My Daily Routine

I finally went ahead and picked up the Panasonic TM900. I think it’s pretty obvious from the clips that if you shoot a lot of video, a camcorder is the way to go. When I first saw the camera, I was somewhat disappointed in its appearance – glossy black and silver plastic with tacky-looking decals everywhere – but the build quality is quite good, the camera is incredibly small and light, the handgrip has a comfortable textured rubber finish, and the hand strap has an adjustable velcro strip. The rocker switch on top of the camera is smooth and silent, allowing you to zoom in at a snail’s pace or lightning fast. The shoe adapter snaps securely into place when using an external microphone, and the ice cube-sized lithium ion battery, located beneath the EVF, is quickly and easily locked into place. The microphone and headphone jacks seated just behind the razor sharp 35mm – 420mm f1.5 Leica Dicomar zoom lens feel a smidgen cramped. Turning the power on and off is accomplished by opening and closing the LCD or by extending the electronic viewfinder. The 3.5” 460,000 pixel LCD monitor is rugged and pivots smoothly when opening, and can even be flipped toward the subject, though the operation icons disappear. Panasonic’s LCD screen requires a firm touch, which takes some getting used to, and scrolling through shots in playback mode can be a little tricky. The LCD screen contains a wealth of information, and, depending on the operations chosen, displays either Auto or Manual modes, a green pause icon or red record button, the date, the media selected (either the generous 32 GB of onboard flash storage or optional SD card), recording mode (1080 60p is recommended), remaining memory and battery time, a histogram, zebra stripes, luminance value, optical image stabilization and mic setting icons, shutter speed and aperture. That’s a lot to cram into a 3.5 inch space, but after making your settings, most of the clutter disappears, leaving only the pertinent information, though this takes a fraction longer than I’d have liked. Disabling the hints screen significantly reduces the lag time as well. Manual settings are saved when switching to Auto or turning power off, a great convenience. The camera can be manually focused, but the autofocus works so well, I haven’t seen the need to override it. The optical image stabilization is effective at reducing camera shake, and even when shooting with the zoom at 12X, shots look as though they were taken using a tripod. On the other hand, white balance settings for tungsten and fluorescent lighting are all but useless. Thankfully, the manual white balance is a breeze to use – just point the camera at something white and press the icon. The screen will momentarily go black, then you are ready to shoot. This works especially well in rooms with mixed lighting, like my friend’s restaurant in the video. I always use the camera in manual mode, setting the shutter speed at 1/60 for most scenes, and 1/100 in bright sunlight. In record setup, I set the sharpness at -1 and exposure at -4, as the camera tends to overexpose around a stop. Other than that, the metering is consistently accurate. Most of the time, I can just grab and shoot, and the results are incredible. A couple of the shots have clipping, because I set my new Rode Videomic Pro at +20 decibels. I recommend starting off setting it at 0 or even -10 with the TM900, unless you’re recording bumblebees.

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