Canon HF100 camcorder (was: [EE] SDHC Cards,was Re: Digital Sound)
M. Adam Davis email (remove spam text)
On 7/17/08, Bob Ammerman <verizon.net> wrote: rammerman
> > They are primarily being positioned as the next stage in digital video
> > media. I just purchased a Canon HF100.....
> My son wants to buy that model. Could I ask you your opinion of it?
Changed the topic and subject. Wonder if this might be OT? Please
change into soft slippers if you're going to boot me Russell... ;-D
I've only had it for a few days now, and haven't done any significant
shooting or post processing with it, so you might consider asking me
again in a month or two - I'm taking it on a vacation next week.
I spent a lot of time on here:
which appears to be (or aspires to be) the dpreview of camcorders.
The reviews are fairly thorough. I also spent some time on amazon.com
reviews and this one had the least number of bad reviews, though it's
a fairly new model. Lot's of, "I bought X but didn't like such and
such about it, so I returned it and bought this one and it's perfect!"
Noting that I've never owned a camcorder before, here are my first impressions:
- It's small and light - I can see myself using it for long periods
of time without becoming sore, and the case I purchased for it is
smaller than my DSLR case (Canon XTi 400D) so I won't hesitate to
bring it if I think it might be useful wherever I'm going. Of course,
I'm now faced with the perpetual quandry - which one do I bring, and
if both to I get a larger case for both or let them hang off my
shoulders as two seperate bags? I think that I could modify an arm
lamp to act as a mount for this - it weighs less than the flourescent
head of the lamp, which could have interesting uses for electronic
- It's surprisingly stable - I can't hold a webcam by hand with
noticably annoying shake, but this wasn't annoying. The lens
stabilisation (vs electronic image stabilisation) gets high marks from
most reviewers, so I think Canon made a good choice here. I can zoom
in all the way (12x) and while the shake is noticable, the video is
still watchable/usable. This is freestanding hand shake - when I rest
my elbows on a table or other surface even zoomed in it appears rock
stable. I was expecting it to be pretty bad given its low mass.
- The macro focus is AWESOME. I was surprised to find that zoomed
out it would focus to about an inch in front of the lens, which is
perfect for some of the electronics related video I want to capture.
Looking at the fibers in a piece of cloth with perfect focus on a
large high resolution monitor was very nice.
- The image quality is very, very good. Connected to a full
resolution monitor there's no noticable blurriness, aliasing, or image
compression artifacts. (well, that I notice on my cheap 24" screen,
- Low light performance is good, though I'm told there are better
(including the previous canon SD cameras with larger sensors). Indoor
use with flourescent or incandescent lighting is fine, although you
can see a marked improvement when the scene is well lit.
- The zoom is variable and starts off very slowly, so it's very smooth
- The camcorder uses a USB profile that is built into Windows Vista,
so even if you use Vista 64 you aren't scrambling around for drivers.
- The lens is threaded so you can add polarizing and other filters
and attachments (telephoto, wide angle, etc) easily and inexpensively.
- Focus is fast. Unless you are outside the focus range (19" zoomed
in, 1" zoomed out) then hunting was unnoticable or, in low light, not
bothersome. It has a seperate focus sensor, so a quick pan from a
near object to a far object was spookily in focus by the time I
stopped on the far object.
- The important controls (zoom, start, stop, power) are within hand's
reach for the gripping hand and usable without loosening your grip.
- It doesn't do live video via USB, so if you want to use it in live
video situations (webcam, ustream, etc) then you need to have a video
input on your computer, such as composite, or the new HD component or
HDMI capture cards now out.
- Rather than turning the power savings due to solid state recording
into longer record times, they shrunk the battery so it fits inside
the envelope of the camcorder. The included battery is 7.4v @
~800mAH, and is supposed to last typically just under an hour.
Batteries are not inexpensive, but you can get an extended battery,
and my plan is to simply keep another battery or two around and a
seperate charger - this has worked well with my dslr camera usage
patterns, so we'll see. Alternately I'm mulling over the idea of an
external battery pack that mounts onto the camera's 1/4" tripod mount
- just a small box that adds 1/2 to 3/4 inch to the height and is
packed with lipoly batteries. Should be cheaper than an official
canon battery, and would add several hours of time with not much
- It appears that nearly every camcorder has a built in microphone
that picks up environmental noise too easily, and isn't directional.
This is no exception - I have a relatively noisy office (a fan,
several computers, furnace in next room, etc) and it was very
noticable on a recording of someone speaking quietly. The reviewers
don't seem to dock points for it, so perhaps it's just par for the
course in camcorder land.
- Very few buttons. It's a reasonably complex and adjustable
camcorder, but you have to go through more than 1-2 button presses to
alter the exposure, adjust focus manually, aperature, etc. I don't
know that I'll be using these things much, so it suits me, but I know
some people like to have everything at their fingertips without taking
their eyes off the monitor.
- It doesn't come with an off-board battery charger. The power
adaptor plugs into the back of the camera while the battery charges
installed in the camera. I suppose this is how most camcorders work,
but I think I would rather carry around a few batteries and an off
camera charger. On the plus side, if there's AC nearby you don't have
to worry about the battery running low.
- I could be mistaken, but it appears the camcorder requires that AC
be plugged in when connected to the computer. Seems odd and somewhat
limiting, but it may be that I was connecting in an odd mode or
None of the cons really bother me, they're just things I would like
out of a perfect camcorder.
Lastly, the price is very nice - you can get this HD camcorder for
just over $600 now. I purchased the camcorder and two 8GB cards for
under $700 including shipping.
The only thing I wish I could add to this review is comments on the
included software bundle (which processes, converts, and burns DVDs
among other things). I haven't tried it yet, and I'm concerned that
even though I've got a reasonably nice computer that should actually
do very well for video, I might still see long conversion times.
AVCHD is a relatively new format, so support is limited and sparse in
most video editing programs, so this is an important part of the
bundle. I'll let you know what I find soon.
Let me know if you have any specific questions about it.
EARTH DAY 2008
Tuesday April 22
Save Money * Save Oil * Save Lives * Save the Planet
See also: www.piclist.com/techref/io/audio.htm?key=sound
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