By November 11, 2008

Camcorder group test (Part 5) Canon FS100 Review

Canon FS100 review

These days hi-def videocams are all the rage so, you could be forgiven for thinking that standard definition cameras are on their way out. Odd choice then the FS100 – it’s a new budget-priced standard definition model that competes with some low end HD videocams on price and which is not all that far away from the likes of the Sanyo Xacti on price.

I confess that I am a Canon man – I use Canon slrs, a Canon digital compact and a Canon DV-cam. I like the quality of Canon glass too. So, I was looking forward to getting my hands on the FS100 because I am considering moving to solid state media for video. How does it compare?


The Canon FS100 camcorder


What’s in the box?

  • Canon FS100
  • Li-ion rechargeable battery
  • Charger
  • Remote control
  • AV cable
  • USB cable
  • Wrist strap
  • Printed instruction manual
  • Software CD

Canon FS100 unboxing video


The FS100 is one of a range of three cameras, being at the bottom end of that range with no built-in memory and relying solely upon SDHC cards for recording. It is very definitely aimed at the casual user rather than the demanding amateur.

In the hand it looks smart with its two-tone brushed aluminium and polished chrome finish. It’s light and well-balanced with a conventional videocam format that we’re all familiar with. It’s not particularly compact and is more suited to handbag than the pocket, but it’s not overly bulky either.


Controls: there’s lots of them and they are liberally strewn around the chassis. I would go so far as to say that the design is a bit fussy when it comes to controls and not as elegant as it could be.

fs100_connectors fs100_controls fs100_screen

The Canon FS100 controls

Left: Easy mode select, battery info/display info, USB2.0 port, external mic’ input, AV out

Rear: Mode select rotary switch (stills record, video record, stills review, video review), video record

Top: Power ON/OFF switch, still capture, zoom control

Screen: 5-way menu navigator switch, “Func” (Menu activate), video play/pause, video fast forward, video rewind

Below: Battery/SDHC card slot cover, tripod socket

Front: Built-in stereo microphones, video light/led

Canon FS100 Specification:

  • Effective pixel count: Stills: 800k pixels. Movies: 710k pixels
  • CCD: 1/6th"
  • Recording media: SD or SDHC Memory Card (Up to 8GB)
  • Still resolution (pixels): 1152 x 864, 1152 x 648, 640 x 480
  • Focal length: 2.6mm – 96.2mm
  • Movie: 41 – 1877 mm (on a 35 mm camera), stills: 41.5 – 1536mm, f/2.5 (W) – 5.2 (T)
  • Focus range: 10mm – infinity
  • Shutter speed: 1/2000th – 1/6th sec’
  • Still: 1/2 sec ~ 1/2000 sec. (Flash: 1/30 ~ 1/2000 sec., Lamp mode: max 4 secs)
  • Optical zoom: 37x
  • Digital zoom: 45x (known as advanced), 2000x
  • Focus: TTL auto focus, manual focus
  • Scene Selector: Auto, Sports, Portrait, Landscape, Night, Snow, Beach, Sunset, Spotlight, Fireworks
  • Self timer: 2sec – 10 sec
  • White balance: Full Auto TTL
  • Manual: Fine/Cloud/Fluorescent/Incandescent
  • Flash: None
  • Audio microphone: Built-in stereo
  • Monitor: 2.7-inch TFT Colour Widescreen LCD display. Approximately 123,000-pixels
  • Video output interface: Component Video
  • Power source: Lithium-ion battery BP-808, charging AC adapter included)
  • Dimensions: 58mm x 124mm x 60mm (W x D x H)
  • Weight: 260g


  • Light
  • Uses SDHC cards
  • Good battery life
  • Feels solid


  • Standard definition – not much cheaper than high-definition
  • Average image quality
  • No flash
  • No conventional viewfinder
  • Poor low-medium light picture quality


fs10_front fs100_battery



Positioned on top of and at the rear of the camera, the power switch is not immediately obvious as it blends into the chrome finish facia. There’s no colouring to it at all. Power on is very quick with the camera being ready to film in less than 3 seconds. Powering on also opens the noisy shutter protecting the lens with a satisfying click (no separate lens cap required). Depending upon the mode-selector switch position you will find yourself in one of 4 modes: stills capture, video capture, stills review or video review. Shooting video is simply a case of then pressing the big shiny button with a red dot on it at the rear of the body.

Taking stills is done by pressing a chrome button on the top of the camera just below the zoom control. It didn’t fall to hand readily for me and I think it’s too close to the zoom which could result in the zoom being actuated instead. If you are shooting from the hip then this is not a problem. Generally the ergonomics are not as polished as some other cameras and coming from the Sanyo Xacti I have been spoilt.

The menu system is one of the simpler ones I have come across. Navigation of the menus is done by a fairly typical 5-way navigator switch mounted to the left of the screen. Setting some oft-used and basic parameters took too long and too much navigation to achieve. If this frightens you off then take comfort in the fact that there’s an Easy mode to simplify everything and this is where I mostly found myself anyway and where I suspect most users of this type of camera would be too.

A good touch is the placement of function keys around the screen. This makes a lot of sense when everything is done via the screen interface. However, being of the membrane type, the keys lacked tactile feedback and looked cheap.

Picture quality by day in good light is adequate. In medium to low lighting levels and particularly indoors there is a noticeable coarseness that is also very apparent on the display – the performance under such conditions can best be described as mediocre to poor. This is disappointing because I have always rated Canon performance and I have no complaints whatsoever about the image quality I get from my Canon cameras.

The FS100 has three video recording options. It’s possible to record up to 2½ hrs of MPEG2 video onto a single 4GB SDHC card in LP mode. The higher quality SP mode gives about 1¼ hrs of capacity, and in XP mode it’s about 1 hr. I always used the XP high-quality mode to try to maximise the quality of footage.

There’s three modes of zoom: optical, digital and advanced with 37x, 200x and 45x zoom being available respectively. The 37x optical zoom is generous in comparison to the opposition and the zoom function itself was very speedy and accurate with the control located on the top of the body. The 2000x digital zoom is frankly ridiculous and would destroy image quality totally. I didn’t bother using it. Using the large optical zoom magnified the graininess in images to the point where it became intrusive although, this is not as big a deal as you might imagine because I can’t ever recall using anything like the full 22x optical zoom on my own camcorder.

Image stabilisation is of the inferior digital variety rather than optical that I am used to. For general uses though it is good enough, but it won’t be able to cope with wobble at the long end of the zoom.

As a stills camera don’t expect too much from the FS100 – it has a small CCD sensor with only a limited pixel count of 800k pixels which is nowhere near adequate for anything but modest uses such as web use or display on a monitor. There is no flash and overall it is best reserved for emergency use.

Battery life was excellent and better than all camcorders I have tested so far. I managed about 2¾ hrs in general use which means for a day out it’s not necessary to carry the charger.

You can download a sample video – taken straight from the FS100 memory card with this link.



The FS100 looks good and feels good, but lets the side down a bit and I would expect more from the likes of Canon. The decent quality does not rescue the Canon from lacklustre filming performance and compared against high-def models costing not much more it suffers. The Canon is not a bad camera, it’s just that there’s quite a few better and more flexible offerings around for not much more money.

Although this is the last camera review in the Camcorder Group Test please come back again soon for my summary of the reviewed devices or head over and look at Part 1 to see which cameras were included or have a look at my Panasonic SDR-S7 review or Sanyo Xacti HD700 review.


Review by: Nigel

[ Post Tags: Canon FS100, camcorder, video cameras, ]

Posted in: Reviews

About the Author:

More than 20 years in the IT industry. Blogging with a passion and thirst for new technology since 2005.
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