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Canon HF100 review



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When Canon launched the HF10 earlier in 2008, it quickly became the best AVCHD camcorder we have yet reviewed. But released at the same time was an almost identical sibling. Called the HF100, it has two differences to its pricier sibling. First, it's grey rather than black. We prefer the latter, although the HF100 is hardly unattractive. More significant, however, is the lack of on-board flash memory. This is a key selling point for the HF10 - you don't need to bother with memory cards, as it has 16GB of flash on board. But the HF100 drops this and returns to the more traditional ‘supply your own SD card' route. Thanks to this omission, it's around £100 cheaper, too.

Other than the lack of built-in flash memory, however, the Canon HF100 has the same awesome specification as its pricier stable mate. It has a large 1/3.2in CMOS sensor, although this isn't quite as big as the 1/2.7in one used in Canon's previous generation of HD camcorders. The sensor sports 3.3-megapixels, with 2.07-megapixels used when shooting video - enough for Full HD at 1,920 x 1,080. The full resolution is only called upon when shooting still images, which can be captured at up to 2,048 x 1,536.

Four recording quality modes are available, all of which shoot at HD resolutions. The top FXP mode uses 1,920 x 1,080, whilst the other three operate at the anamorphic 1,440 x 1,080 resolution familiar from HDV and most previous AVCHD models. Data rates range from a healthy 17Mbits/sec in FXP mode to a miserly 5Mbits/sec in LP, although quality will suffer noticeably in this mode. Even in FXP mode, a 16GB SDHC card will be enough for around two hours of footage, and over six hours in LP.

The HF100 is packed with enthusiast features, too, which is still rare in AVCHD models. Image stabilisation uses Canon's excellent Super Range Optical system, and the lens provides a healthy 12x zoom. Microphone and headphone minijacks are sensibly placed on the rear, and the battery is non-captive, paving the way for longer-life options than the 890mAh unit supplied. A 1780mAh alternative is available for around three hours of shooting, and the batteries use Canon's Intelligent system, providing an estimate in minutes of duration remaining.

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August 11, 2008, 6:26 pm

Perhaps I'm getting old but I just can't get away with a camcorder without a viewfinder.

Is it possible to comment in reviews if the viewfinder is present or if we have to wave the camcorder around while trying to see the picture in the screen in the sunlight?


Geoff Richards

August 11, 2008, 7:35 pm

I'm not an expert (and James Morris is on holiday this week) but I would hazard to guess that there are very few camcorders these days with optical viewfinders... Just as we've seen with compact digital cameras, most people prefer framing shots using 3-inch + LCD screens rather than holding it to their face.

This is probably true even more for camcorders really. The solution is to improve the sunlight visibility of the LCD screens used. If you really must have an optical viewfinder I suspect you'll be researching the upper end of the market ie bulkier, semi-pro models rather than sexy little things like the HF100

James Morris

August 22, 2008, 6:00 pm

I'm back from holiday now. There really are very few camcorders left with a viewfinder for under a grand. The Canon HV30 is one, which records HDV to tape, but the AVCHD choice is virtually zero. Panasonic has recently released the HDC-HS100 and SD100, which do have viewfinders. Watch this space for full reviews!

Lee Tracey

September 1, 2008, 3:59 pm

An interesting point, at least for me, is the ability or not, for the camera to output its video and audio stream directly to a hard drive rather than record storage internally to a built-in flash or an inserted SD card. If I can provide external DC power and also record direct to a HDD, even via a PC, and retain the full 2 megapixel or 8M or higher, then I have a low cost megapixel camera I can use as a CCTV surveillance camera and at a reasonable price. Can this Canon provide that facility or can any other camcorder provide it?

Gavin Hamer

September 5, 2008, 6:09 pm

Sweet video review, although perhaps the skyline in the background at the start should be Bracknell? ;-)

Andy Vandervell

September 5, 2008, 9:06 pm

Aha, in fact all the backgrounds are from IPC Media's office in London. Frankly, you wouldn't want backgrounds from Bracknell. ;)

Chew Hock Aun

September 19, 2008, 6:51 am

There is no mention here that lesser moving parts and motor noise predominant in previous Canon models (mini DV) can prove to be a buyer's point. My attempts to replace the recorder head on my Panasonic antiquated camcorder could set me back at least RM 400.00 to RM 600.00. I presume hard disks will also consume battery power enough to reduce the usage time on any one charge.

Geoff Richards

September 19, 2008, 11:42 am

The power consumption by the hard disk is not a significant issue. They are low power and there is no problem with battery life. Higher capacity batteries are available if you really need longer life.

Never underestimate the convenience of having video stored on disc already, and my box of dozens of miniDV can attest - I just can't face having to rip them to my PC in slow-ass real time :(

If I could just drag & drop the entire footage like you can from Flash / HDD-based camcorders, I would do a lot more editing than I currently do.

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