Lens & Imaging System
It doesn’t appear that Panasonic made any changes to the lens on the HDC-TM900 (compared to last year’s TM700), but we bet at least a little tinkering went on under the hood. At the very least, the lens had to be slightly altered in order to make the TM900 functional with the optional 3D conversion lens. Still, the lens has the same f/1.5 aperture and 12x optical zoom as its predecessor.
The HDC-TM900 uses a three chip image sensor system, just like Panasonic has been implementing on its high-end camcorders for quite some time now. The three chips are all a 1/4.1-inch CMOS imagers, and each chip has a pixel count of 3.05 megapixels.
LCD & Viewfinder
Finally! Something new to talk about with the HDC-TM900. Panasonic decided to catch up to the big boys and increase the LCD on the TM900 to a solid 3.5-inches. It is one of the few major updates for the camcorder over last year’s TM700 (other than being 3D-capable, of course). Unfortunately, Panasonic chose not to bump up the resolution of the LCD too much when it increased the size. The 3.5-inch screen has a pixel count of just 460,800—far less than the 900K+ resolution screens we’ve seen from Sony, Canon, and others.
The LCD uses touchscreen technology, and, other than the fact that the larger screen makes certain touch-buttons easier to push, the touchscreen system is really no different than what we’ve seen from Panasonic in years past.
Most people won’t notice anything different about the viewfinder on the HDC-TM900 as compared to what was on last year’s TM700. Upon very close inspection, we noticed the eyepiece was a tiny bit wider on the new model, but this isn’t something that will have a huge impact at all. The viewfinder can still extend out from the camcorder almost an inch, but it does not pivot or rotate whatsoever. In fact, the viewfinder must be pulled out from the camcorder in order for it to be active. The viewfinder also has a diopter adjustment dial on its left side.
Being a high-end consumer camcorder, the HDC-TM900 has a lot of connectivity options. We’ll try to go through them as succinctly as possible, but some of the terminology may be confusing for those who aren’t familiar with camcorders. Just bear with us, check out the photos along with the text, and you’ll be fine.
The largest port cluster on the TM900 is inside the LCD cavity, behind a flexible, flip-down cover. Here you’ll find three ports—HDMI, USB, and AV/Component-out—and one memory card slot that fits SD/SDHC/SDXC memory cards. The AV/Component port works with the “mult-AV” cable that ships with the camcorder and has both AV and Component video connections. The HDMI connection is a standard mini HDMI port, but the camcorder does not ship with this cable (you can buy these cables online or at most electronics stores). The battery release switch is also located near these ports.
The rest of the ports on the TM900 are all located on the right side of the camcorder, but they are scattered in a few different places. There’s the camouflaged DC-input that is used to charge the camcorder’s battery (or run off of wall-power). This port is located near the back, with a nib just above the record button that is helpful for popping the cover open. Additional ports are near the front of the camcorder, behind a similar port cover that blends into the body of the camcorder. This is where you’ll find the external mic and headphone jacks.
The final connectivity feature is located just above the audio jacks, behind a larger cover. This is the cold accessory shoe input, which requires you to insert the shoe adapter (provided with the camcorder) before you can attach accessories. This shoe adapter system isn’t great—if you lose the small adapter you’re basically out of luck—but we do like the way it positions the accessory shoe on the side of the camcorder rather than right on top.
Panasonic did change the design of the battery compartment on the TM900 a bit. Unlike the design of the TM700, the battery on the TM900 does not extend out from the camcorder. Instead, it aligns flush with the edge of the LCD panel. This probably has to do with the larger size of the LCD, but we think it looks a lot cleaner. It isn’t necessarily the most functional design, as you still need to open the LCD panel to eject the battery, but it looks sleek.
Media is our term for “what the camcorder records to.” The answer to this question was tape for many years, but nowadays its a mixture of internal memory, hard drives, and memory cards for the most part. The HDC-TM900 is a “twin memory” camcorder (that’s what the “TM” stands for). This means it has both internal memory—32GB to be exact—and a memory card slot. Any memory cards from the regular-sized SD card family, and that includes SDHC and SDXC cards, will work with the HDC-TM900.