The HS100 packs a large 60GB hard disk drive, which stores just under eight hours-worth of HD footage. It records at a very high 17Mbits/sec data rate. Footage can be copied to SD or SDHC card for easier sharing.
Other features include optical image stabilisation, face detection and microphone input. The HS100 also captures JPEG stills, but only up to 1,920x1,080 resolution. That's 2.1-megapixels, making it suitable for screen grabs rather than replacing a stills camera.
Intelligent Auto mode handles all the thinking for you, and has a dedicated button. Another button activates the pre-record function, which saves video before you press the record button, so you don't miss anything.
The HS100 takes a good six seconds to start up and be ready for recording, with an onscreen egg-timer as it reads the disk, even if it's empty. Keeping the camera on standby leads to instant start-up by flipping out the screen. This will affect the battery, however.
The picture looks great, with rich colours and plenty of detail. We were untroubled by jaggies or artefacts in decent lighting, and diagonal lines rendered cleanly. The jury is still out on 3MOS as opposed to 3CCD or even one larger CMOS, but we were pleased with the results from the HS100.
iA Intelligent Auto mode detects the scene in front of the camera, switching between landscape mode and so on, activating portrait mode and face recognition if it spots a face. We found this to be pretty reliable. Low light mode activates in darker conditions, but it doesn't prevent a noticable gritty texture to video.
The Panasonic HDC-HS100 ticks just about every box for a camcorder. It's compact but still grippable, while boasting a roomy hard drive. It sports a number of high-end features while still being a piece of cake to operate and benefitting from effective automatic modes. We love the manual lens ring, with its clever range of functions. Above all, image quality is great. Other options include the Canon HF10 or Sony Handycam HDR-SR11, but you won't regret opting for the HS100.
Edited by Marian Smith