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Canon Vixia HF R10 review: Canon Vixia HF R10

Canon Vixia HF R10

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.
Expertise Photography | PCs and laptops | Gaming and gaming accessories
Lori Grunin
6 min read

7.3

Canon Vixia HF R10

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.

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
f1.8-3.6
40 - 800mm (16:9)
15x
f1.8-3.2
39.5 - 592.5mm (16:9)
10x
f1.8-3.0
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

EVF

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)
AVCHD:
1080/60i @ 24, 17 Mbps; 1,440x1,080/60i @ 12, 7, 5 Mbps
AVCHD:
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.

The models with internal memory are capable of down converting video and saving to standard-definition MPEG-2 files, which you'll be able to upload wirelessly if you have the requisite Eye-Fi card. Interestingly, the manual states that "This product is not guaranteed to support Eye-Fi card functions (including wireless transfer)." That's somewhat annoying given that Canon touts it as a feature. They also support relay recording, the automatic overflow of video from one medium to another if you run out of space.

All things considered, there's a lot to like about the camcorders' design and features. It has a sturdy, basic design that is in many ways superior to its more expensive Vixia siblings. The membrane buttons inside the LCD recess let you toggle between capture and playback modes; take 2-, 4- or 8-second video "snapshots;" down convert video from HD to standard definition for wireless upload via an Eye-Fi card (Web); and control display and playback options. I really like the connector layout, with the Mini-HDMI, 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 HF R100 / R10 / R11 JVC Everio GZ-HM340 Panasonic HDC-SD60/ TM55 / TM60 Sony Handycam HDR-CX110 / CX150
Sensor 2.4-megapixel CMOS 1.37-megapixel CMOS 3-megapixel CMOS 3-megapixel ExmorR CMOS
1/5.5 inch 1/5.8 inch 1/4.1 inch 1/4 inch
Lens 20x
f1.8-3.6
40 - 800mm (16:9)
20x
f1.8-3.5
46.4mm to 928mm (n/a)
25x
f1.8-3.3
35.7 - 893mm (16:9)
25x
f1.8-2.6
37 - 1075mm (16:9)
Image stabilization Electronic Electronic Optical Electronic
Min recommended illumination (lux) standard: 5.5
low light: 0.4
n/a standard: 1400
low light: 4
Color Night View: 1
standard: 11
low light: 3

EVF

No No No No
LCD 2.7-inch 211,000-dot 2.7-inch 123,000 dot 2.7-inch 230,400-dot 2.7-inch 230,000-dot touch screen
Primary media 0GB/8GB/32GB flash; SDHC 16GB built in; SDHC 0GB/8GB/16GB flash; SDXC None/16GB built in; SDHC
HD recording MPEG-4:
1080/60i @ 17 Mbps; 1440x1080/60i @ 12, 7, 5 Mbps
(all video interpolated up from 1664 x 936)
AVCHD: 1080/60i @ 24, 17, 12, 5 Mbps AVCHD:
1080/60i @ 17 , 13, 9 Mbps; 1440x1080/60i @ 5 Mbps
AVCHD:
1080/60i @ 24, 17Mbps; 1440x1080/60i @ 9,5 Mbps
Manual shutter speed and iris No No Yes No
Accessory shoe No No No No
Audio 2 channels;
mic, headphone jacks
2 channels 2 channels 2 channels
Body dimensions (WHD, inches) 2.4 x 2.5 x 4.9 2.1 x 2.4 x 4.4 2.0 x 2.6 x 4.4 2.0 x 2.3 x 4.3
Operating weight (ounces) 11.3 9 (est) 10.5 9.3
Mfr. price $499.99/$549.99/$699.99 $499.95 $499.95/$529.95/$499 $429.99/$499.99
Ship date March 2010 February 2010 March 2010 January 2010

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 fairly easy to maintain a steady rate.

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. The Func button on the bezel pulls up options for the camcorder's limited set of shooting capabilities. Exposure modes include Program; Cine, which adjusts gamma in conjunction with 24p shooting; and Portrait (wide aperture); there are no real manual exposure controls on this model. A fly up menu allows you to set a prerecord interval, adjust exposure compensation, manual focus, set mic level and enable face-detection autofocus.

I don't normally recommend opting for any model with built-in memory--it usually seems an unnecessary expense--so I think R100 is the best deal of the lot. However, given its resolution issues, the Vixia HF R series strikes me as being more of high-end standard-definition model than a low-end HD model. While people really do want cheaper HD, and there are some claims that many people can't really tell the difference between HD and SD, the whole thing simply doesn't feel right to me. If video quality on the cheap matters to you more than the features, check out Panasonic's competitors instead.

7.3

Canon Vixia HF R10

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 8Performance 7Image quality 6