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Despite being later than Sony to release a high definition camcorder, Canon has really taken the bull by its horns with recent models. It now has the best HDV camcorder around in the shape of the HV20, and the most well-rounded hard disk-based model we've seen, the HG10. But these two models also have a third sibling, the HR10.
Where the HV20 records to tape and the HG10 to hard disk, the HR10 is a DVD-based version. So Canon now has every format covered, bar the pure Flash-based models offered by Sony and Panasonic. With the pedigree of the other two camcorders in the range, the HR10 could be a shoe-in for another accolade.
Like the HG10, the HR10's specifications look very promising at first glance. This is another camcorder based around Canon's 1/2.7in CMOS sensor with 2.96-megapixels. The high-end optical image stabilisation system remains, too, rather than a cheaper electronic version. The lens specification also appears the same, although the filter attachment is 37mm rather than 43mm.
Unlike the HG10, however, the top data rate is 12Mbits/sec, which Canon calls XP+ in this case, rather than the 15Mbits/sec HXP available with the hard disk model. This will have a negative effect on image quality, and is presumably a result of using DVDs for storage. Aside from the necessity for a DVD drive with a faster writing speed, the 8cm DVDs used only store 1.4GB of data, which even at 12Mbit/sec is enough for just 14 minutes of video. An 8cm Blu-ray disc would offer a much healthier 7.5GB, providing over an hour of storage. But whilst Hitachi now has one on sale in Japan, it hasn't arrived in Europe yet.
Although the HG10 cut a few of the HV20's enthusiast-oriented features, it still kept the basics. Unfortunately, this isn't true of the HR10, probably due to the consumer orientation of the DVD camcorder format. There is no accessory shoe lurking under a plastic flap, the microphone input has disappeared, and the AV output has become a rectangular proprietary attachment, so it won't double for headphone attachment. Canon has also opted for an internal battery with this model, so you won't be able to fit a larger, longer-life one for extended shooting.