The video quality is excellent. Having had previous positive experiences with Canon video cameras, I chose the challenge of lensing a small model airplane in flight for my test footage. The images that I was able to capture, while casually playing with the camera, are absolutely stunning, for a handheld consumer video camera. With other lower-end video cameras that utilize the AVCHD / H.264 MPEG-4 codec, there is usually unfavorable pixelation and artifacts. However, there is no significant amount of image degradation because of compression issues with the HF-R10
Low-Light Video Quality
Both the auto and manual exposure settings had a very high curve in both dark and bright settings. The low-light capabilities are actually better on smaller cameras like this than on larger, more expensive models. The HF-R10 performs well in low-light situations without exception.
Ease of Use
For the average user, this is dead simple. You can flip open the LCD screen, and push a giant button on the body of the camera that reads AUTO. It doesn't get any easier than that! In terms of practicality, being a smaller camera, there is some camera shake, but the Vixia offers a slightly larger lens than the average video camera, which helps eliminate some of the camera shake, as does the optical the image stabilization.
For the prosumer user who wants to shoot in manual mode, the additional features and controls were accessible within reason. Finding the right speed on the variable-speed zoom takes some time to get used to, but it's only a matter of practice. I was excited that HF-R10 has manual controls for focus and audio levels, however, it is a little clunky to operate, as can be expected with any model in this price range. Although the camera lacks an external focus wheel, it does have an enhanced focus mode with an extremely large curve for locking focus.
This camera has plenty of interesting features for the average user and video enthusiast alike. What some shoppers might overlook is the fact that this camera has a 20x optical zoom. That means you can make an object appear twenty times closer and it will still be crystal clear. Some consumer cameras have a very short optical focal length and an extended digital focal zoom. The digital zoom will always significantly degrade the image quality. While shooting my test footage, I was still able to zoom in on a model airplane flying in the sky, full frame, crystal clear. Although I would never use it, this camera does have a 400x digital zoom, as well. Can you say, paparazzi?
I was very impressed by the instant auto focus (IAF). Professional camera persons never use auto focus, because it is slow to focus, and tends to never focus on what you want in focus. The advent of face detection technology (which this video camera does have) coupled with instant auto focus allows the HF-R10 to make rapid focus-changes automatically, even on a speeding model airplane captured at full zoom in the bright daylight sky.
For the prosumer user, the camera has everything you need to squeeze professional work out of this consumer camera: 1920 x 1080p resolution, 24 frame mode, cinema mode color and contrast cures, manual focus, manual audio levels, and an external microphone jack.
In addition to a slot for an SD/SDHC memory card, there's a generous 8GB of internal flash memory drive, which is plenty of room. I was shooting my test footage in 1080p/24 fps mode and still did not use even half of the video camera’s internal memory. (Also available are the HF-R11, which comes with a whopping 32GB of flash memory and a memory card slot, and the HF-R100, which captures to a card only. All three HF-R-series camcorders are otherwise indentical.)
The Dolby Digital Stereo audio quality is pristine. I was equally excited to be able to adjust the audio levels manually, as I was by the Canon Vixia HF-R10’s ability to adjust the levels for me.
To get your media from the camera to your computer, you simply plug it into the USB port, select computer on your LCD screen, and then you’ll have access to your media. However on a MAC, you’ll have to either import the footage into iMovie, or use “Log and Transfer” in Final Cut Pro. If you’re interested in editing the footage on a MAC, both iMovie and Final Cut Pro transcode the footage into a format that is immediately editable once imported or transferred.
The Canon Vixia HF-R10 is definitely at the top of the food chain in its category of low-cost consumer video cameras. The camera is very accessible for average point-and-shoot users and video enthusiasts alike. If you’re looking for a video camera under $500, the HF-R10 comes highly recommended.