Sunday, November 30, 2008

Canon HG10 HD Camcorder Review by Jeff Roy

You may have heard the saying, “garbage in, garbage out.” When it comes to recording video, it all starts with the image. That is why it is important to start with a good quality lens and Canon makes some of the best. Up for review is the Canon HG10 HD Camcorder. I miss the old days of the Flexizone, where there was a small little box that you could move around with a joystick and tell the camcorder what to focus on. But since then Canon has brought us many other improvements.

First I must cover some of the basic features that make this camcorder so great. Aside from the high quality HD video lens, it also comes with SuperRange Optical Image Stabilizer, an HD CMOS sensor that captures full 1920x1080 resolution, and an excellent RGB primary color filter. In addition, the HG10 has a 10x optical and 200x digital zoom, 3.1 megapixel digital camera, color LCD and viewfinder, and Canon’s own DIGIC DVII processor to handle the internal processing. Gone is the miniDV tape to record the video onto. Instead, there is a 40GB hard drive that can capture hours of video. Now there is no need to worry about whether or not you have that blank tape before you can do any recording.

To put it to the test, I took it on a great field test….my family vacation to Disneyland. With all of the bright colors and excellent tones that are to be found all around Disneyland, especially Toon Town, I figured that would be the best location to see just how good the HG10 is. Not that I should be, but I was pleasantly surprised with its performance. Having been a multiple generation of Canon user, from the old Video8 line to most recently with my Canon Optura XI, I am not a stranger to Canon’s quality. But when I first turned it on, what I saw through my naked eye and what I saw through the LCD display were the same. Even in low light situations the image came out looking good. There were even some instances when what I saw on the LCD display appeared just a tad brighter than what I was seeing with my naked eye. I was amazed at how the Canon did in lowlight performance. Lowlight has not been Canon’s forte in the past; but Canon appears to have changed that. The images that I saw did have a lot of grain in very low light, but the image was still very viewable.

Canon’s HG10 performed its recording duties admirably. In bright light situations, the HG10 performed superbly. The colors where very natural looking and the shades appeared right on with what I was seeing with the naked eye. There was plenty of saturation without appearing oversaturated. The contrast was excellent, and with the full HD 1080 sensor the detail and resolution was breathtaking. There are other manufacturers out there that use three separate chips for the colors. To save on some cost Canon has chosen to use just one chip with the RGB primary color filter. In Canon’s defense, this method appears to work very well. I have zero complaints about the image produced by using a single chip. With the advanced accessory shoe, you can use Canon’s accessories that you may already have such as Canon’s external mic or video light. I chose not to use my external mic or video light. I was initially concerned with the placement of the mic at the top of the camcorder, but I did not notice any internal motor noise as has been the case with some previous models with the same mic location. The camera felt great in my hand, more so than my Optura XI. The zoom, pause/record, and photo buttons (the ones you use the most) are all very easy to use and within close reach.

If there was one area of concern I would probably put it on the use of the AVCHD codec. When using the camcorder and panning from one area to another, I did notice slight motion artifacts around some of the images. From what I have studied, this appears to be due to using that codec. While it was not terrible, it was noticeable. When panning, I would suggest doing so more slowly to avoid this as much as possible.

Canon has done it again with bringing us consumers a great camcorder in the HG10. While it is not perfect, it does provide a great looking image! I would highly recommend the HG10 to anyone, and if you are in the market for a new camcorder I would make sure to put it on your short list. I am very sad to see it go, and I look forward to seeing what Canon has next to come out. For more information and full specs on the HG10, check out Canon’s website at