Canon – HV10 review

HDV1080i digital camcorder
Photo of Canon – HV10

Unless you live somewhere near Alpha Centauri, you’ll be well aware that all televisions in the UK will soon cease to be analogue and are switching to digital and High Definition. The new technology has naturally revolutionised the camera industry at the same time, ranging from the humble domestic camcorder to professional broadcast equipment. Canon – although by no means the first to explore this area – has unsurprisingly leapt to the challenge and has now launched the HV10, the self-proclaimed ‘world’s smallest HDV1080i (High Definition Video) camcorder’.

It certainly looks and feels like a conventional MiniDV camcorder, apart from the width, which is slightly bulkier than usual (it measures 56 x 104 x 106mm and weighs 439g). The HV10 uses a 1/2.7-inch, 2.96-megapixel HD CMOS sensor, capturing full resolution 1920 x 1080 video. The panoramic native widescreen 1080i footage is stored on MiniDV tapes. Although its default setting is for 16:9 viewing, you can switch to Standard Definition recording easily should you feel the need to watch on a conventional 4:3 telly.

The built-in lens cover hides a powerful 10x optical zoom with Super Range Optical Image Stabilization (OIS) which detects vibrations across the frequency range, even the low band movements that HD is especially susceptible to. Because focusing mistakes are also exacerbated on HD, Canon has installed its new Instant AF system which helps auto-focusing at accelerated speeds, together with Focus Assist when focusing manually.

The image processor featured here is the DIGIC DV II which Canon first used in its professional HD camcorder, the XL H1, and it enables split path processing so that you can record high quality moving and still pictures at the same time. In fact the HV10 is essentially two cameras in one as it also functions as a 3.1-megapixel digital camera that incorporates PictBridge direct printing and built-in flash. The images are recorded on a miniSD memory card and you can even take 2-megapixel stills while simultaneously recording video footage.

In practice, the quality of the HD images and the automatic AF should guarantee the sales of this camcorder, but the main grumble here is that the surface is bristling with control buttons (including separate Menu, Function, Exposure and Focus options), many of which are set almost flush and therefore difficult to operate. The zoom slide is also tricky to work smoothly and is positioned too close to the snapshot and tape/memory card controls.

Also, for a camera that’s so geared to the New Age of HD TV, why is there no HDMI out, as it’s the standard connection method now? The other curious omission is the lack of any video editing materials; the accompanying software is only geared to organising and editing still photos (e.g. ZoomBrowser).

Company: Canon

Contact: 01737 220000

Although not the first HD camcorder on the market, this is truly the most compact and its picture quality and advanced AF are impressive. In future, though, the operating controls need to be fewer in number, more prominent and better positioned, with less elaborate menus.