Pros: Small, light an easy to use; good picture quality in well-lit and low-light conditions.
Cons: Not a fully pro camcorder.
Canon’s HF10 is a high-definition camcorder with a 16GB internal flash drive, plus an SD card slot. In our testing, the HF10 shot impressive, brilliant video, up to par with its similar MiniDV counterpart, Canon’s HV30. The HF10 has its flaws and it’s certainly no fully pro-level camcorder, but it’s a fine choice for less demanding work, particularly if you’re eager to leave MiniDV tape behind.
The HF10 is sleek and sexy, but feels clumsy to hold. The camcorder is shaped like a cannon barrel, and you need to use your middle finger to control the zoom tab, making it difficult to maintain a steady grip. You access the HF10’s menu using the four-directional joystick, which is located next to the LCD screen; the flaw to this design is that it’s conducive to camera shake.
We’ve seen camcorder makers sacrifice basic features for the sake of making smaller and lighter devices, yet the HF10 has an impressive feature set. Weighing less than 500g, the HF10 is definitely small and light, and it doesn’t skimp on basic features. There’s a microphone and headphone jacks, an accessory shoe, and a lamp for shooting in dark environments – all nice to have in a device this small.
Of course, features and ease of use don’t matter if you can’t get your footage off the camcorder. Fortunately, the HF10 uses AVCHD, and the camcorder works seamlessly with Final Cut Pro and Premiere Pro.
In our test footage, the HF10’s video in both low-light and standard-light settings was pleasing. Colours were slightly oversaturated, but looked realistic compared to our control objects. We noticed subtle motion artifacts, but they looked no worse than the artifacts we’ve seen in MiniDV footage; for the most part, motion appeared smooth. We slightly prefer the HV30’s video quality, but the HF10’s scores weren’t far behind.
The HF10 didn’t perform as well in our still images test. Colours were oversaturated in a standard-light setting; in a low-light setting with flash turned on, the colours looked especially eerie.
The HF10 had a meagre battery life: on a full charge, it recorded for one hour and 21 minutes before it
ran out of juice. By way of comparison, Sony’s HDR-SR11 Handycam lasted two hours on a full charge.
The HF10’s impressive video quality and ease of use add up to a very good camcorder, especially given its size. If size matters for you, the HF10 is the right tapeless camcorder; if size doesn’t matter, another good choice is Sony’s HDR-SR11.