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Canon Vixia HF R10 (photos and image samples)

There's a lot to like about Canon's entry-level Vixia HF R series of "high-definition" camcorders, including a better user interface than their more expensive siblings and mic and headphone jacks, which are rare for their class. Just not the video quality.

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Lori Grunin
I've been reviewing hardware and software, devising testing methodology and handed out buying advice for what seems like forever; I'm currently absorbed by computers and gaming hardware, but previously spent many years concentrating on cameras. I've also volunteered with a cat rescue for over 15 years doing adoptions, designing marketing materials, managing volunteers and, of course, photographing cats.
Lori Grunin
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1 of 9 Sarah Tew/CNET

Basic, but solid

The camcorder has a sturdy, basic design that is in many ways superior to its more expensive Vixia siblings.
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2 of 9 Sarah Tew/CNET

Membrane buttons

The membrane buttons inside the LCD recess let you toggle between capture and playback modes; take 2, 4, or 8-second video "snapshots"; downconvert video from HD to standard definition for wireless upload via an Eye-Fi card (Web); and control display and playback options. Interestingly, the manual states that "This product is not guaranteed to support Eye-Fi card functions (including wireless transfer)." That's kind of annoying given that Canon touts it as a feature.
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3 of 9 Sarah Tew/CNET

Connectors on the back

I really like this connector layout, with the miniHDMI, USB, component, mic and headphone jacks all on the back of the camcorder. The external mic and headphone is rare in a camcorder for this price range, which make this model especially attractive to the education market. Because the camcorder lacks an accessory shoe, though, there's no place on the camcorder to attach the mic.

Canon doesn't burden the comparatively low-resolution display with touch-screen operation, instead sticking with joystick-based navigation and a refreshingly easy-to-traverse menu system.
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4 of 9 Sarah Tew/CNET

Top controls

A big photo button and zoom switch, plus the power switch, sit on top of the camcorder. The zoom has a nice feel, and it's pretty easy to maintain a steady rate.
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5 of 9 Sarah Tew/CNET

Simple menus

The Func button pulls up options for the camcorder's limited set of shooting capabilities. Exposure modes include Program, Cine (which adjusts gamma) and Portrait (wide aperture); there are no real manual exposure controls on this model. A flyup menu allows you to set a prerecord interval, adjust exposure compensation, manual focus, set mic level and enable face detection AF.
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6 of 9 Lori Grunin/CNET

Best quality video, little motion

Though it's soft, the video looks good when you're recording relatively stationary scenes.
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7 of 9 Lori Grunin/CNET

Color

While the colors from video shot in bright sunlight look pleasing and saturated, the camcorder can't reproduce red hues with anything remotely near accuracy.
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8 of 9 Lori Grunin/CNET

Best quality video, lots of motion

The camcorder has neither the resolution nor the bandwidth to handle a lot of movement--notice all the compression artifacts. Background details like leaves and grass also get smeary. On the upside, the lens doesn't incur fringing like many of the cheap camcorder lenses do.
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9 of 9 Lori Grunin/CNET

Low light video

It's pretty bad, as you can see--there are tons of compression artifacts and noise. And this is the highest quality setting, not the default. The latter looks similarly noisy, as well as soft and smeary.

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