Panasonic HDC-TM40 Camcorder Review
Low Light Performance
Low Light Sensitivity
Our low light sensitivity test determines how much light a camcorder needs to produce an image that is bright enough to be considered broadcast worth (that's 50 IRE on a waveform monitor). The HDC-TM40 didn't perform all that well in this test, as the camcorder needed 25 lux of light to capture an image that met the brightness standards of broadcast. This 25 lux measurement was obtained using a bit of optical zoom on the HDC-TM40, but we also performed the test without using any optical zoom so the TM40 could use its widest aperture setting. In that scenario the camcorder needed 16 lux to produce a suitable image—a very disappointing score as well. More on how we test low light sensitivity.
Budget HD camcorders usually don't excel at this test, but the three models we used as comparisons in this review were each superior to the TM40 in this test. The Canon HF R21 and Panasonic HDC-TM90 put up the best numbers, followed by the JVC GZ-HM450 (which barely beat out the TM40 in this test). The HDC-TM40's sub-par results in this test suggest that it's a camcorder you won't always be able to rely on in low light situations. Thankfully, its color accuracy and noise levels in low light weren't half bad, just don't expect the camcorder to produce all that bright of an image when you're shooting without much light.
Low Light Noise
Noise levels measured at around 1.0% on the TM40's low light video. This is a better score than we often see from budget camcorders, and it sits in the mix with the three models we compared to the HDC-TM40. Unfortunately, like we saw in bright light, the HDC-TM40's low light video struggled mightily with sharpness and detail. So, the image may be low on noise, but its high on discoloration, artifacting, and interference—all of which lead to a blurred, murky image in low light. More on how we test low light noise.
Look at the crops above for a better idea of what we're talking about. Notice how dark and void of detail the TM40's image looks, and compare that to the sharper images produced by the Canon HF R21 and Panasonic HDC-TM90. The JVC GZ-HM450 and the Panasonic TM40 both have very blurred images in comparison. We're not saying the TM90 and HF R21 have perfect low light images—they too show the presence of noise and discoloration—but at least those camcorders still captured relatively sharp and detailed low light video.
Low Light Color
The HDC-TM40 registered a color error of 4.65 in this test, which isn't much different than the camcorder's 4.3 color error we saw in our bright light test. This is a fair performance for the camcorder, and it's in line with what we normally see from a camcorder of this class. The TM40's low light image did appear rather dim, however, and it was somewhat darker than the competition. The saturation level in low light was around 71%, which isn't bad and is only a 7% decrease from the camcorder's bright light video. More on how we test low light color.