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Canon HF100 - Canon HF100

By James Morris


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On the downside, the accessory shoe is Canon's new "S" Mini Advanced Shoe, rather than a standard-sized one, so you will be forced to use Canon's proprietary peripherals rather than third-party alternatives. The mounting screw is also rather far forward on the camcorder body, which makes the HF100 unbalanced when affixed to a tripod. There is also no lens ring, making manual focusing a hassle you might not bother with most of the time, despite the Focus Assist mode which automatically magnifies the frame during focusing.

But these niggles can mostly be forgiven thanks to the huge array of manual settings available. These are controlled by a combination of the joystick on the edge of the LCD and the buttons ranged along the bottom. Five shooting modes are available. In P mode, the joystick provides access to a general Exposure control plus manual audio levels. In shutter priority mode, you can vary the shutter from 1/6th to 1/2000th, whilst the Exposure control becomes a combined iris and gain setting with 12 steps. In aperture priority mode, on the other hand, iris can be varied from F1.8 to F8, with the Exposure control becoming a combined shutter and gain setting instead. Neither is quite as good as Panasonic or JVC's fully manual settings, but both are effective when used in the right conditions.

Cinema mode boosts the mid-range and compresses highlights and shadows, for a look more in keeping with professional camcorders. But unfortunately it can't be used at the same time as either of the priority modes. Neither can the Scene modes, with Portrait, Sports, Night, Snow, Beach, Sunset, Spotlight and Fireworks modes available.

However, in all but the Scene modes you can also call upon Canon's Image Effects, which aren't tacky digital filters but provide useful control over colour and sharpening. Vivid mode boosts saturation, whilst Neutral lowers it. Low Sharpening speaks for itself, whilst Soft Skin smoothes out only flesh tones. The Custom mode lets you vary colour depth, brightness, contrast and sharpening independently, although only by plus or minus one step.

Delving further into the menu, you can shoot in either 50i or 25PF progressive mode, for a more film-like look. There is also a built-in flash to aid night-time photography and LED light for dusk videomaking, although both only have an effective range of a few metres. The Flash triggers automatically when conditions require, but the video light must be turned on manually using the joystick. Strangely, the only function to get a discrete button is Back Light Compensation.

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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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