Canon FS100

Miniature camcorder gives big results

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Canon FS100
  • Canon FS100
  • Canon FS100
  • Canon FS100

Pros

  • Lots of modes and features to play around with, compact design, external microphone jack

Cons

  • No inbuilt memory, no headphone jack

Bottom Line

The FS100 is a flash-memory-based camcorder with an impressive array of features for the asking price. While it may not excel in any one area, it offers solid performance across the board.

Would you buy this?

The FS100 is the entry-level model in Canon's new range of flash-memory-based camcorders. Like its bigger brother, the FS11, it records standard-definition video to SD/SDHC memory cards and it comes equipped with many of the same modes and features (including a 37x optical zoom). In fact, the only thing that separates these two cameras — apart from a slightly different colour scheme — is onboard memory. Unlike the FS11, the FS100 lacks an inbuilt hard drive, which means you'll need to purchase at least one memory card to make the product work. Otherwise, it delivers an identical performance to its 16GB-equipped sibling. Feature-rich and user-friendly, it will mainly suit beginners and casual users.

Removable flash memory is currently the 'new black' of the camcorder industry, with all major vendors supporting a version of this format. Its benefits over digital tape and DVD are numerous, including the ability to hot-swap between camera and computer, less power consumption (and thus longer battery life), almost no sound during operation and much smaller camcorder sizes. With the exception of Panasonic's SDR-S7, the FS100 is probably the smallest fully fledged camcorder we've laid our hands on. This makes it an ideal companion for habitual videographers, although at barely 300g its lack of heft may take some getting used to. This problem is exacerbated by the lack of an optical image stabiliser; instead, an inferior digital stabiliser is offered. If you're new to taking video, plenty of hands-on practice will be required to attain smooth results.

Another advantage offered by the SD/SDHC format is the user-friendly way in which video is stored. Each recording appears on the card as a separate clip represented by an illustrated thumbnail in the playback menu. This not only makes playback a simple matter of highlighting the desired clip, but it also ensures you never accidentally record over your footage. SDHC cards currently come in capacities of up to 32GB, which can record up to eight hours of video at the highest quality setting.

In terms of design, the FS100 isn't quite as spiffy looking as the FS11. While both models share the same basic style and shape, the FS11 benefits from a sexier grey colour scheme — the FS100, on the other hand, sticks to boring silver. Nevertheless, its compact dimensions remain suitably cute and classy for a sub-$700 camcorder. It is also very easy to use, with an intuitively laid out menu and simple joystick interface.

The range of modes and features on offer is quite extensive, including adjustable white balance, manual focus and exposure settings, backlight compensation, scene modes (consisting of Portrait, Sports, Night, Snow, Beach, Sunset, Spotlight and Fireworks), digital fades and image effects, plus an LED video light and 2000x digital zoom. Alternatively, you can opt to select the prominently marked 'Easy' button and let the camera take care of all the decisions for you.

We were pleasantly surprised by the inclusion of an external microphone jack on this camera, something that most entry-level units fail to deliver. However, Canon has unfortunately failed to include a supporting headphone jack, which means you're entirely reliant on the LCD's audio display to monitor sound. This is a pretty significant oversight that will lead many users to stick with the inbuilt microphone.

The FS100's video performance was identical to the FS11's, which sports the same 1/6in image sensor and 1.07-megapixel camera resolution. It performed solidly in sunny environments when compared to similarly priced camcorders, though its output was typically patchy when used in dim lighting. Meanwhile, its still image performance was on par with most other SD camcorders — which is to say, suitable for Facebook and not much else.

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