Canon Vixia HF10 Review
I have had quite the myriad of camera in the time I’ve been doing video. I started using my Kodak Z812 IS Camera, which is a great camera, but takes less than steller video – even if it is 720p. I upgraded to an Aiptek Action HD Camera that offered 1080p video along with a host of other features. While this was a definite improvement over the quality of the Kodak, it was sorely lacking in many areas. Namely, the video was extremely jerky, you couldn’t zoom the camera without the sound of the zoom being recorded, and the quality was less than steller. So, with a big trip to New Orleans on the horizon and an increasing interest in video I sprung for the Canon HF 10. I read a lot of reviews before I made my purchase. For me I knew I wanted a couple features but didn’t care about others. As you read below, you’ll find out why I made the HF10 my choice.
But first of a summary. The HF10 is a AVCHD Digital Camcorder that records up to 1440*1080 (widescreen) @ 12 Mbps or 1920*1080 @ 17 Mbps. It records sound in stereo through front microphones or through a direct stereo in line and encodes video in Dolby Digital Stereo audio. It has a 12x optical zoom. It has 16 GB of built-in flash memory as well as a slot for adding a SDHC card. It is capable of taking still photos at up to 3 megapixels (2048*1536).
Here’s what I like:
- Size: For me size was a huge issue. I want something I can carry around in a pocket, and the HF10 delivers. While it’s a little tight to put into a pants’ pocket, it does fit easily into a jacket. Although other models, including the Canon HG10 offered a lot more capacity with their built-in hard drives, for me size drove me to consider only flash-based models.
- Internal Memory/Flash Memory: I originally was interested in the HF100. It’s identical to the HF10 except that the HF100 has no internal memory, therefore requiring you to always have a flash card on you. The problem was that I needed the camera fast, and Amazon couldn’t guartee two day delivery on the HF100, so I got the HF10. In hindsight, this worked out. A number of times I have forgotten to grab a flash card out of my computer and have been really glad there was internal memory to record to. Although I prefer recording to flash drives (it’s much easier to pull out a flash card and plug it into a reader than it is to hook the camera to my computer, plug the camera in, switch it into disk mode, etc.) the internal memory is nice to have in a pinch.
- Three different frame rates: 24p, 30p, and 60i. I hate interlacing – really really hate it. For me, most of my videos are going to end up on the web somewhere and therefore interlacing is just an annoying bother. I wanted a camera with a progressive mode so I wouldn’t have deinterlace video before putting it to the web. The HF10 excels in this area, with three frame rates. 24p, which mimics film, 30p, which puts together 30 full frame images per second, and 60i, which puts together 60 half-frame images per second. I’ve used the 30p setting almost exclusively although I’ve messed around with the 24p setting for run and the 60i setting when shooting high-motion footage. This feature alone made it stand out to me.
- Varied encoding rates – You can record at 5 Mbps, 7 Mbps, 12 Mbps, and 17 Mbps. I’ve only used the two highest settings when doing video, but since I sometimes record audio only the 5 Mbps setting has been nice when I’m recording something just to strip the audio out since it allows you to store a lot more data on the internal memory or flash card. The advantage to the 12 and 17 Mbps modes is that depending on what your editing software allows you can either record in 1440*1080 (which is similar to the HDV standard) or 1920*1080. When I first started Final Cut Express hadn’t been upgraded to support 1920*1080 editing so I had to use the 1440*1080 mode.
- Optical Zoom – The optical zoom on the HF10 is really nice. It allows you to zoom in and out at varying rates with varying acceleration. Combined with the nice image stabilization you can actually manage to get decently steady hand-held video.
- Picture Quality – For a consumer grade camera, the picture quality of the HF10 is outstanding. Not surprisingly it suffers a little bit at low-light levels but…
- Manual Adjustments – One feature I do like, especially for low light situations, is the ability to make manual adjustments to the video. The automatic settings often want to make dark scenes lighter than they actually are, and using the exposure control I can lower the exposure resulting in better quality video with true blacks.
Other Features I either don’t like or could live without
- There is a built-in video light, but it’s off angle and very white. If you’re actually close to use it, it’ll take every drop of color out of whatever object you’re shooting.
- One could say that it would be better if the HF10 had a 5.1 Dolby Creator instead of just a stereo creator, but 5.1 single point microphones are somwhat pointless.
- The HF10 has a built-in camera, but it’s not great. The built-in camera is nice in one respect, you only have to carry one camera. But it’s only 3 megapixel at 2048*1536, which isn’t ideal if you’re looking to integrate photos into a HD video production. Plus, the flash isn’t real good. Truth be told, video cameras are good at video, photo camers are good at photos.
- The LCD screen is nice and it rotates, but a viewfinder would have been nice as well. The nice part abou the rotating LCD is that you can do self-recordings real easily. The problem is that if you’re using the rotating LCD to show the subject what you’re taking video of, you can’t see the subject through a viewfinder. I know a viewfinder would have added size and price though, so it’s a very acceptable trade-off
- The battery life is alright, but not fantastic. The basic battery that comes with the camera provides about an hour of recording time at the highest resolution. They offer another battery that provides longer recording, but it’s rather expensive (100+). I ended up being a third-party imitation that does the trick just fine.
- Other recordings modes would have been nice. By far my biggest annoyance is the lack of modes for shooting other than 1440*1080 or 1920*1080 content. The only one I’d really like is a 1280*720 @ 60 fps mode for handling high motion.
Overall I give the HF10 high marks – I’m extremely satisfied. A few minor quirks, and the simple fact that its a consumer grade camcorder aside, this has been a great camera for a home video enthusiast.