The camera is a Panasonic HDC-TM700. It shoots HD movies as well as decent pictures given the lens is the same as a standard 35mm digital photo camera. When I connect the camera to the iMac with iMovie up, the OS recognizes the device ... two virtual drives appear, one for the memory on the camera that holds movies and a second area of the memory that holds photos. But the two drives, while accessible in Finder, go unrecognized by iMovie as a device from which movie files can be imported.
OK This camcorder is a fine camcorder. I have an earlier model of a similar camcorder from Panasonic. However, this newer model has one problem. It is not compatible with iMovie if you shoot at the highest quality mode, (which is 60P or 50P - which might be called 28MBPS mode). If you shoot 30P or 30i (even 60i) it will import to iMovie. Also, iMovie can handle 1280x720P60 and P50.
It will definitely work on iMovie 11. It should probably work on iMovie 09. I doubt this camera will be recognized at all on iMovie 08, but it is worth a try. To see which iMovie you have, click iMovie/About and check the version. 9.04 would be iMovie 11. (9.08 is the current version, but it will not run on OSX 10.6.8). 8.06 would be iMovie 09. 7.1.4 would be iMovie 08.
OK So how to work around this limitation?
1) If you have Final Cut Pro X ($300) or can justify buying it, it will import 60P and 50P from this camera. However, if this seems a little pricey to you, keep reading.
2) If you set your camera to record in 1080P30 and shoot a short clip, then iMovie should see the camera. Then I would suggest using iMovie import screen to create a CAMERA ARCHIVE of your camera. This will copy to your Mac the entire contents of the video files on your camera. You will need them later. I am assuming you have some valuable footage on the camera that you would like to have.
3) Going forward, the simplest thing is to shoot in 1920x1080P30 and use iMovie normally. The biggest advantage of P60 or P50 is when you need really high quality slow motion effects. In other words, after you edit your movie, everything is converted to P30 or P25 anyway.
4) If you want to retrieve the 1080P50 or 1080P60 clips that you have shot, then there are a couple of apps you can buy to convert them to a form that iMovie can edit. Two such apps are ClipWrap and Voltaic HD. There are also various free apps, but I cannot vouch for them. Do a search on google and you may find some that work.
Fantastic - this solved it.
I was shooting digital video in the highest quality mode, 1080/60p. I canceled the highest quality which can be done through a single direct button on the side panel. After re-shooting some additional video in the lower quality mode, the new footage is instantly recognized and importable by iMovie (version 8.0.6). Thanks a lot!!