Footage is recorded to flash memory, with no storage built in. An SDHC slot is located on the bottom of the device under the same flap as the battery, but this will make it hard to swap over memory cards when the R10 is attached to a tripod. However, as you can fit just under two hours of footage on a 16GB card even at the top video quality settings, you probably won’t need to swap out cards that frequently.
There are few physical features for the enthusiast user, with no accessory shoe nor minijacks for an external microphone or headphones. But the range of manual settings is reasonable, even if these are exclusively available via the touch-screen LCD. A quick menu provides access to a basic EV exposure control, but if you delve further into the main menu, aperture and shutter priority modes can be found. You can’t configure shutter and iris independently, but the EV setting remains available.
Manual focusing can also be found buried in the main menu. This is operated via a fiddly onscreen slider, or by touching a point on the screen. No touch-operated exposure control is provided, however. The menu also includes options to toggle the R10’s face detection system and backlight compensation, which like the manual focusing is somewhat buried here, considering how frequently it can be needed. There is also the usual array of preset scene modes.
The 1/2.33in CMOS sensor is not quite as large as the 1/1.8in unit in the VP-HMX20, which impressed us so much with its image quality. But the R10 still achieves decent video quality in most lighting conditions. In bright sunlight, it tends to over-saturate colours and slightly blow out highlights, but this can be dialled back using the exposure controls. Low light performance is also very credible. There is quite a lot of noise visible, but colours remain bright to a low level of illumination. The Normal Super C. Nite mode can help here, as it allows the shutter speed to drop to 1/25th of a second. This does reduce noise, but doesn’t entirely eradicate it. Overall, though, the R10 performs well in low light, considering its price.
Image stabilisation performance isn’t quite so impressive. The R10 only offers an electronic system, rather than optical, and doesn’t incorporate any of the advanced modes now starting to appear on camcorders from Canon, Panasonic and JVC. As a result, only very mild shakiness can be compensated for, and the image will be quite jerky at maximum telephoto when shooting handheld. The zoom is also one of the slowest we’ve ever encountered, taking many seconds to travel from 1x to 8x.