Canon Legria HF S10 HD flash memory camcorder

A high-definition Canon camcorder with an 8-megapixel CMOS sensor

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Canon Legria HF S10
  • Canon Legria HF S10
  • Canon Legria HF S10
  • Canon Legria HF S10

Pros

  • Excellent Full HD video quality, huge array of manual features, quick and responsive control dial

Cons

  • Too expensive for most consumers

Bottom Line

The Canon Legria HF S10 is one of those rare camcorders that will please all types of user. It combines beginner-friendly features with in-depth manual controls and produces unmatched video quality to boot. Unfortunately, it's also prohibitively expensive.

Would you buy this?

The Canon Legria HF S10 is a flash memory–based Full HD (1920x1080) camcorder equipped with 32GB of inbuilt storage. It replaces the Canon HF11 as the company’s flagship consumer-level camcorder — which arguably makes it the new benchmark for high-definition video. (After all, the HF11 was one of the best camcorders of its generation). The Canon Legria HF S10 gave a solid performance across the board and comes with some very useful features, including a new Video Snapshot mode, a revamped user interface and a wealth of manual controls.

However, with an RRP of $2499, the Canon Legria HF S10 will sadly be out of reach for many consumers — especially in these economically uncertain times. Nevertheless it remains a suburb video camera for those that can afford it; be they die-hard videographers or cashed-up novices. If only it were a little bit cheaper...

Presumably in an attempt to boost brand-awareness and/or identity, Canon has christened its new camcorder range ‘Legria’, where letters and numbers once sufficed. (We’re guessing it’s Spanish for something cool, but a Google search turned up nothing). Rather cheekily, Canon has re-branded its previous camcorder range under the Legria banner too, but apart from a name swap they remain unchanged.

Rather than merely adding a ‘hair tracking’ gimmick or a fresh new paintjob, the Canon Legria HF S10 has been redesigned from the ground up. It consequently bears little resemblance to the HF11. By far the biggest improvement is the enlarged 1/2 .6in CMOS sensor, which replaces the HF11’s modest 1/4in offering. This helps give the Legria HF S10 a significant boost in resolution, with a gross pixel count of 8.5 million pixels (compared to the HF11’s 3.3 million). It also comes with a new DIGIC DV III processing chip that delivers a quicker imaging performance. It retains the HF11’s 24Mbps bit rate, which remains the fastest on the market.

Other improvements include advanced face detection (which can detect up to 35 faces), an 8-megapixel stills mode, a control dial for precise manual adjustments and the afore-mentioned Video Snapshot. This is a beginner-friendly mode that records video in quick, 4-second bursts. The clips can then be automatically merged into a montage via inbuilt editing software (you can even add your own music), resulting in a slick ‘highlights reel’. While it obviously won’t suit every occasion, Video Snapshot is a great way to get punchy results without any meandering shots in-between.

The Canon Legria HF S10 is a very good looking camcorder, with a sleek black body dominated by a disproportionately large lens. For menu navigation, it uses an LCD-mounted joystick configuration, which is functional yet dull. While there’s nothing wrong with the interface per se, it lacks the intuitiveness of Sony and Panasonic’s touch screens — especially if you’re a member of the iPod brigade.

On the plus side, the menu is chock-full of advanced modes and features, including a wealth of focusing options. We particularly liked the B$W view with coloured peaking — when combined with the control dial, this makes manual focusing a breeze. Other manual features include exposure (-11 to 11+), aperture (f/1.8 to f/8), shutter speed, gain, white balance and an assortment of colour effects. This makes the HF S10 a good choice for budding filmmakers and documentary makers who can't afford a prosumer camera. Of course, the downside is that you're often required to do a bit of menu hunting to find certain functions.

We don't need to tell you that the Legria HF S10's main strength lies in video quality -- after all, this is the successor to the brilliant HF11 we're talking about. Like its award-winning stable mate, the HF S10 produces incredibly sharp images that are bursting with details and colour. The richness and depth exhibited in our test footage was truly astonishing, with few instances of noise or image artifacts. Again, this makes the HF S10 a top contender for the Tropfest set.

The Canon Legria HF S10's main rival is probably Panasonic's HDC-HS200-K — a similarly priced HD camcorder with wildly divergent features. Each model comes with its own unique pros and cons, which makes crowning a winner somewhat difficult. When it comes to bang-for-your buck, the Panasonic HDC-HS200-K trumps the Canon Legria HF S10 due to its 80GB hard drive.

However, the Canon Legria HF S10 wins out when it comes to manual controls and features (crucially, the HDC-HS200-K lacks a control dial and an external microphone jack). Both models produce excellent picture quality, with Canon’s superior optics providing a slight edge. Unless you specifically require lots of inbuilt storage, we’d subsequently plum for the Legria HF S10.

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