Review: Panasonic’s HM-TA20 Camcorder

By Branko Miletic

So you like your mountain climbing, surfing, hang gliding, pig shooting, base jumping, motocross riding, scuba diving, cage fighting, lacrosse and/or paragliding? And of course you'll want the bragging rights, but you need evidence of your emndevours.

Enter Panasonic’s HM-TA20 super rugged HD camcorder. Panasonic has a history in making tough stuff – from notebooks through to cameras, because the company seems to understand that we don't live in bubbles or are surrounded by cotton wool.

I used a similar Panasonic camera on a recent trip to Queenstown in NZ and marveled at how I could take snap shots under glacial water (which was about 8 degrees Celsius), and in a jet boat after the helmsman made sure we got a good drenching.

Regardless, the HM-TA20 is a great little snapper- it takes photos and movies – all in HD and underwater, which takes the worry of getting it wet.

For this test I gave it to the roughest, meanest and most uncompromising tester I could find – my six year old. After filming herself in the bath, on a swing and in the sandpit, and then covering it half in Nutella, Little Miss gave the HM-TA20 the thumbs up as far as being tough.

It worked well submerged in soapy, warm bathwater, it didn't worry about sand or Hazelnut foodstuffs and yes, it was dropped a couple of times – for test purpose of course – and it still worked a treat. Not something I would try with any old piece of digital gear.

Its specifications include a 4 x zoom, 5.33 megapixels, auto white balance, SD memory card storage,  auto focus, 3-inch touch LCD display, built-in mic, USB port, a Li-ion rechargeable battery, can work in temperatures from 0 to mid-40 degrees Celsius and comes with its own little portable tripod as well as in my all-time favourite colour of sunburnt orange. It also has a flip-out USB port for downloading the pics and recharging and is Mac and PC compatible.

So what's there not to like, right?

OK, the specs are a bit rudimentary, but hey, the HM-TA20 is not designed for taking 8Mb stills in the confines of just your car or living room. This camcorder is made to go with you anywhere and as such, what you lose in specs, you more than pick up in its rugged design and reliability.

My only other gripe was that you needed to use SD cards. I’m not anti-SD card mind you, but if you are like me, and end up losing the little buggers all over the place, then you will appreciate the ability in having on-board storage.

Yes I hear you- the specs are too bog standard- but just remember, when you buy that $3000 DSLR and it falls off  front seat onto the floor after you slam the brakes on and ends up costing you a new lens, you'll wish that you too had a HM-TA20 instead.

Pros: HD recording possible, can withstand extreme conditions, easy to use
Cons: basic specs, needs SD storage, battery life could be better

3.5 Shacks out of 5