Where JVC has put up a good fight at the budget end of the market, conversely Panasonic has tended to dominate the higher end more, with models like the HC-X900. But it can still put together a keenly priced, decently specified budget model, which is where the HC-V100 comes in. Priced well below the £200 mark, it competes directly with the JVC Everio GZ-E15, and many of its specifications are very similar too.
For starters, the V100 has an identically sized 1/5.8in CMOS, with an identical 1.5Mpixels. Panasonic doesn't divulge whether this is a back-side illuminated sensor, however. The optical zoom isn't quite as powerful as the E15's, maxing out at 37x, but the iZoom mode boosts this marginally to 42x, and is available in HD, whereas the E15's Dynamic Zoom only operates in standard definition mode. However, with no spare pixels on the CMOS the iZoom will reduce resolution slightly when used, as it crops into the frame slightly.
The Panasonic HC-V100's image stabilisation is also optical, which is an incredible inclusion at this price. This is Panasonic's Power OIS, with Active mode. The latter is aimed at smoothing the lower frequency vibrations caused by shooting whilst walking.
The V100 shoots AVCHD at Full HD resolution, with data rates up to 17Mbits/sec. There is no standard definition option, but you can shoot in iFrame mode, which has a resolution of 960 x 540 and is essentially a quarter of Full HD. This mode runs at a 28Mbits/sec, so loses resolution compared to HD but also offers considerably less aggressive compression.
Unlike the JVC Everio GZ-E15, the V100 also shoots digital photos, although with just a 1.5Mpixel sensor these are far from the quality of even the cheapest dedicated compact camera. With a little interpolation added for good measure, digital photos are snapped at 2.1Mpixels, which is below what even most smartphones can muster these days, so this feature is really only here for very occasional usage. Footage and photos are captured to SD memory card via the single SDXC-compatible slot. At the top Full HD video data rate, a 16GB SD card will be enough for about two hours of footage.
If the digital photography abilities are a little half-hearted, the range of manual settings really isn’t. In Intelligent Auto mode, the camera will attempt to detect conditions and set a scene mode accordingly, or you can choose one yourself. There are ten of these available, including the usual sports, portrait, snow, landscape and night modes amongst others. But this requires a trip to the main menu, and there are some options more readily available via a quick menu. The V100 has menu and enter buttons plus a D-pad on the edge of the LCD, which makes them pretty easy to use. Pressing the enter button and using the D-pad on its own gives you rapid access to enabling backlight compensation, tele macro mode, the pre-rec buffering option, and various onscreen gridline configurations.