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.