The Panasonic HDC-HS100 is available now for as little £610 online, which we think is pretty reasonable for such a feature-packed model. It's a three CMOS model, or '3MOS'.
The HS100 is the standard barrel-shaped form factor, with a chunky grip on the right side reminiscent of DVD models. Although it's nicely contoured to the palm, the area where your fingertips rest is smooth rather than textured and could be a bit grippier.
The 69mm (2.7-inch) 16:9 LCD screen flips out and twists over for self-portraits. It packs an impressive 300,252-dot resolution. Closing the screen puts the camera into stand-by, flip it out again for quick start-up when you're ready to shoot. You can switch easily between the LCD screen and electronic viewfinder, with diopter to help you focus on the image in the EVF.
The controls are easy to follow, with dedicated buttons for intelligent auto (iA) mode, pre-record function and menu, image stabilisation and a button for copying from hard drive to memory card located in the screen well. Also here is a flat four-way joystick for navigating menus. It has plenty of travel but feels a little flat and wobbly to us.
Connections are split between the screen well and battery well. A sliding cover in the screen well conceals component and AV/audio connections, while a small hatch pops open to reveal the SD and SDHC card slot. The HDMI and USB sockets are concealed beneath the battery, which must be removed and the camera connected to the mains to transfer and view footage. This is to ensure the battery doesn't die mid-transfer, but it still feels slightly weird and means you pretty much have to be at home with all the right cables to transfer, or watch your video -- more likely when you're out and about.
The 12x optical zoom can be controlled with a rocker switch by the first finger of the right hand, or with the left using the manual lens ring on the Leica Dicomar lens. A quick push of a switch at the front changes the lens ring to manual focussing, with the centre of the frame magnified onscreen for fine adjustment. Cleverly, the ring can also scroll through a short shooting menu, and adjust functions such as shutter speeds.
Our only complaint about the lens ring is that it is partially blocked by the lamp, so if you're using finger and thumb to adjust, the amount you can turn is restricted. Another concern is that the accessory cold shoe's tethered cover doesn't do a very good job of folding out of the way, so some accessories may not fit.
The HS100 substitutes CCD sensors for three 1/6-inch CMOS imaging chips. Each sensor absorbs red, green or blue, giving greater image detail than a single sensor. Each sensor packs 610,000 pixels. Video is recorded in AVCHD format, at full high definition 1,920x1,080 resolution.