The HF100's features are undeniably rich, but image quality is where this camcorder really slays the competition. Colour is vibrant, and the slightly smaller CMOS compared to previous HD models is made up for by the true 1,920 x 1,080 recording and higher data rate, which together deliver the most detail we have seen from an AVCHD camcorder. Sony's HDR-SR12 might shade the HF100 and HF10 for dynamic range, but it can't match their pin-sharp clarity of image.
Low light was where we expected the HF100 to fall behind larger-chipped Canons such as the HV30. Here again, however, the extra sharpness mostly outweighs the reduction in colour. To further boost low-light performance, engaging 25PF mode allows the shutter to drop to 1/25th without ill effect on motion, and this effectively doubles the light sensitivity over 1/50th and boosts colour noticeably. In this mode, the HF100, like the HF10, provides the best results we've seen from any AVCHD camcorder in our ‘living room lit by 100W bulb' test. Considering how often you might want to shoot family events under these kinds of conditions, here the HF100 is a real winner.
When it's time to edit, the HF100 provides a USB 2.0 connection to transfer footage to a PC or Mac, and we had no trouble editing our video in any AVCHD-compatible app we tried - which is virtually all of them now, bar Adobe's. Otherwise, you can use the built-in HDMI connection to view footage on a HDTV, although this is of the mini variety so will require an adapter. A proprietary component output is also available, and the headphone minijack also doubles as an AV output, switchable in the menu. Note that all analogue connections are output only, however, so you can't record video back to the HF100.
In comparison to the HF10, the similarly-specced HF100 actually works out better value when you factor in the price of memory. Ok, the HF10 can add a 16GB card and give you four hours of shooting in FXP - comparable to a hard disk-based model - whilst the HF100 will need an extra memory card to perform the same feat. But that's hardly a major hassle, and for this reason the HF100 usurps the higher-end HF10 as our top AVCHD camcorder choice.