Canon HV10 camcorder

The Canon HV10 is a powerful digital camcorder that’s capable of shooting impressive high definition video and taking excellent still images. It’s compact, lightweight, and loaded with customization options that give you plenty of control over your movie. However, this 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’ll likely notice is that the HV10’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 testing the audio we recorded sounded as though it was recorded at quite a distance. The placement of this microphone might be useful for recording voice-overs while shooting documentary-style films, but then again, voice-overs are typically recorded in post-production.

In addition to the audio problem, the HV10 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 $1,000 for a camcorder, you’ll likely want to use an external microphone to record high-quality audio. Furthermore, the HV10 lacks a headphone jack, depriving you of the ability to monitor your audio.

The HV10’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 HV10 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 minimize 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 HV10 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 colors 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 Superior rating from our jury. With a resolution of 3 megapixels, the HV10 takes still images that look as crisp and clear as those taken with a typical digital camera. Additionally, the camcorder includes a built-in flash for when you need to shoot in dark settings.

If you’re using the HV10 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.

Performance

Still-image quality Superior
Video quality Very Good
Battery life Poor

Scale: Superior, Very Good, Good, Fair, Poor

How We Tested: The image-quality rating of the camera is based upon a panel of judges’ opinions in five categories: exposure, color, sharpness, distortion, and overall. Battery-life testers follow a precise script, including shots with and without flash, until the battery dies.—Tested in conjunction with the PC World Test Center

specifications

LCD size 2.7
Optical zoom 10x
Still-image resolution 3 megapixels
Size (width x height x depth) 2.2 x 4.1 x 4.2
Weight (in ounces) 22.4

Macworld’s buying advice

The HV10 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.

[ Brian Chen is an assistant editor at Macworld.]

Canon HV10

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