Panasonic's New Pocket-Sized Camcorders

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Panasonic has introduced a slew of new pocket-size camcorders. The format seems to have taken hold and is getting to be more popular, not less. One has to wonder why the Flip was discontinued, but at least vendors such as Panasonic can continue to fill this niche market with these small, fun camcorders.

One of the jewels in Panasonic’s new lineup is the HX-WA10 HD Waterproof Dual Camcorder. This little beauty will go wherever you dare, including underwater to depths of 9.8 feet. You might never need to go underwater with your camcorder, but being waterproof also means that rain and snow are nothing to fear.

The HX-WA10 is a pistol-grip camcorder that can shoot HD video at either 1920 x 1080i or 1280 x 720p at 60 fps or 30 fps as well 640 x 480p SD video at 30 fps. It has a 5x optical zoom lens that expands to 12x in 30p mode. The camcorder can also capture 16MP still images. There are two separate buttons for shooting video and still images so you can shoot either without having to switch modes. You can also capture 2MP stills while shooting video.

The 3-inch widescreen LCD on the HX-WA10 rotates 285 degrees so you can see it easily, no matter how you hold the camera, and the display offers seven brightness levels so it’s easy to see in bright and dark settings. Other features include face detection, nine-point auto focus, electronic image stabilization, macro shooting and a stereo microphone. Manual shooting is also possible. Video and stills are stored on SD/SDHC/SDXC media and the camcorder can be connected to TVs and computers via its HDMI and USB 2.0 outputs. The HX-WA10 HD is available in blue, orange and black.

If you like what the HX-WA10 has to offer but don’t want to pay extra for its dunkability, then consider the HX-DC10 HD Dual Camcorder. The HX-DC10 has all of the same features and specifications as the HX-WA10 without being waterproof. The pistol grip HX-DC10 captures the same HD video and 16MP stills as the HX-WA10 using the same 16-megapixel 1/2.3" CMOS sensor. It also features the same 3-inch, 285-degree rotating LCD. Just don’t bring the HX-DC10 in the pool or give it a bath.

If you like the feature set, functionality and pistol-grip layout of the HX-WA10 and HX-DC10 but aren’t looking for seaworthiness and don’t quite need 16MP worth of image-capturing richness, the HX-DC1 HD Dual Camcorder may be more to your liking. It offers the same feature set as the other two models we’ve mentioned, except that it’s based on a 14MP CMOS sensor rather than a 16MP sensor. But like those other two units, the HX-DC1 shoots full HD 1920 x 1080 video, features a 12x double-range zoom, a 3 inch, 285-degree rotating LCD and it uses SD/SDHC/SDXC media for storage purposes. Simply settling for an image sensor that’s 2MP less sensitive than the sensor contained in those other two units will save you about $80.

The HX-DC1 is available in gray, pink and white.

Some people prefer a simpler rectangular style pocket camcorder over a pistol-grip model. It’s simply a matter of taste. So Panasonic has new camcorder offerings for those who prefer a rectangular design. First up is the Panasonic HM-TA20 Waterproof Mobile Camcorder. It doesn’t posses the over-the-top 16MP sensor of the HX-WA10 and HX-DC10, or even the not-quite-over-the-top 14MP sensor of the HX-DC1, but it is waterproof, shock proof and dust proof, making it an ideal choice for clumsy weekend cinematographers who like water sports.

The HM-TA20 is waterproof to a depth of 9.8 feet, so feel free to bring it snorkeling, cave diving, ocean kayaking and jet skiing. It’s also shockproof against falls from 4.9 feet, which betters its chances of surviving minor jet-ski accidents, provided it doesn’t sink in water deeper than 9.8 feet. As icing on the cake, the HM-TA20 is dust proof and protected against sand, so you can just rinse it off with water if it gets encrusted with dirt.

Built around a 5.3MP CMOS sensor, the HM-TA20 can record HD video (1920 x 1080p, 1280 x 720p and 640 x 480p, all at 30 fps) and 5MP still images. You can also capture still images from a recorded video during playback. The camcorder has a 4x digital zoom and a 3 inch touch-panel display with vertical orientation for shooting and horizontal orientation during playback. A Record button is located below the touch panel. Other features include electronic image stabilization, a Night View mode and LED light to supplement low-light shooting environments.

The HM-TA20 has a flip-out USB terminal that, when plugged into a PC, causes the embedded HD Writer PE 2.0 application to launch automatically, allowing you to upload video to YouTube and Facebook with a single click. It also has an HDMI port so it’s easy to connect the camcorder to an HDTV. The HM-TA20 can also be used as a voice recorder for business meetings, and as a webcam, when placed on the included tripod stand.

In the same manner that Panasonic is offering the pistol-grip camcorders in both regular and waterproof versions, it’s doing the same thing with its rectangular models. If you like what the HM-TA20 has to offer but don’t care about it being waterproof or shockproof, you can purchase the HM-TA2 Mobile Camcorder instead, and save $30 in the process.

The HM-TA2 has the same feature set as its waterproof brethren, including its 5.3MP CMOS image sensor, the ability to capture HD video and stills, the 3 inch touch-screen display—everything. Just don’t bring it swimming or drop it from heights of 4.9 feet if you want it to continue working. The Panasonic HM-TA2 Mobile Camcorder is available in black, red and white.