For those times when you can’t be bothered with manual settings, however, Panasonic offers its iA Intelligent Auto mode. This builds on the features added with the SD9 and HS9. In iA mode, when illumination drops below a certain level, the Low light scene mode is automatically enabled. If the camera detects human faces, it will turn on Face Recognition and the Portrait scene mode. It will also enable Spotlight or a Scenery landscape scene mode in certain conditions. Otherwise, Panasonic’s Intelligent Contrast is enabled, which boosts detail in bright areas and shadows. We found the iA mode’s detection abilities were generally pretty accurate.
The HS100 also has a viewfinder, which is a very rare sight on consumer High Definition camcorders. In fact, only a handful of HDV models still include one, such as Canon’s HV20 and HV30, or Sony’s HDR-HC9E. So the HS100 and SD100 are unique in this respect, as the only AVCHD models with this feature. It’s not the most ergonomic viewfinder ever made, being fixed. Therefore, if you fit a longer-life battery it will be particularly hard to use. However, it will still come in handy on those occasions when the LCD is hard to see. A switch nearby toggles between the two.
Of course, it will come as no surprise that a camcorder with all these features also incorporates a standard-sized accessory shoe, for attaching third-party external microphones and video lights. The requisite microphone minijack can be found on the front, underneath the lens, which isn’t the best place for it. The AV jack can be switched in the menu to become a headphone socket, so you can monitor audio quality. Overall, there are almost no important semi-professional features lacking with the HS100, with the exception of a progressive shooting mode.