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Canon's HD camcorders managed to dominate the quality high ground for most of 2008, even if this didn't translate directly into sales supremacy. Now, however, the competition is getting much more fierce. New models are due from all the major competitors, and Panasonic has already laid down the gauntlet with the HDC-HS300.
So Canon had to respond with something a little more than the mild update of the HF11. And it has. Canon's latest models sport new CMOS sensors, and the company reckons they are so special they even have a new name - Legria. This week, we take a look at the flagship of the range, the Legria HF S10.
If you're familiar with Canon's naming strategy, you may already have guessed this is a flash memory-based high definition model, like the other HFs before it. However, as with the HF11, now you get a 32GB complement as standard, plus Canon's 'Dual Flash Memory' means you can add an equal amount in SDHC format on the top.
But the big news is the sensor. Many of the previous Canon HD models used the same 1/3.2in CMOS. Performance was excellent, better than anything else released in 2008. Still, now that Panasonic has gone one better with the trio of 1/4in CMOS sensors in the HDC-HS300, Canon is not resting on its laurels. The Legria HF S10 sports a larger 1/2.6in CMOS, with more than twice the resolution than previous models, at 8.59-megapixels. Canon uses 6.01-megapixels when shooting movies and 8.02-megapixels for stills. With only 2.07-megapixels required for Full HD, Canon is clearly oversampling to further improve image quality.
Like the HF11, HG20 and HG21, the Legria HF S10 sports a 24Mbits/sec top data rate, conforming to the H.264 High-Profile Level 4.1 standard. This means you can shoot nearly three hours even at the best quality option using just the internal storage. There are five quality settings, two using Full HD and three operating at the same 1,440 x 1,080 resolution as HDV.
You would expect such a high-end internal specification to come with semi-pro features to match, and the Canon Legria HF S10 doesn't disappoint. In fact, it would appear that Canon has thrown pretty much every possible function it could imagine into the Legria HF S10. These are accessed via the joystick on the edge of the LCD, along with the Function button beneath.
On its own, the joystick calls up a long list of options, including frequently used settings such as backlight compensation and the basic exposure control. Canon's version of face detection has also joined the selection, as has a Pre-REC functions for constantly buffering footage. So when you hit record this is tacked on the front, in case your reactions were too slow.