The lovely Holly from Canon UK sent me a HG10 to try out over xmas - (same one i am trying to blag as a competition prize).
First impressions on opening the box- ooo innit cute, small and perfectly formed. The lens was reassuringly large and the lens cover opens itself - nice. Reassurringly heavy too. And - fanfare - it has a mic input.
Second impression - where does the tape go? Well nowhere - instead there is a liitle 1.8 inch 40 gig drive whirring away inside, or not whirring rather as the camera was totally silent in use - no drive noise and no zoom motor noise. What a nice zoom it has too - the rocker is nice and progressive and it can zoom from all out to all in in less than a second. Refreasingly the zoom is sensible too - 10 times not 20 or anything totally daft like that, why daft you say? Well, any zoom on a hand held small camera is a bit of a joke really. The camera includes anti shake and trumpets from stickers that this is a cure for cancer because it's optical - actually it's pants, the electronic stabiliser on my sony PC4 is the 'worser' digital kind and it is much much better - and that PC4 was around in Edwardian times - so much for progress.
In use it sits in the hand very comfortably and all thebuttons are easy to reach and use, but as per usual people with normal sized hands will find it a tad fiddly. The camrea has an eyepiece but lord knows why they bothered when it is awful and when the flip out screen is totally brilliant - it's like a teeny HDV TV.
Oh yes - how could I have not said yet - this camera shoots in that new better than sex 'high res' thingy - except that it isnt - it's pants.
Now i am not an expert at reviewiing cameras but I am obsessed with the art and I dam well care about these things - if a bloody camera says it is HDV and comes in a box with HDV written on it about thirty times - 'HDV FULL 1080p ' - then it had better deliver. It doesnt. Is it better than my similarly sized Edwardian PC4? Yes - bloody well should be, but it should also be more than a bit better. The best bit is the colour rendition - it's superb - the auto white balance does a good job of keeping things real looking and the colours are vivid - slightly over saturated but nice, the colours were truer than the standard settings on my £6000 JVC (slightly too blue). Noise levels are much lower than my old sony. The bad is just too bad for me - stills grabbed showed an unacceptable level of compression artifacts, this suprised me as I tested it on the highest 'HXP quality' setting (17mbit). 1080p resoloution? - complete rubbish - realistic real world performance is about the same as a SD camera of a similar price (stone the witch I hear chated across the land) - dont belive me -well it's your money. This isnt because the canon is worse than other cameras, it's because people in shops are liars, advertsiers are liars and thus our expectations as members of the proletariat are inflamed to the point of orgasm.
The video is a bitch to edit too as is normal with HD cameras - many editors wont touch it, it gave vegas 7 a nasty rash, vegas 8 is ok, windows media player burst into tears, VLC crashed and VLC normally plays anything. Oddly the divx player played the files fine.
The drive will hold about 5 hours of video at the highest quality setting and believe me you dont want to use any of the 3 lower settings. But dont forget - you cant change that oh so modern drive like you can an old fashioned edwardian tape.
I worry about the longevity of hard drive cameras too - 1.8 inch drives may be designed for portable stuff but every single thing I own that is portable and uses a hard drive I have broken - bust drives - lap top, archos, two ipods, drive in a pocket caddy - they all broke. I have never ever had a camera transpost break on an edwardian DV tape camera. Having said that the HG10 survived my standard drop test - off my desk onto a wooden floor, nothing broke or fell off.
Did I say all the controls were good - I lied - the main controls are good - but the controls that operate the menus are a joke, and you will nedd to use them to adjust anything. If you had the manual dexterity of a brain surgeon and fingers like needles it would be fine but there is only a small market for cameras for deformed doctors. There are five membrane type buttons under the touch screen and an almost useless jog wheel / compass button to the left. My antique sony has a lovely inelligent intuitive touch screen thank you very much. Another example of unprogress.
Some other flim makers sites have given this camera 'camera of the year' - this is utter tripe, all I can say is those reviewers must be getting better bribes than me.
The Canon HG10 is a fantastically made little camera that is a joy to use - like a thousand other cameras out there.
But it is very wrong to suggest to people that such a 'cheap' camera can give them true 1080p performance - it cant - at best any HDV camera below a grand can do is give you a bit better then SD performance. So do yourself a favour - buy an edwardian PC4 for 70 quid off e bay and spend the rest on girls, or boys, booze, cocaine, condoms and a hotel room - you will have much more fun but you will have to change the tape every hour....