The DVD-recordable child in Canon's nursery of consumer HD camcorders, the HR10 has the distinction of being my least favorite of the lot. Because it records to DVDs in the AVCHD format, it lacks the speed and compatibility of the less-expensive HV20, the recording capacity of the hard-disk-based HG10, and the compactness of the tape-based HV10. It's not that it's a bad product--it's pretty typical for its class--it just can't rise above the obstacles posed by its genes.
On the imaging side, it specs out well. It inherits the 1/2.7-inch, 3-megapixel CMOS sensor and Digic DV II processor from its siblings and uses the same 10x zoom lens as the HV10. But because it records to 3-inch DVD media, specifically DVD-R/W and DVD-R dual-layer discs, the design is necessarily a bit clunky. Like all DVD camcorders, though, the drive housing does provide an extra lip to wrap your fingers around for a decent grip. That's important, because the HR10's body feels quite slippery. My fingers fall naturally over the zoom switch and Program/Auto mode switches, and the start/stop record button lies under my thumb, but the photo shutter for snapping stills is a bit far back and somewhat low on the curve of the drive, making it awkward to reach with my forefinger.
The on/off/mode switch, still/video switch, and joystick lie beneath the eye-level viewfinder. Pushing in the joystick button brings up controls for the video light, exposure compensation, manual focus, and flash. Because of the relative positions of the viewfinder and the joystick, however, my cheek frequently obstructs joystick access; if your eyes sit further away from your cheekbones than mine, you probably won't have that issue.
Four physically differentiable buttons curve alone the top left side of the camcorder. (For more on the design of the HR10, click through the slide show.) Quick Start allows you to put the HR10 in standby so it will wake up quickly for shooting, while Func pulls up relevant shooting settings: Shooting mode (program, shutter-priority, aperture-priority, scene, or film-gamma Cinema), white balance, image effect (vivid, neutral, low sharpening, Soft Skin Detail, or custom), digital effects, quality, metering (still photo only), drive mode (still photo only--single, continuous, high-speed continuous, or exposure bracketing), and image size.
The HR10 shoots progressive HD at 1,920x1,080 resolution, which it then deconstructs to interlaced video (most software subsequently downconvert it to 1,440x1,080). You can also shoot 24p, which in conjunction with the film-gamma Cinema mode renders a more filmlike appearance. Video-quality options range from the highest-bitrate XP+ (12Mbps; 15 minutes single layer, 27 minute dual layer) to LP (5Mbps; 33 minutes single layer, 60 minutes dual layer) with a couple of intermediate stops in between the two. The still-photo sizes can get a little confusing, however. For instance, the LW (Large Wide) setting is actually smaller than the plain-old Large: 1,920x1,080 vs. 2,048x1,536. And like most camcorders that let you snap photos while in video-recording mode, those snapshots are limited to 1,920x1,080.