Panasonic HDC-TM90 Camcorder Review

The Panasonic HDC-TM90 is a Full HD camcorder that sports touch screen input and a 40x zoom.  The TM90 is capable of shooting 1920 x 1080 footage a full 60p frame rate.  It has 16GB of internal storage, along with an SDXC card slot for additional storage.  The TM90 also accepts Panasonic’s VW-CLT1 3D conversion lens for stereoscopic 3D video capture.

Panasonic TM90 Key Features

  • 1920 x 1080/60p video capture
  • 40x zoom
  • 3-inch touchscreen LCD
  • SDXC compatibility
  • 3D video capture possible (w/ additional lens)

Panasonic TM90 Features and Functionality

The TM90 is a very user-friendly camera.  It’s also very compact.  It cradles nicely in the palm of your hand.

The image stabilization works excellent on the TM90.  I was constantly surprised at just how stable the images were with the TM90.  The one thing you have to watch out for though is to turn off the image stabilization if you are doing pans and tilts on a tripod.  This is true with most camcorders though.  When you are panning and tilting (even on a smooth fluid head) the image stabilization function in the camera is still trying to compensate for the camera movement.  As a result, if you want to ramp down the pan to a full stop and the end, the TM90’s image stabilization will sort-of kick back the image at the end of your movement, which defeats your efforts at creating a smooth pan.  That’s not a problem with the camera, just something to be aware of from a user-interface perspective.  With handheld movements, however, the TM90 is golden and really makes sloppy camera work look pretty good.

I like the fact that I can plug in an external mic onto the TM90 – even though the internal mic works pretty well.  It also has a built-in mic zoom feature which helps you get better concentration on distant subjects.  Most of the time when I was using the TM90 though, I used it with the Rode VideoMic Pro, which is an excellent companion to this camera.  The TM90 comes with an shoe mount extender which slides into the back of the camera and gives you plenty of lead room for on-camera accessories like shotgun mics and lights.  Even with longer shotgun mics, you won’t have to worry about the tip extending into the top of the frame at wider angles.

Speaking of wide angles, the TM90 goes pretty wide for a consumer camcorder – out to 28mm equivalent.  On the long end, it reaches to a 35mm film equivalent of an outrageous 729mm.  That zoom range should cover just about everyone’s needs.

The touchscreen on the TM90 works very well.  If found the interface easier to operate that the Canon M40, which I’m in the process of reviewing now.  The touch selection just works better.  With the Canon M40, I had trouble getting the menu to properly scroll on several occasions.  I encountered no such input problems with the TM90 and have to hand it to Panasonic for making it all pretty intuitive.  Prosumers may be a little frustrated by the amount of controls that you have to go menu diving for, but most of the TM90’s buyers are looking for something to point and shoot video and will be satisfied with jumping in the menu for the occasional specific setting adjustment.

Panasonic TM90 Sample Footage

Below is a video that I shot in Rancagua, Chile with the TM90 and with the Rode VideoMic Pro plugged directly into it.  All shots except for a couple of the cutaways at the beginning were handheld.  Unfortunately, the encoding out of Premiere Pro and then through Vimeo doesn’t do the video quality justice.

Panasonic TM90 Accessories

Panasonic VW-VBK360 Li-Ion Battery – The TM90 includes a VBK180 rechargeable Li-Ion battery; however, it can accept the higher-capacity VBK360 battery for extended use.  If you want to capture a whole lot of footage in-between charges, you can add this battery to your kit for much longer recording times.

Memory Cards – Panasonic recommends using a Class 4 or faster SD card with the TM90 in order to record uninterrupted footage at the highest quality.  Really, this isn’t too hard to find.  Because of the high-quality footage though, the TM90 chews through a lot of memory, which is why I would recommend going with a 16GB or 32GB SD card to go along with the camera.  Even if you are recording to the built-in storage, you want a backup in case you fill that up.  And 16GB only stores 1 hour and 20 minutes of the highest quality footage from the TM90.  I would recommend picking up a SanDisk Ultra 16GB or 32GB card if you don’t have one already.

Rode VideoMic Pro – The on-camera mic works fine; however, if you want to get the best audio you can and still keep your overall package small and light, as noted above, the Rode VideoMic Pro is an excellent choice to go with this camcorder.

Varizoom VZ-TK75A Tripod – While a tripod isn’t necessarily a must-have for everyone interested in the TM90, if you plan on being a little more serious than just recording the occasional family event, then this is a highly capable and relatively affordable tripod.  It has a fluid head for very smooth pans and tilts.  You can read my full review of this tripod over on Photography Bay: Varizoom VZ-TK75A Tripod Review.

Conclusion

The TM90 is a very powerful little camcorder that’s well worth the humble asking price of $600 (at the time of this review it’s available for $539 thanks to instant rebates).  It’s a camera that I would recommend to anyone looking for a high-quality HD camcorder that’s easy to use.

The Panasonic TM90 is available from Tech Tilt’s trusted retail partner, B&H Photo, at the following link:

Panasonic TM90 at B&H Photo/Video

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