02.Colour & Noise Performance
03.Motion & Sharpness Performance
04.Low Light Performance
05.Compression & Media
08.Handling & Use
09.Playback & Connectivity
Handling & Use Summary
• The HDC-TM700 is light and compact for a high-end camcorder, and it feels very comfortable in your hand.
• We wish Panasonic had increased the size of the LCD more dramatically on the HDC-TM700 (the screen is 0.3-inches larger than what was on last year's models).
• The TM700 has a simple menu system, but the touch screen isn't great for navigating the menu.
• Panasonic's optical image stabilisation system worked very well in our test and the camcorder put forth a decent battery life with its provided battery pack.
Ease of Use (6.5)
Like its predecessors, the HDC-TM700 can be a simple camcorder to use. Panasonic's Intelligent Auto (iA) controls are intuitive and function quite well for the most part—particularly if you're a beginner and all you want to do is point the camcorder and hit the record button. We like the sparse button layout on the HDC-TM700 and the touch screen interface shouldn't be a problem for anyone to figure out.
While we didn't have an issue with the menu layout on the HDC-TM700, we did have a problem with some of the icons used on the camcorder's Function Menu. These icons were often difficult to decipher, which can make things difficult for someone who has never used the camcorder before. The info button featured in the TM700's menu system was a big help, however, and we even found ourselves using it when we came across a new feature we had never seen before. In addition to this info box, the HDC-TM700 also has a shooting guide feature that produces a pop-up screen alert when you pan too quickly with the camcorder. Unfortunately, we found this feature to be more of an annoyance than anything else.
|Record Setup Menu||The info button brings up a helpful info box.
The HDC-TM700 does have a quick menu feature that is available in both iA and manual modes. We like the idea behind the quick menu, but, again, some of the icons are difficult to understand because of their confusing labels. If you really want to learn all the ins and outs of the HDC-TM700 you'll probably need to spend a good chunk of time reading the instruction manual. The manual isn't bad, but we did find a few inconsistencies in how features are referred to.
|The Function Menu has some confusing icons.||The Quick Menu gives you easy
access to certain controls.
The HDC-TM700 is one of the most comfortable high-end camcorders we've ever worked with, which is the same accolade we gave to last year's HDC-HS300. The camcorder doesn't have a bulky hard drive taking up space on its right side, so the TM700 fits comfortably into your palm and its hand strap is strong and padded—although it isn't quite as large as the straps you'd find on Canon's or Sony's flagship models.
|The HDC-TM700 is one of the most comfortable
flagship camcorders we've ever used.
|The lens ring is excellent for
adjusting manual controls.
The touch screen interface on the TM700 is mostly unchanged from Panasonic's previous models. It works relatively well, but it doesn't have the fun swiping features that Canon implemented on its new touch screen models. Panasonic did increase the size of the LCD on the HDC-TM700, but we're disappointed that the screen was only bumped up to 3 inches (that's just' 0.3 inches larger than last year's HDC-HS300). The new flagship models from Sony, Canon, and Samsung each feature 3.5-inch LCDs, and the extra real estate does make using the touch screen a whole lot easier.
|You can record using the LCD or electronic viewfinder on the TM700.|
On the bright side, we do like the manual lens ring and the electronic viewfinder on the HDC-TM700. Anyone who is accustomed to using a professional camcorder should cherish these features. We're also pleased to see Panasonic made a minor adjustment so you can now use the lens ring to set focus, aperture, shutter speed, white balance, or gain while the LCD is open (on the HS300 you could only set these things with the lens ring if the LCD was closed). This is a simple fix, but it makes the lens ring a much more versatile component.
|The battery loads horizontally on the back of the HDC-TM700.|
The HDC-TM700 is sparsely littered with buttons, so the camcorder shouldn't look too daunting to inexperienced users. We like all the buttons except the poorly-designed buttons on the base of the LCD panel. These buttons are too small and don't offer nearly enough haptic feedback when you press them. We do have good things to say about the TM700's quick menu, however, which offers easy access to some of the more popular menu options on the camcorder (the quick menu button is located on the base of the LCD panel).
The HDC-TM700 is equipped with optical image stabilisation (OIS) and the feature was very effective in reducing the shake in our stabilisation testing. The OIS on the TM700 has two settings—standard and active—as well as a number of settings available in still image mode (we only tested video stabilisation, however). In our low shake test, the camcorder's active OIS worked best by reducing 80% of the shake (standard mode reduced 69% of the shake). In our high shake test, however, the standard OIS was more effective than active mode, as it reduced 65% of the shake (active mode cut the shake by 52%). (More on how we test stabilisation.)
|Panasonic HDC-TM700 Stabilisation Effectiveness|
|80% correction at low shake (above)
65% correction at high shake (below)
In the video below you can see the HDC-TM700's OIS in action. This is a very strong performance for a high-end camcorder, and the TM700's OIS worked quite a bit better than the OIS featured on Panasonic's mid-range camcorders. The only thing we found a bit strange was the discrepancy between active mode and standard mode in our two shake tests. We recommend trying out both settings before you start shooting, so you can see which works best for your specific shooting situation.
Panasonic HDC-TM700 Stabilisation Examples
Click Here for large HD Version
|Stabilisation Score Comparison|| Compare the
to the Canon HF S21
| Compare the
to the Sony HDR-XR520
| Compare the
to the Panasonic HDC-HS300
The HDC-TM700 has nearly identical proportions to last year's Panasonic HDC-HS300. This makes it one of the smaller and lighter flagship models on the market, although the Sony HDR-XR520 is slightly more compact. The main thing to note is that the TM700 is a heck of a lot lighter and smaller than the Canon HF S21—and it feels much better in your hand due to its smooth, ergonomic right side.
One complaint is that Panasonic didn't include more internal memory on the HDC-TM700 (a number of new flagship models offer 64GB of internal flash memory). We would have also liked to see a second memory card slot like Canon put on the HF S21, but this addition isn't a necessity. Panasonic continued its trend of putting the DC-input inside the battery compartment, which means you must remove the battery in order to run the camcorder on wall power. We have always hated this setup and we wish Panasonic would put its DC-input in a more accessible location.
|Panasonic HDC-TM700||Canon HF S21||Sony HDR-XR520||Panasonic HDC-HS300|
|Primary Media||32GB internal flash memory||64GB internal flash memory||32GB internal flash memory||32GB internal flash memory|
|Secondary Media||SD/SDHC/SDXC card||2x SD/SDHC/SDXC card slots||Memory Stick PRO Duo card||SD/SDHC card|
|Weight||440g (with battery)||520g (with battery)||450g (with battery)||445g (with battery)|
|Size||66 x 69 x138mm||75 x 74 x 148mm||62 x 65 x 133mm||72 x 70 x 141mm|
Battery Life (5.35)
The HDC-TM700 lasted for 107 minutes in our battery life test (1 hour, 47 minutes, 15 seconds), which is basically the same thing we got out of the HDC-HS300 and its provided battery. This is a fairly average score for a high-end HD camcorder, although you can look at the chart below to see the Canon HF S21 did much worse (and the Sony HDR-XR520 did much better). (More on how we test battery life.)
|Battery Life Comparisons|
The HDC-TM700 can accommodate larger battery packs, but its battery compartment is designed in an odd manner. Batteries load sideways into the compartment (instead of vertically like on most camcorders) and the battery release switch is located inside the LCD cavity. This design isn't necessarily a flaw, but it does seem awkward that you must open the LCD panel every time you want to eject the battery.
|The TM700 with its provided battery.|
LCD & Viewfinder (9.58)
Panasonic bumped up the size of the LCD on the HDC-TM700 to 3 inches, which is just 0.3-inch upgrade over the LCD on the HDC-HS300. While we do like the bigger screen, this is simply not enough of an improvement—particularly when compared to the 3.5-inch screens featured on the Canon HF S21, Samsung HMX-S16, and Sony HDR-CX550V. With touch screen technology being all the rage it is really useful to have a larger screen at your disposal, and Panasonic has clearly fallen behind the rest of the pack in this category.
Also disappointing is the fact that Panasonic did not increase the pixel count on the HDC-TM700's LCD. So, the camcorder has a larger screen, but it is stuck with the same 230,400-pixel resolution that was featured on all of Panasonic's HD camcorders from last year. This resolution pales in comparison to what is offered on the aforementioned flagship models from Canon, Samsung, and Sony.
|Panasonic increased the LCD to 3 inches, but
we would've liked to see it go even larger.
We like the electronic viewfinder on the HDC-TM700, but it's design isn't anywhere near as comfortable as the large viewfinders featured on prosumer and professional camcorders. The TM700's viewfinder can extend roughly 1.5 cm out from the camcorder, but it cannot pivot or swivel. It does have a diopter adjustment dial on its left side, and its screen is 0.27-inches in size with a 123,000-pixel resolution.
|The viewfinder can extend out from the camcorder...||... and it has a diopter adjustment ring.|
The chart below lists the complete LCD and viewfinder specs for the HDC-TM700 and its comp models. Note that while we discussed the new Sony HDR-CX550V in the text above, it is last year's Sony HDR-XR520 that we have included in the table below (Sony made significant LCD upgrades on its new 2010 models that are not reflected in the table below).
|Panasonic HDC-TM700||Canon HF S21||Sony HDR-XR520||Panasonic HDC-HS300|
|LCD Size||3 inches||3.5 inches||3 inches||2.7 inches|
|LCD Resolution||230,400 pixels||922,000 pixels||230,000 pixels||230,400 pixels|
|Panasonic HDC-TM700 Comparisons|
|Canon HF S21||Sony HDR-XR520||Panasonic HDC-HS300|
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