The Canon HV10 is a powerful digital camcorder that's capable of shooting impressive high definition video and taking excellent still images. The Canon HV10 HD Camcorder compact, lightweight and loaded with customisation options that give you plenty of control over your movie.

However, the Canon HV10 HD Camcorder is far from perfect. Aspiring filmmakers may find that the HV10's brilliant image quality doesn't compensate for its flaws: an irritating design, a short battery life and a lack of a microphone or headphone jack.

Design and usability

The first problem that you're likely to notice is that the Canon HV10 HD Camcorder's microphone is located on the back of the camcorder, right above its viewfinder. This is an unconventional location for a microphone, and in our tests the audio we recorded sounded as though it was recorded at quite a distance. The placement of this microphone might be useful for recording voiceovers while shooting documentary-style films, but then again, voiceovers are typically recorded in post-production.

In addition to the audio problem, the Canon HV10 HD Camcorder is missing a key feature found on most camcorders in its price range: a microphone jack. This is a questionable omission: if you're willing to pay upwards of £600 for a camcorder, you'll want to use an external microphone to record high-quality audio. Furthermore, the Canon HV10 HD Camcorder lacks a headphone jack, depriving you of the ability to monitor your audio.

The Canon HV10 HD Camcorder's awkward design makes it uncomfortable to grip and difficult to use. The zoom tab is located near the camera lens; this forces you to use your middle or ring finger to press it. The three buttons on the back of the camera - for changing focus, exposure or function settings - are very small and hard to press.

On the plus side, the Canon HV10 HD Camcorder offers a convenient two-directional tab for navigating through its menu. This tab is located near the record button, so it's easy to press it with your thumb, which helps to minimise camera shake. Using this tab, you can choose from a number of controls to adjust your image, such as white-balance adjustment, image effects, aperture settings, and scene modes.

Performance and battery life

The Canon HV10 HD Camcorder is able to capture images with exceptional clarity and great depth. We tested and compared the HV10 with a batch of standard definition MiniDV camcorders, and the difference in quality was vast. In our testing, the HV10's videos looked especially good under bright light: noise was hardly visible, motion was very smooth, shadows were very detailed, and colours were pleasant. Our panel of experts gave the HV10's overall video quality a very good rating.

The HV10's still-image quality is also impressive, earning a top rating from our jury. With a resolution of 3Mp, the Canon HV10 HD Camcorder takes still images that look as crisp and clear as those taken with a typical digital camera. Additionally, the Canon HV10 HD Camcorder includes a built-in flash for when you need to shoot in dark settings.

If you're using the Canon HV10 HD Camcorder to shoot a movie, you should plan ahead - its battery life is very short. In our testing, the HV10's battery lasted only one hour when recording (most camcorder batteries last at least 80 minutes). A simple solution would be to carry the power charger or a spare battery with you during shoots. But if you're shooting scenes outdoors, you'll find yourself quickly running out of juice. The HV10's battery life earned a poor rating.

Canon HV10 HD Camcorder: Specs

  • 56x106x104mm
  • 440g
  • A/V cable, USB cable
  • external power adaptor
  • 2.7in TFT active matrix 210,000-pixel colour display
  • Li-ion rechargeable battery
  • f/1.8-3.0, 10x optical zoom
  • min focus range 10mm
  • F/1.8-3.0
  • automatic, manual focus adjustment
  • TTL contrast detection
  • 37mm filter
  • 0.27in 123,000-pixel viewfinder
  • Mini DV
  • CMOS
  • 200x digital zoom
  • PAL
  • 1/6in optical sensor
  • max shutter speed: 1/500 sec
  • automatic, aperture-priority, shutter-priority exposure
  • White Balance: custom, automatic, presets
  • Art, Black & White, Sepia effects
  • Digital photo mode, frame movie mode
  • min illumination: 1 lux
  • wipe fader, black fader
  • direct print
  • PictBridge support
  • Low Lux / Night Mode
  • USB 2.0
  • IEEE 1394 (FireWire/i.LINK)
  • composite video/audio (input/output)
  • DC power input
  • built-in microphone
  • 56x106x104mm
  • 440g
  • A/V cable, USB cable
  • external power adaptor
  • 2.7in TFT active matrix 210,000-pixel colour display
  • Li-ion rechargeable battery
  • f/1.8-3.0, 10x optical zoom
  • min focus range 10mm
  • F/1.8-3.0
  • automatic, manual focus adjustment
  • TTL contrast detection
  • 37mm filter
  • 0.27in 123,000-pixel viewfinder
  • Mini DV
  • CMOS
  • 200x digital zoom
  • PAL
  • 1/6in optical sensor
  • max shutter speed: 1/500 sec
  • automatic, aperture-priority, shutter-priority exposure
  • White Balance: custom, automatic, presets
  • Art, Black & White, Sepia effects
  • Digital photo mode, frame movie mode
  • min illumination: 1 lux
  • wipe fader, black fader
  • direct print
  • PictBridge support
  • Low Lux / Night Mode
  • USB 2.0
  • IEEE 1394 (FireWire/i.LINK)
  • composite video/audio (input/output)
  • DC power input
  • built-in microphone

OUR VERDICT

The Canon HV10 HD Camcorder is capable of shooting superb video and still images, but its microphone placement and lack of a microphone jack - among other flaws are difficult to accept. The HV10 would be a top consumer camcorder if it weren't for the imperfections in design and usability.

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