Canon Vixia HF S10
Typical Price: $1,494.00
CNET Editors' Rating: 4.0 / 5
The good: Excellent video quality and performance; nicely designed interface; fast battery charging.
The bad: No eye-level viewfinder; expensive; lens cover rattles when closed.
The bottom line: An excellent flash-based prosumer HD camcorder, you may nevertheless pass on the Canon Vixia HF S10 because it lacks an eye-level viewfinder. And the identical--but cheaper, because it has no built-in memory--Vixia HF S100 may also be a better buy.
Design, Features & Performance (out of 10)
Many companies turn out SD-based camcorders in compact designs, simply because the flash-based technologies allow for much smaller models than those based on tape, hard disks, and mini DVDs. While Canon continues to offer compact AVCHD models, the Vixia HF20 and the HF200, the company's branching out with slightly more "pro" prosumer offerings in the Vixia HF S10 and the Vixia HF S100.
These two models, which record 1,920x1,080 60i video, feature a larger, faster f1.8 10x HD lens and a relatively large, high-resolution 1/2.6-inch 8-megapixel CMOS sensor, along with higher-end capabilities, such as SMPTE color bars, the ability to manually boost gain up to 18dB, fixed 70 and 100 IRE zebra stripes, and a user-assignable button/control dial combo. They differ only by internal memory: the HF S100 has none, while the HF S10 has 32GB.
Though it weighs a bit over a pound, the camcorder feels kind of light for its 2.8-inch-by-2.7-inch-by-5.4-inch dimensions. Still, it's no featherweight, and while I fit it into a loose jacket pocket, it's not very compact. With only a few exceptions, the camcorder has a nice, functional design, with intelligently laid out controls and a streamlined user interface. The larger size makes it a bit more comfortable to hold and operate as well.
Looking at the camcorder head-on, one of the first things you notice is the odd built-in lens cover that uses a closing-eye type rather than aperture-blade type of design we usually see. It wouldn't be notable except that when closed, the two plastic pieces tend to rattle against each other; since the camcorder is off, it's not a problem, just a minor irritation. Instead of putting the video light in the typical location on the side of the lens, Canon put it on the pop-up flash. The stereo mics sit on either side of the lens barrel. While they may be more susceptible to wind noise in that location (though I didn't have any problems), it allows for larger mics with better separation than the typical positioning above or below the lens. If that's not adequate, you can attach a mic via the mini accessory shoe on top of the camcorder. There's a 3.5mm mic input on the grip side of the unit, and the other connectors--USB, component, and miniHDMI--sit in a covered compartment underneath the strap. The strap does get in the way a little when you're hooking stuff up.
To one side of the lens Canon placed a new Custom dial, which looks, feels, and operates similarly to the control dial on Sony's prosumer models. You press the button to enable it, then use the dial to adjust whatever setting you've programmed it for--choices are exposure, focus, assist functions (70/100 IRE Zebra and peaking), mic level, and automatic gain control limit (0 to 18dB). I like it in the Sonys and here as well; it's a comfortable interface for adjusting options like exposure and focus, though I'm not fond of it for cycling through the Zebra and peaking options.
As usual, the zoom switch and photo button lie on top of the camcorder beneath your forefinger, with the mode dial right behind where an eye-level viewfinder should be; one of the biggest drawbacks of this model, geared toward enthusiasts, is the lack of an EVF. The power connector and 3.5mm headphone jack flank the mode button. One of the two record buttons lies under your thumb on the back. To the left of the zoom switch is the small, recessed power button which is a little to difficult to manipulate.
Most of the shooting controls live on the LCD bezel. The function button pulls up both the frequently used settings as well as the full menu system another level down. In addition to the usual--white balance, image effects, digital effects, video quality and still photo size, program and a handful of scene modes--the HF S10/100 offer real shutter- and aperture-priority shooting modes with a shutter speed range of 1/8 to 1/2000 second and aperture options ranging from f1.8 to f8, giving you more control over depth of field than you generally see in a prosumer model. It also offers Canon's Cine mode for adjusting color and gamma to go with its 24F progressive modes, though it and 30F get recorded as 60i. In still mode you can select metering and drive modes as well. Other high-end features accessible via the menus include three fixed or variable zoom speed, x.v.Color mode, color bars, and a test tone.
The menu system itself has been updated for a smoother feel and the ability to choose font size. Since the 2.7-inch display is the typical low-resolution model, the small fonts look pixelated and would be hard for some to read. It does stand up pretty well in direct sunlight, however.
Navigating down on the joystick while shooting triggers a fly-up menu to pop up the video light (which works in still photo mode), digital effects, 3-second prerecord, backlight and exposure compensation, manual focus, mic level, face detection, and a digital teleconverter. The options are slightly different in still mode: you gain flash and lose the mic and teleconverter. It's especially nice that you still have quick access to functions that you don't assign to the custom dial.
The HF S10/S100 also incorporate this year's features, which include Video Snapshots, 4-second clips used to create a "highlights reel" effect (the camcorders ship with a music CD). I like the idea, but the implementation can be annoying. You enter Video Snapshot mode by pressing a hard-to-feel button on the left side of the camcorder in the LCD recess. A blue outline appears on the display. When you press record, a highlight travels around the blue outline counting down your 4 seconds. It stays in Video Snapshot mode until you switch to playback or press the button again. While I like the way the display feedback works, I think I might have preferred a separate record button, or a choice on the mode dial rather than the have the isolated button. (For a complete accounting of the HF S10/100's features, you can download the PDF manual.)
Performance and quality are top notch at both its maximum 24Mbps bit rate and 17Mbps. (Recording capacities are about 5.5 minutes per gigabyte and 7.8 min/GB, respectively. Canon recommends a Class 4 or better SDHC card.) The camcorder focuses quickly and accurately, even in low light. While battery life is pretty average for its class, it recharges fairly quickly; Canon claims it takes 10 minutes per half hour of battery life. The optical stabilizer, as usual, works well out to the end of the zoom range. The video looks great: sharp, with saturated colors, and excellent exposures with relatively few blown-out highlights. The DigicDV 3 processing does a solid job maximizing the dynamic range. Living-room light-level recordings look quite good as well. There's a bit of noise and softness, but that's to be expected. The audio records crisp and clear, too. The camcorder's not perfect, however. Outdoor shots do show a bit of purple fringing on high-contrast edges, and there's some color shift in reds and blues. Still photos have a slightly overprocessed look as many camcorder stills do, and the flash does odd things to the saturation, but overall they're not bad.
If you're a video hobbyist or a pro looking for something cheap and portable to complement your workhorse equipment, the identical twins Canon Vixia HF S10 and HF S100 deliver a much better shooting experience than the current crop of $600 HD camcorders--as long as you can live without the EVF. The HF S100 is probably the better deal, since the price of a 32GB card should be less than the price differential between the two models.
|Product Description||Canon VIXIA HF S10 - Camcorder - Consumer - Flash card|
|Product Type||Camcorder - Consumer - 1080p - Yes|
|Dimensions (WxDxH)||2.8 in x 5.4 in x 2.7 in|
|Flash Memory||32 GB|
|Digital Storage Media||Flash - 32 GB|
|Sensor Resolution||8.59 megapixels|
|Effective Sensor Resolution||Video: 6.01 megapixels - Still: 8.02 megapixels Mpix|
|Shooting Modes||Digital photo mode|
|Min Focus Range||0.4 in|
|Focal Length||6.4 mm - 64 mm|
|Red Eye Reduction||Yes|
|Microphone||Microphone - Built-in - Electret condenser - Stereo|
|Display||LCD display - TFT active matrix - 2.7 in - Color|
|Supported Battery||1 x Li-ion rechargeable battery - 890 mAh ( Included )|
Average User Rating: 4.0 / 5
User Rating Breakdown
5 Star: 6
4 Star: 1
3 Star: 0
2 Star: 0
1 Star: 0
Good, but audio not what I had hoped for.
Rating: 4 / 5
on June 1, 2009
6 out of 6 users found this review helpful
Pros: Feels solid, good video, very convenient.
Cons: Basically the less-than-ideal sound quality. Absence of an electronic viewfinder (EVF). Instead of a remote control, I would have preferred an HDMI cable...
Summary: I bought this camcorder as a replacement for an aging mini-DVD Hitachi DZMV380A, and because I had been longing for a decent flash-based cam for years: and now with HD and 16:9, the time had come to upgrade. First impressions were quite good, this cam does seem to be of good build quality.
I use my cam almost exclusively to film piano concerts of our son, and other musical events.
My main complaint: I find the sound *significantly* worse than on the Hitachi. I believe one of the main reasons is the automatic volume control, it seems to flatten the dynamics, everything is always loud, even within notes. So I now record with manual volume control, and normalize volume during post-processing. The results are certainly better (altho I think they are still worse than the Hitachi was, with latter on automatic volume control -- not sure I could go manual on it). See samples below.
The second major problem I noticed in some recordings is a ringing effect heard at times: see sample below. At this point (analysis on-going), I don't know if it's:
- the room acoustics (I doubt it, as I've heard it in a few rooms),
- the mics, or maybe their position on the side,
- the analog-to-digital converter,
- the Dolby AC-3 encoder, or
- the decoding on PC, or my post-processing (not at all impossible).
But it's almost as annoying as the other problem. No workaround for now.
Unfortunately, I have not been able to find much on the web about the audio quality of any camcorder (a suggestion to editorial reviewers: get the audio folks into the picture). And I wish I could better understand how these automatic volume controls work, and why my old Hitachi seemed so much better in this regard (perhaps it had less sensitivity and the automatic volume control hardly kicked in -- I tried mic attenuation on the Canon, but that went too far to be useful).
Wrt video, I notice that there seems to be a bit more video noise compared to my old Hitachi (comparing stage recordings done in the same room). But obviously, the video looks much better, no question there.
I did have one incident which intrigued me somewhat. With the cam on a tripod, and very little movement on the stage, the image went out of focus for a few seconds then back in focus: see sample below. Not too sure why. I only noticed this once, but perhaps it has happened more than once (my eyesight isn't what it used to be, if I'm not paying attention, I might not notice). So maybe I'll switch to manual focus too :-).
Four short (~15 sec) samples: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SU2KhfSlh6E
- Automatic volume control --> not good
- Manual volume control, with post normalization of the audio --> better
- Ringing effect in the sound --> not good
- Focus glitch for no apparent reason
(earphones make the first three problems easier to hear)
AVCHD processing is indeed taxing on the PC (even with a decent PC, it still takes four times elapsed to process the video into DVD-compatible video). But the end result on a DVD is much better (for the video) than the old Hitachi.
Finally a few comments on the documentation. It does not describe what "cine" mode does. Sure, I can just try it out, but maybe I won't see all it does, and so not know just when I'd want to use it. What I see is reduced contrast and color saturation (I can see some use for that, stages are very contrasty). And the manual doesn't tell me how much the mic attenuation is (is it -20dB, or more as it seems). But in general, it is very good, with cross-references all over, and enough icons for a lifetime.
Simply the best.
Rating: 5 / 5
on July 10, 2009
3 out of 3 users found this review helpful
Pros: HD Video Quality, Excellent Microphone placement, sound is pretty good: better than expected, Lens is big, above average photos from a camcorder, big sensor, good grip, nice looks, HDMI, internal storage and sd, nice video light for night recording.
Cons: No firewire, generic battery won't display time and always prompts for usage at beginning, no hdmi cable included, a bit expensive (but it's excellent value), there's so many features that it's a bit hard to control and understand.
Summary: The video quality of this camera is simply the best. You are paying a pretty penny for it, but it will pay off since you know it's a piece of technology that will not be obsolete for a long time. Hooked it up to a 50" Pioneer Plasma and it looked as good as the video on other HD channels. Microphone placement is smart, and some will choose sony and panasonic over this camcorder as they have 5.1 channel Dolby digital, but really it's more or less the same,and I can't see any problems with the sound quality and I think the sound matches the amazing video quality. The big sensor helps while taking pictures, especially since the high end sony claims to take 12 mp stills even when it only has a 6 mp sensor ... Although, I do really wish they included firewire so transfer could go faster. I could go on and on about this camcorder because it's just so great, but if you're thinking about buying it, and you're not sure, just buy it. If budget is an issue , then I would look at the Vixia HF S100, and if it's still an issue, then the HF 200 and 20 are excellent choices as well.
I'm really impress with the image quality at night
Rating: 5 / 5
on April 24, 2009
2 out of 2 users found this review helpful
Pros: Excellent image quality specially at night or low light events.
Cons: really insignificant to mention compare to the pros.
Summary: I'm really impress with this camcorder. Must Camcorders (and also regular cameras) work really poor in low light ambients. This is almost natural in all cameras. I bought this camera and the fist thing I record was an event in a small auditorium with almost no light, only couple spot lights in the stage. I though I will find later a High Quality (1080) but grainy image. And what was my surprise to fine a Clear NO GRAINY image. I was in shock. Then I hook the camcorder to my Samsung 46" HDTV (LN46A750) and the image was excellent, no grainy, clear edges, the color was perfect. I can identify every single person on the stage.
At the moment, I only test the camcorder on low light (night events). I'm sure that any event during day light will be almost like movie style. Obviously it is not a profesional camcorder but for any person who want one that work really well at night with excellent quality, the HF S10 is the #1 option so far. Hope other people share my opinion.
If I need to say something bad about the camcorder it will be lens cover, it shake a little bit if you shake really hard the camcorder (no big deal) but I heard this before from other people and it is true. Also I'm a MAC computer guy I the software to edit video only cames for PC.
I recommend 100% this camcorder.
Rating: 5 / 5
on April 3, 2009
2 out of 2 users found this review helpful
Pros: The features that I really enjoy are the 24p cinema mode and the fact that sound quality equally matched that of video quality.
Cons: The menu style takes a little getting used to but, if have a canon powershot camera then you will be able to easily navigate the menu on the hf s10.
Summary: My bottom line is that the camcorder offers superb video quality. I like the fact that all sound is recorded in Dolby Stereo (I understand the the Sony models record in 5.1 Dolby but, the zoom aspect of the microphone does not fully allow 5.1 configuration). There is no complaints to camcorder as of yet. Thank you canon for producing another quality product.
Simple controls, Professional Results!
Rating: 5 / 5
on March 22, 2010
1 out of 1 users found this review helpful
Pros: I love the fact that is is totally digital and full 1080p HD results. It has a built in 32GB memory and I bought a 32GB SD memory card for the memory slot. You can choose to store video on one and photos on the other! I can shoot hours of video!
Cons: When you "pan" around with the camera, since it is digital, there is a little noise until you steady on your subject but the effect is negligible. This camera simply shoots the best digital images I have seen on a consumer product.
Summary: For the price, you are getting one of if not the best consumer digital video camera on the market. Canon has put some great optics on an already well built solid state chassis. Hands down this camera rocks and worth every penny!
I am very happy I invested in this camera as I was so tired of losing those family treasures to time and decay with tape and the mini DVD camcorder I bought was sub-par compared to the video quality this thing can produce. I canno say enough great things about this camera...just go buy one already and ditch all the DVD and Tape media! You will not be disappointed!