Panasonic has just announced its HX-WA10 "dual camera" and we managed to track it down at Panasonic's 2011 convention. As a late addition to the lineup, the WA10 model on show was only a prototype, so while we can tell you all about the look and feel of the product first-hand, we'll have to wait a little longer to see what the image quality is like.
It may look like a camcorder, but Panasonic is branding the WA10 as a full HD dual camera as it enables you to capture videos and stills without having to switch between two different modes, and what's more - it's waterproof up to 3m for up to 1 hour. As with many waterproof products, the WA10 sports a bright, aquamarine finish. It looked and felt very slick and shiny, but perhaps it might be more desirable to a have a slightly more grippy finish to stop it from slipping from your hand if you're using it in the water. The relative lack of grip is however, somewhat strangely, not that unusual for a waterproof camera product, but as the WA10 isn't due out for a while yet, there's still time for a few design tweaks before the final product hits the shelves.
The pistol-grip design feels very comfy in the hand and the fold-out 2.6-inch TFT LCD screen can be swivelled and adjusted to the best shooting position. It might not sound massive, but the display is certainly big enough for framing your shots and it folds down to form a very sleek and compact gadget that will slip easily into your pocket.
The device uses two separate buttons for photo and video capture with the idea being that you can operate both with one thumb. You can even use the still image button to take a 2-megapixel snap while you're shooting a video. This is a really nice touch, and one that sets the WA10 apart from many of its competitors. The buttons are located at the top of the device, on the back so they're well placed for using with your thumb, and the zoom controller is placed neatly between them - there's an optical 5x zoom and a 12x Advanced zoom for movie recording. It's easy to operate all three (which are really the only buttons that you need while shooting) without even looking.
As well as being designed to operate as a dual product, the WA10 has also been made for shooting outdoors and in rainy weather. This is partly down to the Backside Illumination (BSI) technology which helps shooting in dimly lit conditions. As we mentioned earlier, we weren't able to test out the actual video and still capture functions, but we can tell you that the device will shoot in full HD (1920 x 1080) and it includes an iA (Intelligent Auto) option along with EIS (Electical Image Stabilizer) which should help to reduce blur. The device captures footage in MPEG-4 AVC file format (MP4) and the included HD Writer VE 1.0 software is compatible with both YouTube and Facebook for easy uploading. The WA10 will also have a USB port for charging and a mini HDMI connection for hooking up to an HD-capable TV.
No pricing or release date has yet been confirmed, but we'd expect to see the WA10 in the shops by the summer. We'll bring you more details and an in-depth review as soon as we can.