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Canon Legria HF S10 review



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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.

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Isaac Sarayiah

March 21, 2009, 4:10 am

Sounds like its the Panasonic for me then.

Chris Philpot

March 21, 2009, 2:05 pm

I have to agree - the lack of a lens ring is the killer blow for me, which is a shame as it's the more attractive model in many other respects.

So, as someone considering spending �ish on a semi-pro camera over the coming months, what would the users and staff of TrustedReviews recommend?

James Morris

March 21, 2009, 2:28 pm

Well, the S10 probably is the best consumer camcorder I've ever tested, but the 𧷤 price difference with the HS300 is pretty significant, and it's not much smaller despite using Flash memory rather than a hard disk for storage.

James Morris

March 21, 2009, 3:26 pm

The little wheel is still pretty good - just not quite as intuitive as a full lens ring.

Ivo 1

March 21, 2009, 4:58 pm

which camcorder has the best video quality HF s10 or Pansasonic hdc-hs300

what is the best buy


March 21, 2009, 6:36 pm

Definitely a review I've been waiting for. Now if only the decision as to whether the Canon or Panasonic were easy! German magazine Bild Audio Video Foto put them up against each other in the March edition.

The Panasonic +'s with its colour viewfinder, 5.1 sound, focus ring, touchscreen and microphone and headphone connections. It -'s with its battery lasting only 2 hours. The final score is 2.07 (with 1.00 being the best possible).

The Canon +'s with its video light, rotary ring settings adjustment, microphone and headphone connections and video snapshot function. It gets minus points for not having a viewfinder and the battery being rechargable only in the camera. Its final score is 2.31 points.

Without my wishing to appear pro or contra either model, the Panasonic beat out the Canon in all disciplines with the exception of the cost of replacement batteries. Here, as in the UK, there is also a significant price difference between the two, with the magazine quoting E899 for the Panasonic and E1499 for the Canon. I have yet to see the Canon in the shops but have seen the Panasonic, but at E999.00

James Morris

March 21, 2009, 8:52 pm

I've tested the two side-by-side now in some conditions, and the S10 does have superior image quality, although this is most noticeable in low light. The 1.7x digital telephoto is surprisingly useful, too, as this gives you a 17x zoom over the normal fully wide image, with no perceptible loss of resolution in good lighting. If they were the same price, I'd probably lean towards the S10. But the extra image quality and few extra menu features are not worth the current price difference. The HF S100, though, might be worth considering, as you can pick up two 16GB SDHC cards for about 㿞 now.

Sergei Mutovkin

March 21, 2009, 11:29 pm

Everybody mentions Panasonic. But what about Sony and their XR500V and XR520V models? No early 2009 camcorder decision would be complete without Sony consideration. I'm really interested how image stabilization compares in these cameras as it seems that even if camcorder has better image quality it gets ruined by constant motions. From what I've seen from Japanese website samples Canon gives over-saturated image and has much worse image stabilization than Sony. However 24Mbps vs 16Mbps helps Canon to capture more details (and its own sensor noise).

Ivo 1

March 22, 2009, 1:25 am

maybe the Panasonic Lumix GH1 a total solution

James Morris

March 22, 2009, 2:06 am

@Sergei Mutovkin I will gladly include Sony's new models in the mix when Sony actually bothers to send them for review. But, from previous experience, we'd have to go out and buy them first. We keep trying, though, so watch this space.


March 22, 2009, 4:22 am

@Sergei Mutovkin & James Morris - German website slashcam.de reviewed the two Sonys. The verdict is (my translation): In normal light conditions they strongly resemble their predecessors, have very good focus but are very, very slightly beaten by the Panasonic and the old Canons in this respect. Their lowlight performance sets new standards. The technology sets a new reference in their price class. The downside is that for semi-pro use they both lack the ability their rivals offer, to make the kind of adjustments one would expect at this level.

James Morris

March 23, 2009, 2:50 am

Thanks Ripsnorter. Sounds like Sony's PR is a little more proactive in Germany than it is in the UK.


March 23, 2009, 2:49 pm

You're welcome, James. It's hard to tell whether Sony Germany are keener to hand out review samples or not, but trustedreviews is not the first UK website I've seen complaining at Sony UK's reluctance to provide review samples, a complaint I have yet to see here in Germany. While you do need very good German to read the slashcam.de review, the photos speak for themselves, especially the lowlight performance, which is absolutely amazing. Of course, waht's needed is someone to run a three-way face-off between the Panasonic, Canon and Sony, which will come sometime soon I'm sure. But at the moment the nod goes to the Panasonic by a large margin, especially taking the price difference into consideration.

James Morris

March 23, 2009, 4:39 pm

We're the leading camcorder review site in the UK now, and possibly Europe too. I'm going to have to say don't buy from Sony until they're willing to send us samples for review. It's not fair that they don't play the game, like every other camcorder manufacturer. I honestly don't understand their attitude. Clearly control freaks.


March 23, 2009, 9:35 pm

Thanks, James and shame on Sony!

FYI: i found a link with the translated Sony test from slashcam (a comparison of the Sony XR520, Canon HF S10 and the Panasonic SD300): http://camcorder-test.slashcam...


March 27, 2009, 2:54 pm

What do you think of the canon LEGRIA HF20? can't decide which camcorder to get from canon or panasonic but like th look of HF20. I am looking to buy for my brother who is wanting one for his baby due in May. Any ideas???

James Morris

March 27, 2009, 8:24 pm

I've not seen the HF20 yet, so I can't officially comment. I'm sure I will see it soon, though. The one thing which does pop out to me is that it has a smaller CMOS than last year's models, which would imply slightly worse low light performance. But this may be compensated for by better image processing. Will have to test it to find out!


April 1, 2009, 11:35 pm

i do not trust that German review .. even the spec data is wrong.

i really wish to see the Sony camcorder review .they made so many changes this year

James Morris

April 2, 2009, 2:14 am

We're going to try and have words with Sony at a high level. They don't seem to be giving camcorder review samples to any UK publication - but they're spending money on events for journalists (like a football event tonight). I just don't understand the company's attitude. Their camcorders are consistently excellent, but sensible consumers don't buy merely on past reputation. The current models need to be put to the test by independent reviewers.


April 3, 2009, 1:48 am

@ Stephen Campbell & James Morris. Camcorderinfo have just reviewed the LEGRIA HF20 and were not that impressed - http://www.camcorderinfo.com/c... - so it looks like this round goes to Panasonic. James, let us know how you get on with Sony.

James Morris

April 3, 2009, 11:21 pm

I've got an HF20 now too. But it will be a week or so until I've fully tested it. Watch this space for my take!


April 9, 2009, 2:07 pm


I am in Brazil, so I have very limited options to buy up-to-date electronics. My primary source would be B&H Photo that delivers down here, surprisingly enough.

So, in this store, apparently, unlike in the UK, there is no price difference between Canon HF S10 and Panasonic TM300 (which I would prefer in relation to HS300) - both being priced at US$ 1300. However, there is a huge difference to HF11 that is priced at just US$ 800.

I understand that HF11 is inferior compared to both others, but as it was released in late 2008 and got so great reviews everywhere, I imagine if that wouldn't be a very good pricing. Which of the 3 would you guys buy in my situation? Bear in mind that I am fairly inexperienced in shooting, so I might not take advantage of very advanced and complicated functions, however I wont buy another one next year like some people here seem to do, so I would like to buy a camera that would still be respectable in 3, 4 years down the road.

Thanks in advance for everybody's great advice.

Peter King

April 9, 2009, 10:37 pm

Hi Marcio,

As far as I can deduce, the only differences between the Canon HF S10 and the HF11 are the increase in size and weight of the body over the HF11, and the increase in sensor size from 1/3.2" (3.31 total megapixels) in the HF11 to 1/2.6 (8.59 total megapixels) of the HF S10. The larger sensor affords greater sensitivity, so low light quality is reputedly better than the HF11. The 8.59 megapixels would only appear of benefit in still photos, since only around 2.0 meg. is needed for full HD. Canon uses 6.01 megapixels for movies, interpolating down, but I wonder whether this actually makes any visible improvement in video quality over the HF11 in good light. Has anybody tested the quality of still photos with the HFS10? Is this a factor worthy of the price hike over the HF11?


April 10, 2009, 12:19 am

Thanks, Peter. I actually don't care much about the still pictures, I find the pictures from camcorder way too frustrating anyway, that is exactly why I am considering buying a lesser version of camcorder and investing the difference to buy a Leica. So, if anything, the better low light recording (and the light from HF S10, I might add) could be the decision maker here. Do you feel there is a dramatic improvement to justify a 60% price increase or it would be something that I would have to keep my nose glued to the TV to notice the increased noise? Could anyone comment on that?


April 11, 2009, 2:30 am

Hi Marcio,

It sounds to me like you'd be better off going with the HF11. While the HF S10 and the Panasonic are better cameras, that is a very large price difference. The extra money buys you more extras, but that $500 can be well invested elsewhere. It all depends whether you want to be a happy filmer, having fun and learning, or whether you want to get into some serious videography and can envisage your skills and abilities growing and thus needing the extra facilities and abilities offered by the more expensive cameras. Something that might be a factor is whether you could have a problem playing back your footage on a Brazilian TV. The US has NTSC and Brazil its own weird PAL hybrid, as far as I know. (Please get proper information from someone who knows about this!)

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