Full HD camcorders by Panasonic are generally divided into two camps: those using a single-chip sensor system (1MOS), and those using a 3-chip sensor system (3MOS). The HDC-TM900 belongs to the latter, using three 1/4.1-inch sensors each having a resolution of 3.05 megapixels. The Leica Dicomar 12x optical zoom lens (35mm equivalent focal length of 35-420mm for movies) has a maximum aperture of F1.5 at the widest end, which closes slightly to F2.8 when zoomed to the other end. With relay recording, the camcorder is able to switch recording to the memory card automatically when its 32GB flash memory is filled up.
Design-wise, the HDC-TM900 isn’t any much bigger than its predecessor, the HDC-TM900. But the touch screen is now bigger at 3.5 inches. To quickly activate 1080/50p recording, a dedicated button is located at the left side of the body. The HDC-TM900 has five electret condenser microphones, capable of recording audio in 5.1-channel surround sound. You can configure the microphone to punch up audio from all directions, or focus on sounds right in front of you. Bass settings is adjustable, and there’s a stereo-capable wind cut function. For better sound quality, you can connect and external microphone by way of a 3.5mm jack situated near the lens. The camcorder has no lack of connectivity options either: USB, mini HDMI, AV and component outputs are all present. There’s even a built-in electronic viewfinder, which you switch on by pulling it outwards.
Among the long list of features found on the HDC-TM900, there is one that we as enthusiasts particularly like. It’s the manual lens ring, which can be used to control zoom, focus, white balance, shutter speed, and iris settings when you’re in Manual mode. Since it’s be awkward for the user to move his hand back and forth the lens ring and LCD screen, Panasonic has strategically placed a Camera Function button just beside the lens. Simply press this button with your left thumb to cycle through the settings without taking your hand off the lens ring. In intelligent Auto mode though, the lens ring only serves as a zoom ring.
As the HDC-TM900 doesn’t support the AVCHD Progressive format, 1080/50p recording is done using the MPEG-4 format. To get a more film-like picture, you can turn on Digital cinema mode to record at 1080/25p.
There’re really nothing to dislike about the camcorder’s 50p footage: images looked smooth and sharp, with artifacts few and far between. The camcorder also performed well under low light.
If you want at ton of controls at your fingertips and the best 1080p video quality possible, the HDC-TM900 is an easy recommendation. Sure, it doesn’t record in 3D natively, but that’s easily solved with the optional VW-CLT1 3D conversion lens.