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We weren't able to run our usual set of controlled tests on the HF10, as our testing occurred at the European launch of the camcorder held in Morocco. But we did get to spend two days shooting in pretty much every kind of setting you might encounter. In the best of conditions, the HF10 produces an incredibly sharp image, thanks to its 1,920 x 1,080 resolution and higher data rate. The detail even surpasses the HV20, with colour fidelity about the same (not surprising, as both use the DIGIC DV II image processor).
Lower light was going to be the true test, however, with the HF10's slightly smaller CMOS and AVCHD's usual tendency to turn video noise into unsightly artefacts. Although the HF10 isn't going to give Canon's professional models sleepless nights, it did exceed our expectations, picking up good colour even in night conditions lit by a few tungsten bulbs. Best of all, although there is grain visible in low light, it's fairly monochromatic and fine. This is nowhere near as unpleasant as the multicoloured grain produced by some camcorders in poor illumination.
The HF10 is also well endowed with connectivity options, including mini HDMI, component and composite analogue video, although all of these are output only. For editing, you can either pop the SDHC cards into a reader or hook up via USB 2.0. Neither Ulead VideoStudio Plus 11.5 nor Pinnacle Studio Plus 11.1 had any trouble reading and editing the video files we had recorded, even when shot in progressive mode at the top FXP data rate. However, Adobe Premiere Elements 4 isn't compatible and even Adobe Premiere Pro CS3 doesn't have AVCHD support without MainConcept's MPEG Pro HD 3.1 plugin. If you don't have any of these, Canon also supplies its own software called PIXELA Image Mixer 3 SE, which has some modest editing abilities, including transitions and titling.
Without a doubt, the HF10 is the best AVCHD camcorder yet produced by any manufacturer. It's not perfect in every respect, but it ticks more than enough boxes to be highly desirable as a serious video tool or point-and-shoot camcorder companion. With its excellent image quality, healthy range of manual controls, small size and keen price, the Canon HF10 is the high definition camcorder we have all been waiting for.
Scores In Detail
- Image Quality