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Canon's HF10 captured all the headlines when it was launched last month. But, Canon has brought out other Flash memory-based camcorders as part of its ‘freecording' strategy and at the top of the new standard definition range is the FS11. It's tiny, light, and reassuringly portable, weighing around 300g with battery. But the Panasonic SDR-S7EB-K is even smaller, and quite a bit cheaper. Does Canon's FS11 have the extra features to warrant its higher price?
Unlike the HF10, the FS11 is based around a traditional CCD rather than a CMOS. However, it's a small 1/6in model with 1.07Mpixels. This provides 1,152 x 864 stills, and as this camcorder shoots standard definition at 720 x 576, video requires less than the full resolution. An electronic image stabilisation system is used, which isn't as effective as the higher-end optical versions. Canon also quotes an incredible 45x ‘advanced zoom', which isn't quite the same as a digital zoom. The lens itself is only capable of 37x.
Canon achieves the extra 8x factor by using a smaller area of the CCD. However, a digital zoom crops into the sensor to achieve its extra magnification, so dropping below the native video resolution. But Canon's Advanced zoom uses 710,000 pixels for wide shots (in 16:9 mode), dropping to 480,000 pixels for extreme 45x telephoto. This is still more pixels than required for 720 x 576 video. So while light sensitivity will be reduced, there should be no noticeable loss of detail. If you do like your video blocky, the FS11 also has a ridiculous 2000x digital zoom available. But we couldn't make out what we were shooting at all when we used it.
As it is part of Canon's ‘freecording revolution', the FS11 is Flash memory based, and offers a Dual Flash system similar to the HF10. It also includes 16GB of memory built in, which is enough for three hours 40 minutes of video at the top 9Mbits/sec XP setting, and over 10 hours in the lowest 3Mbits/sec LP mode.
It also has a slot for SDHC cards. You can record to either, and copy footage from the built-in memory to SDHC, although not the other way round. Canon's other new models in the FS range are variations on this theme, with the FS10 integrating just 8GB of memory and the FS100 none at all, leaving you with only the SDHC card slot for storage. Other than that, the three have the same features.