With an identical sensor array and optics to the SD100, the HS100 unsurprisingly has identical image quality. It’s a noticeable improvement over the HS9 and SD9, which were already good. Colours are vibrant and saturated in optimal lighting. However, although the switch to CMOS has benefited low light performance a little, the image is only a little brighter than the previous three-CCD system in poor illumination. There is still a lot of grain in the lowest light. Although the grain is finer than before, it’s more unsightly than that produced by Canon’s HF10 and HF100. So the Canons still have a slight edge for sheer video quality.
When it's time to watch and edit your footage, the HS100 is as comprehensive as it is in other areas. As the video format is AVCHD, editing support is now wide, and even includes Adobe with the latest version 7 release of Premiere Elements. The USB 2.0 port for downloading your footage to a computer is hidden under the battery, so can only be used on mains power. The HDMI port has the same limitation, as it is located next door. It’s also of the mini variety, so will require an adapter for HDTV connection. The analogue component and AV ports are located on the side, however, so can be used on battery power.
In pure technical terms, the HDC-SD100 is more of an achievement than the HDC-HS100, considering how much it packs into such a small chassis. But the HS100’s 60GB hard disk is likely to have wider appeal, considering it only comes at a £50 price premium. Indeed, the extra 100g weight actually makes the HS100 a little easier to keep steady when shooting. So our hearts may be with the SD100’s marvellous miniaturisation, but the HS100 will probably suit most of the target market more. They’re both great achievements, though. So if you have been waiting for an AVCHD camcorder with semi-professional features, you can now choose between ultimate portability or capacious storage – both thanks to Panasonic.