Canon HF10

High-def video at its best

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Canon HF10
  • Canon HF10
  • Canon HF10
  • Canon HF10

Pros

  • Stunning 'full HD' video resolution, improved AVCHD recording format, arresting design

Cons

  • No standard-definition mode, inbuilt hard drive only 16GB

Bottom Line

For an AVCHD removable flash memory camcorder, the HF10 is close to flawless. It offers superior video performance, better build quality and more modes and features than any of its high-def rivals. Highly recommended.

Would you buy this?

The release of a flagship camcorder from Canon is always met with keen interest from the video community. Simply put, the company produces the best digital imaging hardware on the market, with each new model consistently outclassing its assorted rivals and predecessors. The HF10 is even more noteworthy than usual — it marks Canon's first serious foray into removable flash memory (its previous high-def models have all been based on the MiniDV, hard disk and DVD formats). The anticipation level among videographers has therefore been through the roof, with sky-high expectations to match.

It's just as well that Canon has managed to improve upon its stellar reputation once again. With superb image quality (including support for 'full' 1080p HD), advanced audio capabilities and an inbuilt hard drive, the HF10 is arguably the best high-def flash memory camcorder that money can buy. It will please anyone who prizes video performance over faddish features or gimmicky control schemes — and it looks pretty cool to boot.

In addition to its SD/SDHC memory card slot, the HF10 comes equipped with its own 16GB hard drive. This is substantially smaller than most hard disk-based cameras, which typically offer between 30 and 100 gigabytes, depending on price. On the other hand, some SD/SDHC models offer no inbuilt memory at all, so we suppose it could have been worse. The hard drive will record six hours of video at the highest quality setting, which is boosted by up to 12 hours when using a 32GB memory card. This should be more than enough to get you through multiple days of intensive shooting.

After several years of doggedly supporting the HDV format, Canon has shifted its allegiance to AVCHD: a high-definition video codec used by the majority of its rivals. AVCHD is considered better than HDV due to its superior compression efficiency, which translates into longer recording times. However, the format has also suffered from assorted teething issues, including inconsistent video and limited editing opportunities.

Thankfully, these problems have all but disappeared from the HF10, which sports a refined version of the AVCHD format. Perhaps the most notable change is its increased 17Mbps bit rate, along with support for 'full' (1920x1080) high-definition. This has dramatically improved the quality of recorded footage, with almost no ghosting or compression artefacts marring the picture. Editing your data is also less problematic than before thanks to increased software support (the codec is now compatible with almost every editing application on the market). If you're still in the HDV camp, there has never been a better time to make the switch.

In terms of video performance, the HF10 is almost in a class of its own. We were highly impressed with the majority of our test output, which exhibited stunning true-to-life colours and razor-sharp detail in a variety of environments. The 3.3-megapixel, 1/3.2in CMOS sensor did a reasonable job of combating noise levels, though it naturally works best in bright environments. Nevertheless, it offers some of the best low-light performance we've seen from a camcorder in this price range (a front-mounted light can also be activated for nocturnal shooting).

The HF10 is equally proficient at recording audio. In addition to its front-mounted microphone, the model sports a pair of mic and headphone jacks, as well as an accessory shoe compatible with Canon microphones. The audio level can also be manually adjusted via the camera's miniature directional stick. Once again, Canon has opted to place the stick on the outer side of the LCD cavity. While we generally prefer a back-mounted joystick, it shouldn't pose too many problems during operation. The menu itself is intelligently laid out, with a plethora of advanced options and manual settings.

The HF10 strikes the right balance between size and portability. While bulkier than some of its competitors (including Panasonic's HDC-SD9), it should still fit comfortably into most jacket pockets and will not weigh you down while shooting. We were also impressed with the overall look of this camera — despite adopting a familiar shape and colour scheme, it manages to stand out from the crowd thanks to its exceptional build quality.

We've had a long think about it, and the HF10 is nearly impossible to fault. It easily outclasses the majority of AVCHD camcorders on the market; both in terms of video performance and build quality (its closest rival is probably Sony's identically priced HDRCX7K, which lacks the HF10's full progressive HD mode, external microphone jack and inbuilt hard drive). If we were forced to complain about something, we suppose it would be the lack of a standard-definition mode. This means you will need to invest in a high-definition TV and Blu-ray player to get the most from this camera.

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