Panasonic HDC-HS100 AVCHD Camcorder Review

Panasonic for the Ages

Get in line: It has finally arrived. Panasonic’s new HDC-HS100 is an SD/HDD hybrid camcorder that is sure to shake things up. It’s a beauty with an innovative design and a very user-friendly touch. At $1,200, the HS100 is a much welcome edition to the Panasonic prosumer line of camcorders.

Project Comfort

The HS100’s intuitive design not only feels good; it is also very easy to shoot with. The feature that caught our eye right off the bat was the manual focus ring on the lens of the camera. This is not a common feature of consumer camcorders. We noticed that focusing manually and zooming with the lens allowed us much more freedom to customize our shots. The customization continued as we were able to adjust our iris and shutter speed through the on-board menu, located uniquely on the inside of the camera by the LCD screen, but not on the LCD. We could also switch from Manual to Auto mode with the push of a switch near the lens in front of the LCD. We found this much easier than on most consumer cameras, which require going through the on-board menu to switch modes. With the HS100’s three 1/6-inch CMOS imaging chips, we were able to capture amazing HD quality at full resolution, 1920 x 1080. All video is captured in AVCHD format with each CMOS sensor grabbing 610,000 pixels.

The HS100 provides the standard amount of space to play in with a 60GB hard drive, about 7.5 hours of recording time. When you are recording at a data rate of 17Mbits per second, the quality stays superb throughout. We found the Intelligent Auto Mode very useful. Three of Panasonic’s most helpful settings are all ready to go when we activated the feature: Image Stabilization, Contrast Correction and Face Detection. We liked how the camera automatically kicked into Contrast Correction and began to adjust the lens, simply because there was not enough light to illuminate our shot, and filled in our shadows with detail. We found Face Detection to be very accurate and very helpful when capturing video in Auto Mode. When unfocused, the camera took only a fraction of a second to focus back up. When we turned the camera on, it took about 6 seconds to load up.

The 12x lens offers impressive video, and the digital zoom is very powerful at 700x. Our shots stayed pretty clear until the 30x mark, at which point we began to experience some grain. When you shake the camera, a pop-up lets you know that the camera is panning too fast. We thought this was a nice heads-up to slow down our movements.

Audio captures in Dolby Digital 5.1 and sounds very clear. We tested interviews of a subject from 4 feet away, 6 feet away and 15 feet away. At 6 feet, the voice became noticeably garbled in the mix, and at 15 feet our subject was unrecognizable.

Small and Explosive

Weighing in at 0.92 pounds, the HS100 felt quite comfortable. Due to how our hands fit around the camera, we found it extremely smooth to shoot with. The battery pack attaches to the back side of the camera, directly under the viewfinder, and the AC adaptor plugs in behind it. A switch that lets you watch shots from the LCD or the viewfinder rests next to the battery, and sitting underneath is the dial that turns the camera on and selects from Playback to Shoot modes. The rocker zoom functions as a volume knob in the playback mode, and, as on most consumer cameras, it rests just above the viewfinder, which neighbors the still shot button. The mic input makes its home under the lens, with the component and A/V headphone output jack inside the LCD portion of the camera body. All of these hide behind an innovative cover design along the body wall, next to the SD card input. The Intelligent Auto Mode button lies just above the body, as does the Pre-Rec button. We liked that the toggle that controls the menu sits on the body, instead of on the LCD, as the menu is also on the top side of the body. We thought that it felt more intuitive to use while shooting. The mic sits behind the lens, and the accessory shoe sits on top of the camera. It comes with a wireless controller; USB, component, and A/V cables; a battery and ac adaptor.

Shake It Up

The HS100 is a hybrid, which allows for capturing to SD cards or capturing to the hard drive. It has a very intuitive design and is a very nice addition to Panasonic’s consumer line of cameras. It meets the needs of those who are also looking to take a step into the more professional realm and get their hands on some manual customization. It is a very easy camera to shoot with, and it has all the right features to make a video standout.

TECH SPECS

Format: 60GB HDD, SD/SDHC memory card

Recording: AVCHD

Image Sensor: 3 1/6″ CMOS (610K pixels each)

Video Effective Pixels: 16:9 – 520K x 3 (moving picture/still picture)

f Value: 1.8-2.8

Optical Zoom: 12x variable speed

Focal Length: 2.95-35.4mm

Filter diameter: 37mm

Image Stabilizer: Yes

Still Picture Recording: Yes (2.1 Megapixel 16:9)

Iris: Auto/manual

Electronic Viewfinder: Yes (EVF)

LCD Monitor: 2.7″ wide (300,000 dots)

Audio Recording Format: Dolby Digital 5.1-channel

Microphone In: Yes

Headphone Jack: Yes

Wireless Remote: Yes

External Battery Charger Provided: Yes

Accessory Shoe: Yes

Dimensions: 2.9″ x 2.9″ x 5.4″

White Balance: Auto/Indoor1/Indoor2/Sunny/Cloudy/White Set

Weight: 0.92 lbs.

Strengths

  • Extremely user-friendly
  • Intelligent Auto mode
  • Intuitive design

Weaknesses

  • Long load times

SUMMARY

Panasonic’s HDC-HS100 is the ultimate consumer camera. It is the only camcorder that offers the customization of a professional model with the touch of a consumer one.

Tom Skowronski is Videomaker‘s Associate Editor.

1 Panasonic Way

Secaucus, NJ 07094

www.panasonic.com


$1200

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