After reading reviews about this camcorder and the many other makes including the flip ultra 3rd gen camcorder,Kodak playsport etc, I could not make up my mind about which was best to go for, but being a Panasonic fan decided to plump for the HM-TA1 as it has an 8mp camera (actually only 5mp but is boosted to 8mp) and i wanted to take decent photos as well as video - something that is achieved more or less pretty well with this camcorder plus it has a useful light for dark indoor shots.
Firstly, there have been many complaints about the USB port being very fiddly due to the covering flap being hard to get off - Not so actually as if you read the manual (which those reviewers obviously did not) you will find that all you need to do is slide the usb slider button to extend the port and it will pop the cover open automatically - easy peasy!!
Secondly there were complaints about charging via USB - and I would agree with that, but with a removable lithium ion battery it makes sense to buy the seperate mains/car charger kit from amazon from around £8 upwards and charge it in a couple of hours whereverer you are- see link below - simples!!PowerPlanet Panasonic VW-VBJ10E-K Fast 1-2hr Battery Travel (UK, Europe, USA Mains/Car) Charger for PANASONIC HM-TA1, SDR-H26, SDR-S7, SDR-S9, SDR-S10, SDR-S15, SDR-S25, SDR-S26, SDR-SW20, SDR-SW21
The cover flaps are not too niggly nor too flimsy (as has also been mentioned in other reviews)and if operated with normal care should not break unless you have sausage fingers. You have to attach the USB extension lead (supplied) to connect to your PC and I think it is a better idea than letting it hang off your PC ports!
I am disappointed that there is no 60fps option in 720HD mode like the Kodak and Flip Ultra 3rd gen but then the footage appears crisp and clean enough with good colour and pretty good sound pick up for a mono mic. Panning will cause slight blurring of video footage so best to keep as still as possible for best results and not use the digital zoom either as will cause similar problems.
A lack of an HDMI port is another let down as is the lack of an included protective pouch for the camcorder, but a plus is that you do get an AV lead to connect to your TV so at least you can see what you`ve recorded instantly (even though you cannot lose the onscreen display icons which would be recorded along with your clips if you saved them onto a freeview HD recorder for example - though i understand that most other makes do the same)
My main gripe though has to be the playability on my Windows XP PC which at 3.2GHZ with 2GB DDR RAM and 256MB graphics card should be able to play MP4 smoothly - but alas they will not play unless loaded into the included HD Writer software but even then they play slowly and lose frames! Maybe you need a dual core CPU? - I dont know but am extremely disappointed about that issue - if anyone techy out there has a solution then please reply to this review! - That issue was why I gave four and not five stars because it is in itself a fantastic little unit!!