Sony has been dumbing down its consumer models, allowing Canon to steal its thunder with semi-professional champions such as the HV20 and HG10. The HF10 mostly carries on this tradition. Minijacks are available for connecting an external microphone and headphones, and audio levels can be adjusted manually. Canon’s usual array of manual settings is available, using the joystick on the edge of the LCD.
In Program mode, the Exposure control changes shutter and aperture simultaneously. But you can also call upon shutter priority mode, where the shutter can be adjusted from 1/2 to 1/2000th, or aperture priority mode, where the iris can be varied from F1.8 to F8. In either of these modes, the Exposure control then varies the feature you haven’t set (aperture and shutter respectively) from -11 to +11, with a bit of gain thrown in. It’s not quite the same as Panasonic’s completely independent shutter and iris, with gain on the top, as there is no indication of what Exposure actually refers to. But it’s almost as flexible.
The other two main shooting modes are the Scene presets, which include Portrait, Sports, Night, Snow, Beach, Sunset, Spotlight and Fireworks, plus Cinema mode. The latter adjusts the colour curve for a more film-like look, which can give some nice-looking results in certain conditions, for example where you want more detail in low-contrast areas. Unfortunately, you can’t use this with any of the other modes, but you can add Image Effects on the top. These include a Vivid mode which boosts saturation, a Neutral mode which lowers it, Low Sharpening, Soft Skin, and a custom option that lets you vary colour depth, brightness, contrast and sharpness from -1 to +1.
Further settings are available via the full menu, such as toggling 25PF or Instant AF, although you won’t need to change these very often. For the complete novice, however, Canon has also added an Easy mode, where everything is configured for you – although this hasn’t been accompanied by the shooting guides or face recognition now starting to find their way onto Sony and Panasonic camcorders.
So the HF10 has lots of control available for the connoisseur, but there are a few notable omissions. Whilst there is an accessory shoe available, this is now a proprietary “S” Mini Advanced Shoe, rather than standard sized. Canon claims this is to save space, and a range of accessories will be available, such as the DM-100 shotgun microphone. But an adapter will now be required to attach third-party video lights and microphones. The HF10 also lacks a lens ring, instead calling upon its joystick, which is quite fiddly. But at least this is enhanced by Focus Assist, where the frame zooms in automatically whilst you adjust, and back out when you’ve finished. The tripod mount is also too far forward – again, because of space constraints – making tripod usage a little unbalanced.