The Panasonic HM-TA20 reminds us why stand-alone devices still have a place, despite the ubiquity of smartphones as do-it-all wonders. By offering waterproofing, shockproofing and 1080p video for a quarter of the price of buying a high-end phone, this stands out as an obvious candidate to be a holiday video recorder.
The design of the TA20 is great, and we liked the metallic orange of our review unit. it's comfortable to hold, and though isn't super thin or light compared some modern electronics, it can still be carried around all day without weighing you down.
The ruggedness of the TA20 is a really strong feature, too. It feels totally safe and reliable in the water, and survived several drops without any complaint. For people who don't take such good care of their gadgets, this is the perfect camcorder.
The video quality is also quite strong, which is always a major plus for a camcorder. Panasonic's iA and face tracking make a great addition to a simple video device.
We understand why the screen has to be resistive, but then lumpings such like the zooming into it makes it awkward to work with. Of course, only having digital zoom is also a shame, and the fact that's jerks while zooming compounds the misery. What we're getting at is: stay away from the zoom.
There are some issues with the picture quality, including some artefacting and the odd wobble it can pick up while trying to stabilise shots, which we can't gloss over. They're not crippling problems, but they are there. It's also a shame that the 1080p footage didn't have more detail in wider shots.
As a knockabout, point-and-shoot video camera, we thoroughly recommend the HM-TA20. It's ideal for a family holiday where it might get dropped by the kids, or for a surfing trip where it'll get dumped in the water and thrown in with sandy clothes.
It's not the last word in picture quality, but this kind of device isn't supposed to be. It does its job, which is to take decent footage in any condition.