Canon Vixia HF R10 review: Canon Vixia HF R10

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MSRP: $499.99

The Good Mic and headphone jacks rare in this price class; straightforward and functional design.

The Bad Poor low-light video and color accuracy; lens doesn't focus very closely; subpar battery life.

The Bottom Line If you're looking to shoot great HD video on the cheap, keep looking; the Canon Vixia HF R series delivers decent video at best, even for its modest price. But for a low-priced model with mic and headphone jacks, the HF R100 is a pretty good deal.

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7.3 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 8
  • Performance 7
  • Image quality 6

There's a lot to like about Canon's entry-level Vixia HF R series of "high-definition" camcorders, such as its user interface--which is better than that of its more expensive sibling--and its mic and headphone jacks, which are a rare find in this camera class. But these models give me flashbacks to the early days of HD when everyone was taking old, relatively low-resolution sensors and up converting from 1,440x1,080-pixel resolution, either in software or in hardware, to real HD 1,920x1,080-pixel resolution.

For its modestly priced (though not dirt cheap) HF R series, Canon captures video at 1,664x936 pixels and up converts it to 1,920x1,080 pixels before saving using the AVCHD codec. I can see the logic of using 1,664x936 pixels instead of the older 1,440x1,080-pixel standard--the source video has the same 16:9 aspect ratio as the upscaled video, unlike the 4:3 aspect of the older system--but my experience has been that for decent video, the HD source has to be at least 1,920x1,080-pixel resolution before you start compressing it. In the case of the HF R models, it's complicated further by its use of electronic image stabilization, which effectively reduces the available resolution as zoom increases--in this case, it drops as low as 1.04 megapixels when the image stabilization is set to Dynamic. Further exacerbating the situation, Canon defaults to an extremely low-resolution, low bit rate mode: 1,440x1,080 pixels at 7 megabits per second.

The resulting video actually looks a little better than I expected, but my expectations were pretty low. Though it's soft, as long as you're recording relatively stationary scenes the quality isn't too bad. Colors in video shot in bright sunlight look pleasing and saturated, though the camcorder can't reproduce red hues with anything remotely near accuracy. However, the camcorder has neither the resolution nor the bandwidth to handle a lot of movement--there are tons of compression artifacts in scenes such as water flowing in a fountain, and background details like leaves and grass also are smeary. In low light, the camcorder's image quality is pretty bad; there are tons of compression artifacts and noise, even at the highest quality setting. The latter looks similarly noisy, and is softer, with more smeariness.

  Canon HF R100/R10/R11 Canon HF M300/M30/M31/M32 Canon HF S200/S20/S21
Sensor 2.4-megapixel CMOS 3-megapixel CMOS 8-megapixel CMOS
1/5.5 inch 1/4 inch 1/2.6 inch
Lens 20x
40 - 800mm (16:9)
39.5 - 592.5mm (16:9)
43.5 - 435mm (16:9)
Image stabilization Electronic Optical Optical
Min illumination (lux) standard: 5.5
low light: 0.4

recommended: > 100
standard: 5.5
low light: 0.4

standard: 4
low light: 0.3


No No Yes
123,000 dots
LCD 2.7-inch 211,000-dot 2.7-inch 211,000-dot touch screen 3.5-inch 922,000-dot touch screen
Primary media 0GB/8GB/32GB flash; SDHC 0GB/8GB/32/64GB flash; SDXC 0GB/32GB/64GB flash; SDHC
HD recording MPEG-4:
1080/60i @ 24 Mbps; 1,440x1,080/60i @ 12, 7, 5 Mbps
(all video interpolated up from 1,664 x 936)
1080/60i @ 24, 17 Mbps; 1,440x1,080/60i @ 12, 7, 5 Mbps
1080/60i @ 24, 17 Mbps; 1,440x1,080/60i @ 12, 7, 5 Mbps
Manual shutter speed and iris No Yes Yes
Accessory shoe No Yes Yes
Audio 2 channels;
mic, headphone jacks
2 channels;
mic, headphone jacks
2 channels;
mic, headphone jacks
Body dimensions (WHD, inches) 2.4 x 2.5 x 4.9 2.7 x 2.4 x 4.8 3 x 2.9 x 5.8
Operating weight (ounces) 11.3 13.1 18
Mfr. Price $499.99/$549.99/$699.99 $679.99/$699.99/$799.99/$999.99 $999.99/$1,099.99/$1,399.99
Ship date March 2010 March 2010 March 2010

There's just one performance downer, the short (about 45 minutes) battery life that seems to plague all of Canon's 2010 Vixia models. On the upside, the lens doesn't incur fringing like many of the cheap camcorder lenses do, and the autofocus is reasonably fast and accurate in good light. I do wish it could focus closer, though.

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