Panasonic HDC-TM40 Camcorder Review
The HDC-TM40 put up decent numbers in our color accuracy test, but the camcorder's image in bright light appeared somewhat dull compared to the competition. The camcorder managed a 4.3 color error in this test, which isn't bad for a budget model, but is worse than what we saw from the Canon HF R21 and the TM40's higher-end cousin, the HDC-TM90. The colors produced by the TM40 certainly weren't awful, but the 78.4% saturation level is lower than we like to see from a consumer camcorder. The colors lacked the pop and brilliance that we saw from the Panasonic HDC-TM90 and other consumer camcorders. More on how we test color.
The TM40 has a few color modes, but neither of them do all that much to alter the way the camcorder captures colors. The two options are Soft Skin Mode and Intelligent Contrast, both of which slightly enhance the TM40's video image. Soft Skin Mode will smooth skin tones (just as the title suggests), while Intelligent Contrast tries to create a better image in shadows and high-contrast situations (better dynamic range). You can see examples of both modes below, but it's hard to see much of a difference between the two modes and the TM40's regular auto mode. Neither of these modes offer manual control over their effectiveness, and the TM40 has no manual control for color depth or anything like that.
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.
The HDC-TM40 put up very good numbers in our noise test, and, unlike its color performance, the camcorder was ahead of the competition in terms of overall noise percentage in bright light. The TM40 averaged just 0.5% noise in bright light, which is a good chunk lower than the noise we measured on the three camcorders we compared it to. More on how we test noise.
Part of the reason the TM40 did so well in this test, however, may come from the fact that the camcorder didn't produce a very sharp image in bright light. Without much detail, noise can often be difficult to detect within the blurred footage. As you can see from the crops above, the TM40's video image isn't overly blurred, but it's not nearly as sharp as what the Canon HF R21 and Panasonic HDC-TM90 were capable of producing (see the side-by-side comparisons to see what we're talking about). Overall, we'd rather have a bit more noise in our image if it meant a lot more sharpness and detail.