Apart from JVC, most manufacturers are backing recordable DVD as the next step for consumer video cameras. But Panasonic is taking another tack. Instead of the miniature hard disks used in JVC's Everios, the SDRS100 records to SD memory, with a decent-sized 2GB module supplied in the box.
The Panasonic goes head-to-head with JVC's GZ-MC500EK. It has quite similar specifications, with a trio of CCDs in an unfeasibly small package. However, where the JVC offers 1/4.5in 1.33Mp (megapixel) sensors, the Panasonic's are a smaller 1/6in and 800Kp each. It can still muster decent 2,048x1,512-pixel stills, and with 2GB of storage there's room for thousands of photos. However, the Panasonic offers optical image stabilisation, rather than electronic, for much more solid shooting.
In practice, the S100 performed very well for such a small camcorder. In full daylight, the colour fidelity was impeccable. Only a semi-professional unit would do better. Low-light performance was also impressive, although we found the Panasonic's smaller CCDs did have an impact in really poor illumination. The video looked slightly grainy, and much darker than with a semi-professional three-CCD camcorder. But for most indoor shooting the S100 offers extremely good image quality.
But this is no hobbyist camcorder. It has a good range of manual controls, including aperture, shutter speed, focus and white balance. But there's no accessory shoe or microphone jack, and the battery is encased within the body so no extended-life version will be available.