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Old February 19th, 2011, 11:55 AM   #1
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What to buy: HMC40, TM700/900 or Sony CX700?

I'm in the market for a new camcorder and can't decide whether or not to get an HMC40 now or wait a month when the new Panasonic TM900 and Sony CX700 arrive. I don't urgently need a camcorder but if there is no compelling reason to wait I might as well buy the HMC40 now. I was wondering what members of this forum think.

You probably need to know my intended use before giving an opinion. I plan to use it for filming interviews and small business profiles, perhaps legal depositions plus other events like sports (but probably not weddings). I don't need a ton of manual features although as my business and usage grows it may be good to have these. Having a "professional" looking camera might be important for my purpose, but with the TM900 or CX700 I'd just get a lens hood and shotgun mic to give it a more "pro" appearance.

I've watched video clips of the HMC40 and am VERY impressed. And the reviews for this camera on various websites seem to be extremely positive... in fact, you have to really look hard to find a negative review. I also think this cam already looks more "professional" than the others right out of the box with the T handle. A potential drawback might be that the HMC40 came out in 2009 so its technology may be older? (Or is it still the same tech as used in the TM900?)

The specs of the Sony CX700 appear to be similar to the TM700/900 and I generally have preferred Sony camcorders over the years so for this reason I'm thinking about waiting for this cam, although I really don't want to be one of the first owners.

The HMC40 costs about $500 more than the TM900 and CX700 so I'm wondering if the cost difference is justified.

I also see that I can buy a TM700 for around $750 now but I think I'd rather just wait and pay the extra $250 for the TM900 with its bigger LCD screen and (hopefully) fix for the fan noise issue.

Any comments would be appreciated. Thanks!
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Old March 9th, 2011, 12:28 PM   #2
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Re: What to buy: HMC40, TM700/900 or Sony CX700?

I've got a TM700, and apart from the weedy battery life, it's a pretty good bit of kit. With a 32gb internal storage, you've got a few hours recording time. And the pictures look great.
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Old March 17th, 2011, 11:26 AM   #3
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Re: What to buy: HMC40, TM700/900 or Sony CX700?

I am likewise trying to decide between the Panasonic TM900 and the Sony CX700. Unfortunately there are no comprehensive reviews of the cameras yet that would allow me to make a final decision. I’m hoping that a review will come out soon that will provide comparative data on:
-low light performance
-usability/ergonomics (I’m somewhat concerned about the location of some of the connections on the CX-700, e.g. external microphone and headphone)
-picture quality in good light
-accompanying software usefulness and usability

In the meantime I have begun to compile a list of the key advantages of each based upon what can be dredged from the manuals. Here’s my starter list. Feel free to add to it.

Sony Cx700 advantages:
•Wider angle (26mm on the CX700 vs 35mm on the TM900). This may avoid having to use a wide angle lens for many situations
•Able to shoot in standard definition
•96GB of internal memory (vs 32GB) allows longer recording intervals before downloading
•Multi-color peaking vs single color peaking on TM900
•Expanded focus (doesn’t exist on TM900)
•Twice the battery life with an equivalent battery (CX700 consumes ½ the power of the TM900)
•Better LCD display resolution
•Much nicer lens hood included with camera
•Golf slo-mo mode
•Infrared full nightshot mode
•Max digital zoom settable at any number (TM900 only allows 20x, 30x, 700x)

Sony CX700 issues:
•Can’t shoot in full manual mode from exposure standpoint, i.e., can’t manually set shutter, iris, exposure all at the same time. Adjustments of single element only (iris priority, shutter priority, or exposure priority)

Panasonic TM900 advantages:
•Less expensive
•Able to set exposure, shutter, and f-stop independently
•3-chip sensor may result in richer color
•12x optical zoom vs 10x
•Histogram (no histogram on CX700)
•Instant on with TM900 vs 2-3 seconds for CX700
•External connection plugs located in better places (better ergonomics)
•Bigger LCD display (3.5” vs 3”)
•Very easy to control zoom speed (not clear how slow and smooth the Sony zooming will be)
•Sports mode preset (the Sony doesn’t appear to have one)
•More intelligent contrast control modes

Panasonic TM900 issues:
•Inability to shoot standard definition
•Still some fan noise when using internal microphone? There appears to be some conflicting information on fan noise in the few posts on the TM900 that exist. We’ll need more info from users to determine if this issue still exists, has been reduced, or has gone away with the TM900.
•No one-touch focus button when in manual focus mode (note that it does not appear that the CX700 has this feature either)
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Old March 17th, 2011, 11:38 AM   #4
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Re: What to buy: HMC40, TM700/900 or Sony CX700?

A good independent TM900 review by a well trusted site is linked below.

Panasonic HDC-TM900 Camcorder Review - Camcorders - Independent Camcorder Reviews, Ratings & Comparisons

Looks to me like the two TM900s they tested had a slight fault with lens/imaging block alignment - not seen any evidence of that on my TM900 (but in truth I have not really looked for it - I will now!). They say their CX700 review will be "ready by the end of this month".

Regarding the CX700, there is a slightly worrying very recent comment about lack of sharpness and chromatic aberration on the big CX700 thread in that section of the forum - I guess we would need more reports to know if this is really an issue or not. It also seems to be less desirable choice for people who want more control/Manual operations (from what I've read so far) than the TM700/TM900 etc. Direct quote lifted from that thread below, for convenience:

Originally Posted by Pat Reddy View Post
....I shot some more test video yesterday indoors and outdoors. In auto this camera seems to operate with a wider aperture than the TM700 in the same lighting, which may account for the softer images I was seeing (softness was more pronounced on the frame edges). Using landscape mode outside gave me a crisper image, and the footage looks much better than it did earlier. There is a fair amount of CA at full zoom - it was particularly bad in full auto, but improved somewhat in auto mode/landscape mode.

There is a lot more excellent info in that long thread about the CX700 too. Link to one of the more recent pages below.


Alan, as you excellent post above shows, they each have different strengths and weaknesses! We all have different needs/wants.

BTW, there is NO FAN NOISE on my TM900 - it's as silent as any cam I've owned (and considerably quieter than any tape cam I've ever owned) and I've had it on for extended periods/it's got hot to the touch...maybe my hearing is finally packing up......;-)
Andy K Wilkinson - https://www.shootingimage.co.uk
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Old March 17th, 2011, 02:55 PM   #5
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Re: What to buy: HMC40, TM700/900 or Sony CX700?

It's always a tough call on cameras... I've been using Sony, so tend to favor them as well (CX550's and CX500's currently, may update the 500's to CX700). Sony tends to be the "Rodney Dangerfield" brand (don't get no respect), but they generally make a good product, particulary if you like touchscreen interfaces (I do). There's already a good DVi thread on the CX700, linked above.

One thing to ask is whether you've got an existing pile of accessories that would "fit" whatever new camera you get. That can have some influence, depending on what you've already got. Dang accessories add up!

I think you should add in the new Canon (G10?) if it's not out of your budget, it's a consumer version of a camera they are releasing for a more "pro" market, and frankly looks to have some nice features and really good perfomance in low light due to the lower pixel density sensor.

It's always worth looking at the top of the consumer line from ALL the big 3 (4 if you include JVC), as you'll get some very good cameras at pretty reasonable costs.
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Old March 17th, 2011, 07:50 PM   #6
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Re: What to buy: HMC40, TM700/900 or Sony CX700?

I don't have a pile of accessories that could be used with either the TM900 or the CX700. My camcorder selection right now includes a Sony VX-2000, a Sony PD-170, and a Canon HV30. We still use the Sonys for the occasional friend's wedding and for school performances. Note that the HV30 has never really been comparable to the Sonys for event videography. The Sonys are just so much better due to their low light capabilities, their ability to deal with different lighting conditions, and the richness of their color. The HV30 is mostly used for situations where you need a small camera, e.g., hidden amongst the decorations behind the alter so that you can get a front shot of the bride and groom during the ceremony. Of course the HV30 is great for travel, family stuff, and the filming that I often do at Pickleball tournaments.

At some point we'd like to upgrade all of our cams to nice HD cams on par with the Sonys that we have used for a long time (NX series?). We'd also like to get rid of our tape based workflow. However, the level of business that we are doing these days makes it tough to justify. So instead I am considering getting one of the hot new consumer cameras, probably the TM900 or CX700. For my usage the CX700 seems attractive compared to the TM900 for two reasons. The extra wide angle lens would allow me to get away without a wide angle add-on lens for a lot of the sports videography that I do. I have found that the Raynor wide angle lens on my HV30 is pretty soft and seems to have an impact on its low light sensitivity. Having a camera with an even wider field of view without using a wide angle lens seems really attractive. In addition, the ability to shoot in standard resolution with the CX700 is a plus as it simplifies using the camera in conjunction with my older cameras.

That being said, it sounds like the TM900 may be somewhat superior in picture quality and low light sensitivity to the CX700. If the differences are at all significant, then I might get pushed into the TM900 camp. I'll just have to wait and see what the reviews say.

I have yet to look at the G10. One of the reasons that I like both the CX700 and the TM900 is that they shoot 1080/60p. I actually have a usage for this that I'm looking to try out. When we do DVD's of school performances we often combine the actual performance video with a video that we construct from candid stills and video clips of the performers taken during the week preceding the performance. Today we use a DLSR to take many of the candid pictures, but we augment with frame captures from video taken by our Sony's. The nice thing about the frame captures is that you can get the particular expression that you want rather than settling for the expression that happened to exist when the DSLR snapped its one picture. However, with our current Sony cams, you have to deinterlace the frame captures which causes the pictures to lose a lot of their snap relative to the pics taken with the DSLR. I'd like to see how well it works to shoot at 1080/60p and capture frames from that. My guess is that they will look as good at the DSLR pics when eventually rendered into a DVD format. If I were to go with the G10, then I could do the same thing. However, I'd be restricted to 720/60p as this is the only 60p mode that it records. It would probably be an improvement over what I get today with my Sony's, but perhaps not as much as could be achieved with the 1080/60p capability.

BTW, what HD cams are the wedding videographers buying now as HD replacements for their PD-170's? Does it still cost $3500+ to get something that has the same sorts of features and the same low light capability?
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Old March 18th, 2011, 12:35 AM   #7
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Re: What to buy: HMC40, TM700/900 or Sony CX700?

I can see where the 60p could be an attraction, it's one reason I'm thinking of upgrading my CX500's.

I will suggest you should try whichever cams you are considering side by side, as the "published" rankings of low light with the CX550 were far from accurate (aside from one German site, where they published optimized shots. Many other sites made the mistake of reframing the wide frame the Sonys have, thus closing the iris down a bit from zooming in, killing "low light" performance. I find the wider wide end to be fine, and in lo lux mode, low light performance is plenty good, better than my eyes in typical use. You lose a couple stops as you zoom in of course, but that's just the way it goes.

You can mount one of the Sony HG 37mm lenses (.7x) on these, but you'll get a bit of vignette for about the first 5% of zoom in. Decent glass though.

And depending on your computer situation, you can record in HD, convert to SD after you download with the PMB (Windows only) software. Keep in mind the horsepower and storage requirements of AVCHD... If you record in SD, it should still look better than most SD cameras.

I'm happy with the CX550V and the CX500's for extra angles, and with a small LED light, there's not much they can't handle for shooting events, plus the whole kit fits in a small hard case, excluding tripod(s)!
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