It's tough, the life of a Craver: here we are, roistering around the Moroccan desert to test out the Canon HF10 high-definition flash memory camcorder, when we'd much rather be at home playing with our robots.
The HF10 shoots 1,920x1,080-pixel footage in AVCHD format. It utilises a 1/3.2-inch, 3-megapixel CMOS image sensor with integrated noise reduction. On top of this is an external sensor that measures distance to the subject. This turbocharges autofocus performance. Meanwhile, the 12x optical zoom lens has a 35mm film equivalent wide angle of 42.9mm.
The sleek lines, chunky shape and rock-solid construction feels reassuringly expensive, benefiting from detail such as the battery's seamless integration with the chassis and the SD card's nifty pop-up cover. It looks great: a shiny black brick, with a touch of glitter. Standard camcorder layout: hand strap on the right, zoom on the top, fold-out swivelly screen on the left.
Canon is marketing its camcorders, including the HF10, with the slogan 'freecording'. Catchy, eh? At more than £600, the HF10 seems rather pricey and overpowered for the sort of YouTube-friendly tarting about in the adverts, but there you go. Click through the links to get a closer look at more of the HF10. -Rich Trenholm
Update: Read our full Canon HF10 review.
The playback controls on the large 69mm (2.7-inch) fold-out screen double as backup start/stop and zoom controls, as well as a nifty one-touch button that adjusts for backlit subjects.
These duplicate controls not only give lefties an easier ride, but also allow you to move the Canon HF10 about with more flexibility, or hold it in straight-arm position rather than the usual elbow-bent shoulder-level position. A wrist strap complements the usual handstrap for different shooting positions.Video is recorded to dual flash memory, which means it has 16GB of internal storage, and it also supports SD or SDHC card. Footage can be copied from one to the other for easy transfer and backup.
The advantage of onboard flash memory is that, unlike higher capacity hard-disk drives, there are no moving parts involved. This means, among other things, that the HF10 is less likely to break if subjected to some kind of shock. Rigorous to the last, we devised a simple but scientific experiment. We dropped it.
You don't have to turn it on to check remaining battery time, and you see that information as a percentage of battery life. Which is handy.
Other controls include an 'easy' button, which allows video shootin' for dummies. Functions are controlled via a mini-joystick in the screen fold-out. Connections include mic in, full-fat HDMI, and a mini accessory shoe.
We're not entirely sold on this proprietary shoe, as it means existing Canon users will have to fork out again for accessories to fit.
With flash memory capacity expanding, media card support making memory expandable, and a long-play option available, filming is perhaps only limited by battery life. The supplied battery lasts for around 100 minutes of HD footage, although a porkier extended-life battery, shown above, is also available.