Canon VIXIA HF S100 (unboxing)

I recently bought a new HD camera, after several years of feeling out of the modern loop. I choose the HF S100 for it’s look, specs and for the sample videos I saw online. Considering the price, Canon has packed an amazing amount of features into this camera.

I’ve had the camera for less than a week and I’m really enjoying the device. It’s a pleasure to work with, however the glow of new toy hasn’t faded. Once I have an opportunity to use it in a more practical way… I’m sure I will have more feedback.

Okay, so let’s break the camera down…

The battery that comes with the camera says 99 minutes when fully charged in video mode. Considering the size and weight of the battery, I can’t complain. Since, I will run out of battery before I run out of room on the memory card, I felt it was necessary to buy a spare. I choose an off-brand battery that the B&H website recommended as an accessory. So far the PEARSTONE battery seems like it will do the job, but I found it less elegant then the Canon batteries for the following reasons: 1. the spare battery does not communicate with the camera like the Canon batteries do. instead the PEARSTONE has 4 led lights. this isn’t a huge issue, but it leads me to complaint… 2. there is no indicator that the battery is charging. 3. this isn’t really a complaint, but worth noting. the battery cannot be charged through the camera, it has to be directly plugged into the power supply that comes with the camera.

The memory card doesn’t come with the camera. This isn’t an complaint, compared to it’s counter part (the S10; $300 more) the S100 doesn’t come with 32GBs on board. For $300 less… I’m okay with this, because I can pick up a good Class-4 SDHC card for around $100-$130. If you can find a name brand Class-6 card buy it. A class-6 shouldn’t cost more than $130. Most of the SDHC cards will have a C logo with their class-number inside the C-logo. If the card meets or exceeds a certain class rating, they will want to advertise it. Don’t be swayed by names like “ultra”, “fast”, “uber awesome”; look for the class-number logo printed on the front of the card. For this camera only use Class-4 and above.

The common complaints have been this camera lacks a view finder. For me this isn’t a problem. I can’t remember the last time I used the viewfinder. I always use the flip-out LCD panel. So, this isn’t a loss for me. The second complaint has been that it rattles when you walk or shake it. I have a feeling this has to do with optical stabilizer. But again, this isn’t a huge loss because when I’m not holding the camera, it will be stashed away in it’s camera bag.

The video modes for this camera are: MXP, FXP, XP+, SP and LP. Basically, all that changes is the bit-rate, quality, and amount of your recording time. If you purchased a 32GB card like I did… the MXP mode (24mbs) will give you 3 hours. For me that’s plenty of time. All of the modes, record at 1920×1080 (60 frames per second; interlaced). The (24 and 30 frame progressive) cinema modes do not record as the advertised frame rates. They are just emulation modes. Everything still records at 60 frames per seconds; interlaced. However, I hear that with the cinema modes you get an accurate look, feel and exposure settings.

The hot shoe is not a full sized slot. It’s a mini-hot shoe. Thankfully I picked up a handle/video bracket for $15; months before I owned this camera. With this bracket I can attach two full-sized hot-shoe enabled accessories. Plus, the handle helps me hold the camera in different positions. Most people slip their hand into the strap. I don’t like holding camera in this manner. I prefer to support the camera from the bottom in a lifting position verse holding it like a pitch fork. I orignally bought this accessory so I could add a video light to my Flip Mino HD. It turns out I have found more value with the use of the handle, because it helps me stabilize the camera position. More so with the Canon verse the Flip.

The adapter ring is a feature you should find on any camera in the $1,000+ price range. This is something I had on my 3-chip prosumer camera and it’s something I’m am happy to find on this device. Canon likes to standardize the diameter widths for their cameras. Since the lens diameter is 58mm, I can use any lenses that the GL2 can and now I have a much wider selection of professional lenses I can use.

The ports on this camera… well there’s a bunch. This is always the sign of a good thing. The first thing to point out is that the port-covers are not flimsy. Here’s what I found… A cupboard port for the component, mini-usb and HDMI connectors. The A/V port for composite and L/R phono connector-cord. The A/V port can also double as the headphone jack (you can configure this the in the menu interface). An external mic connector. I am most happy about this, now I can film in HD with my wireless mic pack. *does the dance of a/v nerd joy* Last, is the power jack.

The menu interface isn’t so bad. I have found on my cameras (regardless of price) that this is where most of them fail. However the menu/features interface on the camera is quite good and not ugly. Don’t get me wrong, this interface is not pretty either, but it’s very functional and easy to understand after a couple minutes of use. The camera has a joystick on the flip-out screen. With some simple (up, down, left, right) movements you can get around the menus. The joystick also doubles as a push button. My last “good” camera was the Sony TRV-950 and was one of the first models to use a touch-screen interface. That is one thing that Sony has excelled at… because they integrated some nice cadillac features like spot mode and spot focus (as I mentioned in the video above). Again, something I miss that this camera doesn’t offer, but not a show stopper.

The recording modes… there are 3; dual, video and photo. Let me first address, if you’re looking for a digital photo camera that does video… this is camera should not be your buying choice. This device is a video camera first and a photo camera 2nd.. or maybe 3rd. It’s nice you can take pictures… especially when you consider the professional 58mm lenses you can add and the optical image stabilization the camera offers. But let’s get back on track… the recording modes… I think photo and video explain themselves. The dual mode let’s you take pictures while you film. It however does lack all the controls that you get when you’re in the photo mode. But again, this is a video camera first and a photo camera last.

The recording format is AVCHD. I was put off by this for all of 2 minutes. On the PC (the Windows world) it’s rather easy to adapt. Adobe Premiere (elements and pro), Vegas Video 9 …work with this format without a sweat. However I hear it’s a bit of a troublesome process for Mac users (you have to convert your files to a format that Final Cut and iMovie will accept before you can edit). In both cases (Windows and Mac) software is provided that lets you extract the video files from the camera. Don’t go looking for the files raw on the SDHC card. Use software or one of the video editing apps to do this for you. Once you have the files, don’t be put off if you run the file directly and it stutters. Most computers will not playback this format easily. Again, this is best dealt with using the software that Canon provides or use video editing apps that are optimized to playback large files.

The things that are neat about this camera and that are worth mentioning. Apparently, you can buy a USB DVD burner accessory to create DVDs directly from the camera. I think that’s neat, but not a compelling reason for me to personally want this camera. You can also split video files, crop pictures and etc. But again, I think of this as a video camera first and everything is less important. So don’t expect much information or interest (from me) in regards to burning DVDs from the camera and so on.

The accessories I bought… 4 filters, a spare battery (as mentioned), a .5x wide angle lens, 32GBs and a camera case. Since there are few stores locally around here that carry… well… just about anything useful for A/V nerds like myself… I went on a hunt for a camera case. I ended up at the local MicroCenter. The selection was pricey and poor… but with a little luck I found a perfect case for the video camera. I bought a case logic camera bag (that’s meant for SLRs with long lenses) that looks more like a mini backpack rather then a camera bag. Since the video camera is about the shape and size of most SLR lenses it fight perfect into the lens well of the case.

In summary, I’m glad I bought this camera. I’m sure in a few weeks it will be replaced by a much sexier model, but for now it’s my new toy. In time I’m sure I will find some things to dislike. So far this camera seems pretty solid and I think a very good buy for it’s price. I like the design and feel of the camera and I hope I get a lot of use out of it.

I hope I have provided some useful insight. As usual what you get is my observations, thoughts and rambling. =)

-alan

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chaeseco

Professional GEEK by trade, podcasting superhero by night, and a sociable/lovable nerd the rest of the time. I podcast, I seesmic, I twitter, I youtube. I develop. These are just a few of the things that I am.

  • http://twitter.com/sukhjit sukhjit

    Very nice unboxing Alan! I'm impressed! You really did make great use of the time… I'm learning a lot watching this! Still curious about the format. Seems like there are a lot of new video formats out there. Hard to keep up. –sukhjit

  • chaeseco

    Thanks Sukhjit! Yeah there are bunch of new formats… but thankfully I have editing software that works with it natively. The only down-fall for AVCHD is that it's processor intensive. So I can't it back in any ole media player. The irony is I had a lot more to say… =) I think a another vlog is in order.

    Thanks again for being the first to comment! You get the GOLD star this time!

    -alan

  • http://masamuneto.fr/ masa

    Wow, this is a great unboxing a little bit so long but i understand why ^^. This camera look so great, I'm waiting a but the next step :p

  • chaeseco

    Masa, thanks for checking out the VLOG. I just heard yesterday Canon is releasing the S11. So the S100 and the S10 are the same camera except the S10 has 32GBs on-board. So for the S11 they doubled the on-board memory to 64GBs and added LANC control. Which is sort of nice if you have a need for LANC. I'd like to have the option… but I know I would probably never use it.

    Thanks again for stopping by!

  • pedrolho

    You´re not accurate when you say the 24 and 30p modes are emulations man. The camera does record at these speeds, all it does is that before storing it to the card id adds pulldown and wraps the footage in 29.97 interlaced format. But all you hve to do is remove pulldown when you capture the video and you´ve got tru 24p or 30p footage. I have a s100 myself.

  • chaeseco

    good to know. I'll have to try that out. thanks for the correction, and the comment!