Panasonic HDC-HS100 Camcorder Review
The Panasonic HDC-HS100, though it was announced only a few weeks ago, is an anticipated camcorder. Many years ago, Panasonic ruled the roost for power users and budget videographers. The Panasonic PV-GS400 was the king of them all, so loaded with features that it stayed at the top of our ratings list until we had to recreate our rubric. Then, of course, the medium of tape began to die off. Camcorder bodies shrank, and with it, room for the features we loved like viewfinders, rings, and certain ports. Panasonic, in fact, became the de facto leader of that movement towards shrinkage. While it maintained a high degree of manual control, the interface began to suffer, particularly when the joystick was moved from the back to the LCD cavity on the last generation HDC-SD9 and HDC-HS9.
Still Features* (7.5)
*The HDC-HS100's Photo mode has not received any significant upgrades since the HDC-HS9. Just like its predecessor, there is no distinct Photo mode on the HDC-HS100--Video and Photo options are merged together in the menus. The maximum still image size is 1920 x 1080 (approx. two megapixels). Right off the bat, the HDC-HS100 cannot compete with a typical entry-level digital camera, which averages 8-12 megapixel stills. Still images can be recorded to the 60GB HDD or SDHC cards, but only one form of media can be designated for both video and still images--you can't record video to the HDD and stills to an SDHC card. It has to be one or the other.
Since Video and Photo mode are linked together, all Manual Controls are shared. This includes the use of the new multi-function ring, which is something you won't find on a consumer digital camera. Aperture, Shutter Speed, White Balance, Focus, and Zoom are all adjustable via the Cam Function ring, which is a superior tool for advanced shooters.
Panasonic implemented a 'Face Framing' mode, which is their own version of Face Detection. Face Framing can be set to Off, Primary, and All. In Primary mode, Face Framing will adjust the exposure and color of the most prominent faces in a crowd. When Face Framing is set to All, every face will be detected and adjusted accordingly.
The HDC-HS100 has a High-Speed Burst mode that enables continuous photo capturing when the Photo Capture button is pressed and held down. A flash is embedded to the left of the lens. The flash can be set to Off, Auto, or On, and you can set the flash level to -, +/-0, and + (Low, Normal, High). The HDC-HS100 has a Red Eye Reduction feature that attempts to eliminate Devil Eyes. A Shutter Sound accompanying the Photo Capture button can be turned On or Off for that nostalgic 35mm feel. The second page of the Joystick menu contains a Self Timer that can be set to 10 or 2 seconds.
Most of the HDC-HS100's Photo options can be found in the Record Setup menu, which includes the following items:
**Record Setup Menu
|Page 1||Face Framing, Rec Mode, 24pDigital Cinema, Fade Color, Wind Cut|
|Page 2||Mic Setup, Mic Level, AGS, Hi-Speed Burst, Flash|
|Page 3||Flash Level, Red Eye, Shutter Sound|
In Playback mode, you can alternate between video clips and still images by selecting the corresponding tab. In Photo Playback mode, the menu contains the following options:
**Photo Playback Menu
|Pict. Setup||Slide Interval, Scene Protect, Delete|
|Copy||HDD to SDHC card, SDHC card to HDD|
|Setup||Display, Date/Time, Date Format, Power Save, Beep Sound, Power LCD, LCD Set, EVF Set, Component Out, HDMI Resolution, VIERA Link, TV Aspect, AV Jack, Format HDD, HDD Status|
|Language||English, Francais, Espanol|
That just about rounds out the still features for the HDC-HS100. Sony and Canon offer a much higher resolution. If you're looking for an alternative to a robust digital camera, the HDC-HS100 is not the answer.
Still Performance* (8.06)*
The still performance of the Panasonic HDC-HS100 was tested by shooting an X-Rite Color Checker chart at an even, bright light, then using Imatest imaging software to determine color accuracy, noise, and saturation. At best, the camcorder produced a color error of 7.44. This was a better score than previous generation HDC-HS9, though not by a huge amount. Of two competing camcorders, the Sony HDR-CX7 scored more accurately and the Canon HF10 produced less accurate colors.
The noise from the Panasonic HDC-HS100 measured 0.395%, an exceptionally low noise score. The previous generation of Panasonics performed well on this test, but this was significantly better. The Sony HDR-CX7 and Canon HF10 did not do nearly so well. Finally, the saturation measured 92.34%.
Still Resolution* (5.15)*
The still resolution of the Panasonic HDC-HS100 was tested by shooting an Applied Image ISO 12233 resolution chart at an even, bright light. We then ran the images through Imatest imaging software to determine the resolution in line widths per picture height (lw/ph). At best, the camcorder produced a horizontal resolution of 538 lw/ph - with a clipping of 0.57% and a sharpening of 6.1%. The vertical resolution measured 524 lw/ph - with an undersharpening of 12.8%.
Because the stills only measure 1920 x 1080 (a little over two megapixels) when they're outputted, Panasonic is clearly not trying to make the HDC-HS100 a viable replacement for your dedicated still camera. Competing camcorders like the Canon HF10 and Sony HDR-CX7, both of which have a large, single sensor, produced stills with a much higher measurable resolution.
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