Its optically stabilized f1.8-3.0 12X zoom lens has a longer reach than the typical 10x lens available in this class, but the rest of its features are pretty common in Canon's prosumer models. For video, these include aperture- and shutter-priority exposure modes, three fixed/one variable zoom speed options, a video light, Instant AF, and a wind-screen filter. You can also record in progressive 30 or 24 frames-per-second (fps) modes as well as 60i. For still photos, metering, flash, and burst and exposure bracketing options become available as well. The camcorder also supplies a complete set of ports and connectors: component or mini-HDMI out for direct-to-TV playback, mini headphone and mic jacks, and USB for downloading to computer. (You can find a complete list of the features in the product manual available via this PDF download.)
The new lens performs surprisingly well. Not only does the SuperRange optical image stabilization system work satisfactorily all the way out to the end, but the lens focuses quickly and holds the lock in both dim and bright conditions. Images look sharp, too. On the downside, high-contrast edges show more fringing than usual. The stereo microphone sits beneath the lens and generally delivers good audio quality. However, in recent models Canon changed the wind filter option from a forced-on to automatic, and ever since I've found it far less effective.
As is usual with compact designs, Canon provides a new 890mAh battery with the HF100, the BP-809, which is rated for about 55 minutes of typical recording time. The company offers an optional double-capacity battery, the BP-819. The larger battery likely ruins the svelte lines of the camcorder design, however.
Though the HF100 incorporates a smaller, 1/3.2-inch 3.3-megapixel CMOS sensor than the HV30 and the CX7, the video still looks quite good: properly exposed, nicely saturated, and sharp. As expected, in low light the video displays more noise and a somewhat compressed tonal range, but retains a significant amount of detail and fares above average compared with the rest of its class.
An excellent choice for flash-based HD recording, the HF100 gives the CX7 a close run for the money, and it is a clear champion if you don't like the Sony's touch-screen interface. But then the real question becomes which model is the better deal--the Vixia HF10 or the HF100. The cost difference between the two exactly reflects the current price of the HF10's internal 16GB of flash memory, which makes it tempting to recommend buying the cheaper model and springing for an additional card when the prices inevitably fall (or paying the same for a larger card, when they inevitably ship) later in the year. On the other hand, the HF10's black body is a bit more attractive than the HF100's gray. Decisions, decisions.