Small, affordable and flashy
Falling squarely in the middle of Canon's flash memory–based SD camcorder range, the FS10 is aimed primarily at casual users with a penchant for portability. Like most middle children, it is reliably solid without being particularly remarkable in any one area. However, at just $699, it strikes a good balance between performance and affordability. While not the best standard-def camcorder on the market, it's certainly hard to fault at this price, with the inclusion of deluxe perks (including an external microphone jack and 37x optical zoom) bolstering its value even further.
- Cute and compact design, dual flash memory recording modes, external microphone jack, 37x optical zoom
- No headphone jack, lightweight design takes some getting used to
The Canon FS10 is a good all-rounder that puts portability and ease-of-use at the forefront. While it may not excel in any one area, it remains one of the better value standard-def camcorders on the market.
Like its bigger brother, the FS11, the FS10 records standard-definition video to SD/SDHC memory cards, which are most commonly found in digital still cameras. The benefits of removable flash memory over digital tape and DVD are numerous, including the ability to hot-swap between camera and computer, less power consumption, smaller camcorder sizes and less sound during operation.
A further advantage offered by the SD/SDHC format is the user-friendly way in which video is stored. Each recording appears on the card as a separate clip represented by an illustrated thumbnail in the playback menu. Playback is a simple matter of highlighting the desired clip. The way clips are stored ensures you never accidentally record over your footage. SDHC cards currently come in capacities of up to 32GB, which can record up to 21 hours of video in LP mode.
In addition to its SD card slot, the FS10 comes equipped with 8GB of inbuilt flash memory. This is 8GB less than the FS11 model, which retails for $200 more. Otherwise, both models are exactly the same in terms of features and components; the FS10 delivers an identical performance to its 16GB-equipped sibling. When you consider that 8GB SD cards currently cost around $100, the FS10 is definitely the better deal.
Alongside its stablemate, the FS10 is one of the smallest camcorders on the market, sporting dimensions of just 58x60x124mm. This makes it ideal for frequent shooters, although at barely 300g, its lack of weight may take some getting used to (this situation isn't helped by Canon's decision to omit an optical image stabiliser — instead, a digital variant is offered). If you're new to taking video, plenty of hands-on practice may be required to attain smooth footage.
Despite its diminutive dimensions, the FS10 is remarkably easy to operate, with an intuitively laid out menu and simple joystick interface. While we personally prefer Sony's touch-screen approach, the small LCD-mounted directional stick proved reliable and responsive. The range of options on offer is extensive, including adjustable white balance, manual focus and exposure settings, backlight compensation, scene modes, digital fades and image effects, plus an LED video light and 2000x digital zoom. Alternatively, you can opt to select the prominently marked 'Easy' button and let the camera take care of all the decisions for you.
We were pleasantly surprised by the inclusion of an external microphone jack, something that is quite rare for a sub-$800 camera. However, Canon has unfortunately failed to include a supporting headphone jack, which means you're entirely reliant on the LCD's audio display to monitor sound. (While it is possible to insert headphones into the AV out terminal, the sound quality is atrocious, with a loud buzz smothering the audio.)
In terms of video performance, the FS10 is on par with the FS11, which sports the same 1/6in CCD image sensor and 1.07-megapixel camera resolution. It performed solidly in brightly lit conditions when compared to other camcorders in this price range, though its output was typically patchy when used in dim environments. Colour reproduction was faithful for the most part, and while its still image capabilities could never hope to compete with a dedicated compact camera, they remain adequate for the occasional happy snap.
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