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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.