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First Look: Canon HF10 HD camcorder
AVCHD camcorder records to Flash memory or SDHC card
By John Virata

The Canon HF10 ($1,099) is an ultra compact camcorder that captures HD video in the AVCHD H.264 video file format. What makes the camcorder unique is the dual storage capabilities built into the camera. It doesn't use video tape or DVD disc or a hard disk; rather, it captures video and still images either via the camcorder's built-in 16GB Flash memory, or via SDHC (Serial Digital High Capacity) memory cards. It is truly the future of video cameras in my opinion. So why is a Flash memory-based camcorder a big deal?

First, because the HF10 captures to Flash memory, the recorder features no moving parts, which makes the device smaller and lighter, and less prone (hopefully) to a mechanical breakdown.  Second, there is no video tape to change out, and unlike hard disk-based camcorders that will eventually fill up, once you fill up the 16GB of built in memory, you can easily drop in a 16GB or larger SDHC memory card, which is fast becoming the standard for digital cameras. It is a format that is small in stature, yet extremely popular. Most folks will easily know the format. For this review, I relied on a 16GB Kingston SDHC memory card. These cards feature the new 2 (2 MB/sec minimum data transfer rate), 4 (4 MB/sec minimum data transfer rate), and 6 (6 MB/sec minimum data transfer rate ) class high speed rating. The Kingston card is only recognized by devices that support the new SDHC class SD cards, and are supported by a lifetime warranty and 24/7 live tech support. You won't find such support on the off-label memory cards that are often cheaper, yet iffy in performance and reliability. On the plus side, having such a card enables you to record more than what the camera has in built in memory. On the downside, these cards are still fairly expensive and would not make an ideal archive solution.

The HF10 has the capability to capture full 1080 HD resolution video. Subjects are framed via the camera's 2.7-inch widescreen, multi-angle display. The camera has minimal buttons and dials as most of the adjustments are made via the LCD's joystick control. The right side of the camera features a knob adjustment dial where you can select to capture and play back video or still image files. Below that is an HDMI and USB port hidden behind a dust door.

The HF10 records to 16GB of internal memory or SDHC memory cards

On the top of the camera you'll find the on/off button, the photo button for capturing still images, the wide/tele adjuster, and the mini Advanced Shoe, where you can add an accessory such as a Mic. The rear of the unit features the Start/stop button, the DC-in, as well as a Mic and A/V output jack. Open up the LCD,  and you have Display/battery button, the SDHC card slot button, and an Easy Button. That's right, the HF10 has an Easy button, something that I only thought existed in commercials. What the Easy Button does is it enables you to worry about pointing the HF10 to the area you want to capture, and the camera does the rest. Pressing the Easy Button and there are no camcorder settings that you have to worry about. The other option is to get creative with the camera so you can take advantage of the cameras many features.

Still image from the HF10. Click for full view.

In Use
The Canon HF10 is a small camera, no doubt about it, and it tends to be a bit slippery to the hold. There is a rubberized strip on the top of the camera where you rest your fingers, which is a good addition to the HF10, but I'd like to see more of this material, or similar material across the entire section of the camera where the HDMI and USB ports are located. This would help mitigate some of the slip factor that is evident in the HF10. The controls are all well placed and easy to reach, and the LCD offers ample viewing capabilities.

The Canon HF 10's controls are accessed via the onscreen menu

The menuing system is accessed via the Function key on the LCD panel. From here, you can select adjustments for shooting, such as Auto White Balance, daylight, shade, cloudy, tungsten, fluorescent, fluorescent H, and evaluative white balance. There is also a host of image effects that you can take advantage of, including vivid, neutral, low sharpening, soft skin detail, and custom. You can also open each shot with a built in wipe. They include fade, wipe, black and white, Sepia, and Art. Image quality is also changed via the Menu. The HF10 FXP quality (17Mbps), XP+ (12Mbps), Standard Play (&Mbps), and Long Play (5Mbps). Still image recording let's you capture in 1920x1080 resolution or 848x480 resolution. There are also a host of other settings that you can tweak from the Menu.


  • Dual Flash Memory: 16GB internal Flash drive & SDHC card slot
  • Canon 3.3 Megapixel Full HD CMOS Sensor
  • Full HD Lens-to-Screen (1920 x 1080 Capture and Recording)
  • Genuine Canon 12x HD Video Zoom Lens
  • Canon DIGIC DV II Image Processor
  • Canon SuperRange Optical Image Stabilization
  • Canon Instant AF (Auto Focus)
  • Canon 2.7" Multi-Angle Vivid Widescreen LCD
  • 24p Cinema Mode
  • 30p Progressive Mode
  • Mini HDMI Terminal and Mini Advanced Accessory Shoe
  • Pixela ImageMixer Software
  • Image Sensor: 1/3.2" CMOS Sensor, RGB Primary Color Filter
  • Total Pixels: Approx. 3.3 Megapixels
  • Effective Pixels
    Movies: Approx. 2.07 Megapixels (1920x1080)
    Still image: Approx. 2.76 Megapixels (1920x1440)
  • Maximum recording time: 16 GB Internal Flash Drive
    LP (5 Mbps) 6 hours 5 min
    SP (7 Mbps) 4 hours 45 min
    XP+ (12 Mbps) 2 hours 50 min
    FXP (17 Mbps) 2 hours 5 min -Allows 1920x1080 Full HD Recording
    Greater Capacity is Possible by Adding an SDHC Memory Card.
  • Lens: Zoom Ratio 12x Optical/200x Digital
  • Focal Length f=4.8 - 57 mm
  • Zoom Speed Variable/3 Fixed Zoom Speeds
  • Max. F/Stop f/1.8-3.0mm
  • Filter Size 37mm
  • Focusing System: Instant AF, Through the Lens/Manual Focusing Possible
  • Manual Exposure: Yes
  • Programmed AE: Auto, Program, Av, Tv, CINEMA, Portrait, Sports, Night, Snow, Beach, Sunset, Spotlight, Fireworks
  • Max Shutter Speed:
    1/500 (card)
  • Auto Date/Time: Yes
  • Record Search/Review: Yes
  • Minimum Focusing Distance: 10 mm (wide)/1m (tele)
  • White Balance: Daylight, Shade, Cloudy, Tungsten, Fluorescent, Fluorescent H, Auto, Manual
  • Image Stabilization: SuperRange Optical (lens shift)
  • LCD Screen: 2.7-inch Multi-Angle Vivid Widescreen LCD (Approx. 211,000 pixels)
  • Recording Media: Internal Flash Memory (16GB) or SD/SDHC Memory Card
  • Audio: Dolby Digital 2ch (AC-3 2 ch)
  • HDMI Terminal: Type C 480i/480p/1080I Format Supported
  • Microphone Terminal: 3.5 mm Stereo Mini-jack
  • AV Mini Terminal/Headphone Terminal: 3.5 mm 4 pole Mini-jack
  • Dimensions: (WxHxD) 2.9 x 2.5 x 5.1 in (73x64x129mm)
  • Weight: 13.4 oz (380g)

First Impressions
I've had the HF10 for several weeks and am fairly pleased with how the camera operates. Everything is straightforward, the menuing system isn't complicated at all, and all the buttons are in the right place. The video quality is quite outstanding, and the capture format is definitely the future. It is really easy to switch from video capture mode to still image mode, as it is to change video and still image resolutions. My only issue thus far is with the slick feel of the camera body. It really is slippery, and I feel would benefit with some more rubber-like material in the palm area of the camera body.

The built-in strap though is easily adjustable to help tighten things up, but you still have that loose feeling when holding the camera. The wrist strap is a must have accessory that you should fasten to the HF10 right after you unbox the camera. The included Pixela imageMixer 3SE is adequate for those who wish to do more with their footage on the computer. A more full featured application would help newbies immensely. In addition there is a lack of an HDMI cable, though there is an HDMI slot on the camera. I'm sure it`s an accessory, but to get the full benefit of HD on a HDTV, it would be nice to have the full digital solution right out of the box rather than having to resort to analog connections.

The HF10 is an interesting player in Canon's lineup and in my opinion represents the future of where digital camcorders are going. Forget DVD or hard disk camcorders. Video tape is an annoyance compared to what you get with 16GB of built in memory and say a 16GB Kingston SDHC memory card. That is 32GB of storage space. Or just under two hours of HD video in FXP mode, a bit more than 2.5 hours in XP+ mode, about 4.5 hours in SP mode, and more than 5.5 hours in LP mode. Now if only the battery could keep up with what the camera can capture in say SP mode, all would be rosy. But that is what large capacity batteries are purchased for. In all the HF10 is a very easy camera to use and it captures high quality video and still images.


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John Virata is senior editor of Digital Media Online. You can email him at [email protected]

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