Canon HF10 review

Canon’s HF10, a high-definition camcorder that uses a 16GB internal flash drive and an SD card for storage, is one of the few tapeless camcorder we’ve found that works seamlessly with the Mac. In our testing, the HF10 shot impressive, brilliant video. It has a few minor flaws, but it’s a fine choice for Mac users eager to leave MiniDV tape behind.

The HF10 is sleek and sexy, but feels a bit clumsy to hold. It’s shaped like a cannon barrel and you need to use your middle finger to control the zoom tab. This makes it difficult to maintain a firm, steady grip. The menu is accessed using the four-directional joystick located next to the screen; the flaw in this design is that it can cause camera shake. The control panel is extremely intuitive to use; you should be able to figure out how to use this camcorder without the user manual.

We’ve seen camcorder manufacturers sacrifice basic features for the sake of making smaller and lighter devices, yet the HF10 has an impressive feature set and weighs just 380g. Canon includes microphone and headphone jacks, an accessory shoe, and a lamp for shooting in dark environments – niceties 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 to edit and share. Fortunately, the HF10 uses a MPEG-4 (H.264)-based AVCHD (Advanced Video Codec High Definition) codec, and the camcorder works seamlessly with iMovie ‘08 and Final Cut Pro. (Although you will need an Intel-based Mac in order to work with the HD video.) Simply connect the HF10 to your Mac with the included USB cable, and iMovie ‘08 and Final Cut Pro will recognise it within seconds.

In our test footage, the HF10’s video colours were slightly oversaturated but looked realistic. We also noticed subtle motion artifacts, but they looked no worse than the artifacts we’ve seen in MiniDV footage; motion appeared smooth. The HF10 didn’t perform as well in our still images test. Colours looked very oversaturated in a standard-light setting. In a low-light setting with flash turned on, the colours looked especially eerie.

The HF10 has a fairly poor battery life. On a full charge, it recorded for one hour and 21 minutes before running out of juice; Sony’s HDR-SR11 Handycam lasted two hours on a full charge.

OUR VERDICT

The HF10’s impressive video quality and ease of use add up to a very good camcorder, especially given its size. If size matters to you, the HF10 is the right choice; if size doesn’t matter, another good choice is Sony’s HDR-SR11.

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