion

Weight (w/o Battery): Approx. 169 g (0.37lb)

Dimensions: (W x H x D) 2.03″ x 2.26″ x 4.27″

Media: Built-in memory (16 GB), SD/SDHC/SDXC Memory Card

Strengths

  • Low price
  • Small size
  • Optical zoom
  • Power OIS

Weaknesses

  • Lower quality due to 1MOS sensor
  • No manual ring, accessory shoe or external microphone jack

Summary

Anyone seeking an entry level, high definition camcorder, that’s super compact and easy on the budget, should check out the Panasonic HDC-TM40.

Panasonic Broadcast

One Panasonic Way

Secaucus, NJ 07094

www.panasonic.com

$400

Mark Holder is a video producer and trainer.

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