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Canon Vixia HF G10 (Black) review: Canon Vixia HF G10 (Black)

Canon Vixia HF G10 (Black)

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Lori Grunin
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Lori Grunin

Senior Editor / Advice

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.

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8 min read

Canon Vixia HF G10
8.3

Canon Vixia HF G10 (Black)

The Good

The <b>Canon Vixia HF G10</b> delivers great video quality and a lot of useful features for advanced shooters.

The Bad

Design issues that affect frequently used adjustments may annoy the very people the camcorder is designed to attract, and for the money it should ship with a double-capacity battery.

The Bottom Line

While it's got a great shooter feature set and good video quality, the Canon Vixia HF G10 still feels a bit expensive for what it offers.

With a street price well above $1,000, the Canon Vixia HF G10 needs to deliver a lot more than just its extensive manual feature set--especially since Canon is creating a potentially confusing lineup by putting its HD CMOS Pro sensor in this model, skipping the next one down, and then using it in the midrange HF M4xx series. The sensor is the one currently used in the company's entry-level pro models, albeit by itself rather than in a trio. Because it's larger than a typical consumer sensor, with 2.75 micron pixels rather than 1.7 micron pixels, Canon claims a 280 percent improvement in dynamic range over previous prosumer models, with a new minimum recommended light level of 1.5 lux.

There's also a significantly more expensive "pro" version of this camcorder, the Canon XA10, which adds a detachable handle that includes dual XLR inputs, audio switches, an infrared light, a tally lamp, a removable microphone holder, zoom and record switches, and a pass-through accessory shoe.

The combination of the larger-pixel sensor and a high-quality lens results in some of the best video quality I've seen in a consumer camcorder. While the video can be just a hair softer than I like, overall it's quite good--and when you play it back directly on a TV, it looks sharp. Overall, the G10 offers an excellent dynamic range, with only the brightest of white highlights clipped. If you're editing, you may want to crush the blacks a little to improve the contrast, but for video going straight to TV it will look great. While the automatic white balance tends to be a little bit cooler than I like, the colors are good: bright, saturated, and relatively accurate.

While I would have expected the G10's eight-blade iris to produce slightly rounder bokeh, it nevertheless looks quite good. There's little fringing, even on the edges of bright highlights. I did see a bit of haloing on the edges of saturated colors, though, and extremely bright, saturated oranges and yellows next to each other approach indistinguishability.

At its top rate of 24Mbps, the G10 displayed no compression artifacts except in really low light. What you will see is some aliasing caused by the interlacing of 60i video. However, one of the distinguishing features of the G10 compared with the rest of Canon's camcorders is support for true 24p video; not just the 24 frames per second captured as progressive but encoded as 60i, as is most common for AVCHD models, but 24p encoding. You can use that to get around interlace issues. (The European version of the camcorder, the Legria HF G10, supports 25p.)

The G10 renders excellent low-light video, to a point. In my test scene of about 17 lux, it yielded some of the best results I've seen in its class. Just a little darker, though--dim living-room-level light--and it's the typical noisy mess, at least with automatic gain control enabled.

The audio quality is quite good as well. The sensitive stereo mics provide decent separation and a nice warm tone without the tinniness of the lower-end models.

One theoretical drawback of the sensor--and likely the main reason for a similar model with a different sensor, the HF S30--is that the low resolution may not suit some folks' need for large still photos. The G10 does deliver sharp stills which fall just short of looking too digital; they look fine onscreen and printed, but I wouldn't recommend printing them larger than 4.5x8 inches.

By most measures of performance, the G10 does well. It meters and exposes correctly and consistently. The image stabilization is solid; the Dynamic setting works well up to about 75 percent of the way through the focal range, and Powered IS is rock-steady at maximum telephoto. It focuses quickly, though you can adjust how gradually that happens (Instant, Medium, and Normal), and you can customize both the zoom speed, which is common, and softness--how quickly the zoom stops and starts--which is rarer. The autofocus works well, but not significantly better than we've seen in previous models, and like all camcorders can inappropriately lock on the background instead of the subject.

However, the camcorder has a good manual focus system to compensate. The front ring feels very responsive, and the variety of magnification and peaking options, including a waveform edge monitor display, makes it possible to focus accurately. Plus, you can temporarily override the AF with manual, which makes it easy to produce a slow, uniform slide-into-focus effect.

The LCD is bright and saturated, although hard to view in direct sunlight. But for that there's a very nice, relatively big EVF. Battery life isn't that long, and the Powered IS seems to drain it quickly. I suggest opting for a higher-capacity battery.


  Canon Vixia HF G10 Canon Vixia HF S30 Panasonic HDC- TM900/ HS900 Sony Handycam HDR-CX560V Sony Handycam HDR-CX700V
Sensor (effective resolution) 2.07-megapixel CMOS 6-megapixel CMOS 3x3-megapixel CMOS 6-megapixel Exmor R CMOS 6-megapixel Exmor R CMOS
1/3 inch 1/2.6 inch 1/4.1 inch 1/2.88 inch 1/2.88 inch
Lens 10x
f1.8-2.8
30.4-305mm (4:3)
10x
f1.8-3
43.5-435mm (4:3)
12x
f1.5-2.8
35 - 420mm (16:9)
10x
f1.8-3.4
26.3-263mm (16:9)
10x
f1.8-3.4
26.3-263mm (16:9)
Closest focus 0.8 inch 0.4 inch 0.4 inch 0.4 inch 0.4 inch
Min illumination (lux) recommended: 100
standard: 1.5
low light: 0.1
recommended: 100
standard: 4
low light: 0.3
standard: 1400
low light: 1.6
Color Night View: 1
standard: 11
low light: 3
Night Shot (IR): 0
standard: 11
low light: 3
Night Shot (IR): 0

EVF

0.24-inch 260,000 pixels 0.27-inch 123,000 dots 0.24-inch 263,000 dots None 0.2-inch 201,600 dots
LCD 3.5-inch 922,000 dots 3.5-inch 922,000 dots 3.5-inch 460,800 dots 3-inch 921,000 dots 3-inch 921,000 dots
Primary media 32GB internal; 2 x SDXC 32GB internal; 2 x SDXC 32GB flash/220GB hard disk; 1 x SDXC 64GB flash; 1 x SDXC 96GB flash; 1 x SDXC
HD recording AVCHD: 1,080/60i/24p @ 24, 17Mbps; 1,440x1,080/ 60i/24p 12, 7, 5Mbps
(also encodes 30p and 24p as 60i)
AVCHD: 1,080/60i/24p @ 24, 17Mbps; 1,440x1,080/ 60i/24p 12, 7, 5Mbps
(also encodes 30p and 24p as 60i)
AVCHD: nonstandard 1,080/60p @ 28Mbps;
1,080/60i @ 17, 13, 9 ,5 Mbps
AVCHD: nonstandard 1,080/60p @ 28Mbps;
1,080/60i/24p @ 24, Mbps;
1,440x1,080/ 60i @17, 13, 9 ,5Mbps
AVCHD: nonstandard 1,080/60p @ 28Mbps;
1,080/ 60i/24p @ 24Mbps;
1,440x1,080/ 60i @17, 13, 9, 5Mbps
Manual shutter speed (video) 1/6 - 1/2,000 sec 1/6 - 1/2,000 sec 1/30 - 1/8,000 1/8 - 1/10,000 sec 1/8 - 1/10,000 sec
Manual iris f1.8-f8 f1.8-f8 f1.7-f16 f1.8-f9.6 f1.8-f9.6
Built-in ND filter Yes No No No No
Accessory shoe Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Audio 2 channels (5.1 via optional mic);
mic, headphone jacks
2 channels (5.1 via optional mic);
mic, headphone jacks
5.1 channels;
mic, headphone jacks
5.1 channels;
mic, headphone jacks
5.1 channels;
mic, headphone jacks
Body dimensions (WHD, inches) 3x3.1x5.9 3x2.9x5.8 2.6x2.8x5.8 1.5x2.8 x5.4 3.6x3.1 x6.9
Operating weight (pounds) 20 17.6 (est) 15.4 (est)/17.5 (est) 15 (est) 17.6 (est)
Mfr. price $1,499.99 $1,099.99 $1,099/$1,399 $1,099.99 $1,299.99
Ship date April 2011 March 2011 March 2011/ May 2011 March 2011 March 2011

The G10's feature set offers a lot of tools for tweaky videographers, as well as a few for the crowd who needs more handholding. For instance, it lets you set a focus preset for a quick focus resume (nice, but I'd really like a zoom preset as well); can display an optional waveform monitor in manual exposure mode; offers a host of audio tools, including mixing internal and external levels, directionality (mono, normal, wide, zoom), equalizer (boost LF, low cut, boost MF, boost HF+LF), a 1KHz reference, and an attentuator; and has a Live Video mode for keying on blue or green. And 3D shooters who want to pair up a couple of G10s on a rig will appreciate the scan reverse recording capability, which provides up/down/left/right image inversion (though there's no lens shift or way to calibrate the images).

While the G10 offers a built-in neutral density filter, which I consider a critical feature for more advanced models, I hate the G10's implementation. First, it's only available in aperture-priority and manual mode. And rather than letting you choose the setting manually, when enabled it automatically kicks in as you change the aperture. Then, for example, when you change the aperture you suddenly have to scroll through several settings for f4, such as f4 ND 1/2, f4 ND 1/4, and f4 ND 1/8, before you can get to f4.8. As someone who also likes to use an ND filter to obtain slower shutter speeds, not just wider apertures, this really ticked me off. You're almost better off with an add-on ND filter. And I really wish camcorder manufacturers would display the current shutter speed when in aperture-priority mode and vice versa. Unfortunately, it's not just Canon.

For shooting 24p, there's a completely separate Cinema mode (in addition to auto and manual) that includes Cinema-Look filters that adjust color depth (saturation), softening, brightness, and contrast. It's a bit annoying that in Manual mode these are called Image Effects instead.

If you're looking for more guided shooting, Canon's novel Story Creator may float your boat. Basically, you choose a theme, such as Party or Travel, and the camcorder provides a list of scene options, like "Planning for the trip" and "Taking off!" They're organized in-camcorder, and you can rate individual scenes for playback filtering. There's also a generic, themeless story if you just want to use it for organizing a shoot. The files reside in the normal AVCHD directory tree, however; the organization is strictly for camcorder-based playback. (For a complete accounting of the G10's features and operation, download the PDF manual.)

While there's a lot to love about the G10, your reaction to the design may be a matter of taste. Overall, the camcorder is well constructed and easy to grip, and the manual focus ring and zoom switch are very responsive. I love Canon's integration of dual SDXC slots into its complete product line. As far as touch-screen interfaces go, Canon's succeeds until you get into the menu system. The shooting menus present you with big, easily selected and navigable onscreen buttons, and because the options rarely rely on sliders (you can click on arrows to adjust settings), and the screen is large, it works pretty well. But I still hate scrolling through the menus. Although you're not limited to using the awkwardly placed scroll bar and can directly select items on the screen, it's hard to do either precisely.

Also, instead of a big control dial on the front of the camcorder as on the S30 and previous models, the G10 has a tiny custom button and dial in the back. It's awkwardly placed for shooting via either the LCD or EVF, and it's too small, and difficult to feel. Holding the button down lets you select among aperture/shutter priority, manual, AGC, and exposure compensation settings, which you adjust via the dial. But instead of making the priority modes two separate options here, you have to first set the one you prefer using the LCD.

There are also two assignable buttons on the LCD bezel, but they're limited to some limited-use reassignments: backlight correction, Face Detect AF, Video Snapshot, WB Priority (swap between current and a preset), AF/MF, and Powered IS.

Conclusions
While the Canon Vixia HF G10 is a great prosumer camcorder, with excellent video quality and a flexible feature set, it's quite expensive and may be more than many people need. And you should definitely try before you buy to determine if any aspects of the camcorder's design and operation bother you.

Canon Vixia HF G10
8.3

Canon Vixia HF G10 (Black)

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 8Performance 8Image quality 9
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