Canon HF100

Canon's flash-based high-definition camcorder has lots of manual features

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Canon HF100
  • Canon HF100
  • Canon HF100
  • Canon HF100

Pros

  • Stunning high-definition video resolution, unsurpassed image clarity and colour, comes packed with manual features

Cons

  • No inbuilt memory, no memory card in sales package, drab design

Bottom Line

The HF100 is one of the best camcorders in its price range. Offering exceptionally sharp video and an extensive array of manual features, it will suit amateurs and enthusiasts both. However, sticklers for value should pick up the 32-gigabyte HF11 version instead.

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The Canon HF100 is a high-definition camcorder that records AVCHD video to SD/SDHC memory cards. Despite having a beefier sounding name, it’s actually a downgraded version of Canon’s HF11. The main difference has to do with internal flash memory — simply put, there isn't any. By contrast, the HF11 comes equipped with a whopping 32GB, which is enough for a full day’s worth of shooting.

Otherwise, the HF100 is nigh-on identical to its costlier sibling, with the same 1/3.2-in CMOS sensor, 12x optical zoom and gross pixel count of 3,310k. Despite the higher price tag, we feel that the HF11 represents a much better deal — that inbuilt memory is just too convenient to pass up. Nevertheless, the HF100 remains an excellent camcorder in its own right, with superb image quality and extensive manual controls.

Indeed, the degree of hands-on freedom is one of the Canon HF100’s strongest selling points. Like the HF11, it offers more advanced modes and features than the typical consumer-grade camcorder (only JVC’s Everio GZ-HD6 can compare). Shutter priority, aperture priority, white balance, image & digital effects, focus, bitrate and audio/mic levels are just some of the adjustable functions at your fingertips. If you’re serious about video but can’t afford a prosumer model, then you really can’t look past this camcorder. (Well, apart from the HF11.)

One caveat is the lack of a manual control dial; something that Sony’s HDR-SR11 and HDR-SR12 E both offer. Instead, you’re stuck with a display-mounted joystick. This is obviously less than ideal, particularly when it comes to manual focus. To be fair though, this is a problem synonymous with nearly every camcorder on the market. On the plus side, the menu layout is very well organised — especially given its complexity — and fairly easy to navigate via the miniature joystick.

We were somewhat less enthused by the HF100’s appearance, however. While its competitors continue to outclass one another with sleek and shiny status symbols, Canon seems to knock its models together with the proverbial ugly stick. Neither an ultra portable camcorder nor professionally bulky, it’s not the most impressive looking unit on the block; especially with its drab grey finish. In fact, if camcorders were all members of a boy band, the HF100 would be the token ugly one. Fortunately, just like an ugly boy band member, it’s probably the best performer of the lot.

In our previous reviews we’ve spent an unhealthy amount of time waxing lyrical about Canon’s superior optics, and our tests of this latest model off the production line show the Canon HF100 to be every bit as impressive.

In terms of video quality, the HF100 is on equal par with its HF11 stable mate, which gave one of the best performances we’ve seen from a camcorder in this price range. In optimum lighting, our test footage exhibited stunning true-to-life colours and razor-sharp detail. The 3.3-megapixel, 1/3.2in CMOS sensor did a reasonable job of combating noise levels, although it naturally works best in bright environments (a front-mounted light can be activated for nocturnal shooting). With that being said, the camera’s low-light performance remained very impressive; especially in 25PF mode. We were also impressed with the Cine mode, which provides less saturated, film-like tones.

The Canon HF100 also doesn’t skimp on audio quality. In addition to its front-mounted microphone, it sports a pair of microphone and headphone jacks, as well as an accessory shoe compatible with Canon’s range of external microphones. As mentioned, the audio level can be manually adjusted via the camera's miniature directional stick. All up, its audio performance is top-notch.

Despite being limited to 2.76-megapixels, the still image mode on this camcorder was well above average. The snaps will certainly prove suitable for social networking sites like Facebook, and may even provide decent prints. (As with any still image mode, this will depend on lighting and the camera settings selected.)

Our only real gripe with this camcorder is the lack of internal memory. Although Canon has knocked $200 off the price tag (compared to the HF11), no SDHC memory card is included in the sales package. This means you’ll need to buy a 32GB card to match the HF10’s memory capacity, which will set you back around $600. In other words, you’re actually spending money rather than saving it.

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