Canon HF10 review

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The AVCHD format has been taking over the high definition camcorder market – despite the older tape-based HDV still being capable of better image quality. But now Canon has launched a camcorder which could put up a real challenge.

Canon HF10 review

Like Panasonic’s HDC-SD9, the Canon HF10 offers the highest AVCHD data rate currently available: 17Mbits/sec. This is still lower than HDV, but MPEG-4 AVC H.264 is more efficient than MPEG-2. The HF10 also offers Full HD recording at 1,920 x 1,080, and there’s a 25p progressive recording option, too (click here for an explanation of why it’s 25p rather than 24p).

The most interesting thing about the HF10 is its ‘dual Flash’ system. As well as having an SDHC slot, it also has 16GB of Flash built in, enough for over two hours of footage in the top FXP mode. There is also a cheaper HF100 version which has identical features to the HF10, minus the on-board memory.

For the HF10, Canon has moved to a new, slightly smaller CMOS. This one is 1/3.2in, with 3.3 megapixels, although the full resolution is only used for the 2,048 x 1,536 still images.

The HF10 has plenty of features for the enthusiast: the aperture priority mode allows the iris to be set from F1.8 to F8, or you can vary the shutter from to 1/2000th; the Exposure control can then be used on top of either priority mode; and there’s also a Cinema setting, which expands dynamic range.

Now that AVCHD is more widely supported by editing software, image quality was its only remaining downside – and Canon has finally put this one to rest with the HF10. Despite having a smaller CMOS than the excellent HDV-based Canon HV20, the HF10 equals or outperforms it in all conditions.

Colour fidelity is excellent, but best of all is the general sharpness of the image, which is better than any consumer HDV camcorder we’ve seen. In very low light, the image does get grainy, but the HF10 maintains reasonable colour in surprisingly poor illumination – particularly in progressive shooting mode, as this allows a 1/25th shutter speed.

It’s not all perfect, however. Despite offering minijacks for headphones and an external microphone, the HF10 doesn’t have a standard accessory shoe. Instead, to save space, Canon has moved over to a smaller proprietary shoe.

The HF10 doesn’t have a lens ring, either, and the joystick-based manual focusing is a tad fiddly. So it’s a good thing Canon’s Instant Auto-Focus is so very responsive. The tripod mount is also too far forward on the camcorder body.

But other than these foibles, Canon has managed to create the first truly great AVCHD camcorder. It’s not quite small enough for a pocket, but it’s still supremely portable. With prices already around £600, this is a hugely powerful camcorder in a compact package – and great value, too.

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