Customer Review

33 of 36 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A great camera, but a bit of an anomoly, April 16, 2011
This review is from: Canon VIXIA HF G10 Full HD Camcorder with HD CMOS Pro and 32GB Internal Flash Memory (Electronics)
I've owned the Canon HFS200 camcorder for a while, and recently decided to upgrade. Not that the HFS200 isn't a great camera - it's just that the quality gap between it and my still cameras seems to be more and more noticeable. Dynamic range and high ISO noise, for example, are more like a point-and-shoot with the HFS200 than with a high-end DSLR.

Looking at the choices, it seems like there are two ways to go: wait for prosumer models like the new Canon HF G10, or take the step and invest in true professional gear.

The HF G10 has a lot going for it. I like that Canon actually went to a lower resolution, optimized for HD at 1920 x 1080. This means each pixel site is larger, giving you much better low light performance and dynamic range. For this feature alone, I'd recommend the HF G10 over the older models.

In addition, the HF G10 offers better battery performance, has 32GB of internal memory plus dual SD slots, and a more sophisticated lens than previous models. The new lens features a rounded, 8 blade diaphragm, making those out of focus parts of your scenes look smoother - no more out of focus hexagons, common with the older lenses. The new lens is wonderful in manual operation, if you want to manually focus as you follow a subject. Many of the other features - image stabilization, auto focus accuracy and so on - aren't appreciably different than the previous generation products (which were already quite excellent).

In terms of construction quality, the HF G10 is about as good as anything you'll find in the prosumer space. It's solid when you pick it up, but lots of plastic parts, and I doubt it would survive getting caught in a dust storm or rain shower. Still, the viewfinder and built-in monitor are high quality and make it easy to frame and compose your shots.

Picture and sound quality are of course stunning, and it's easy to import video into your favorite editing software.

About the only hesitation I had was around the video codec and bit rate. Many people evaluate cameras based on resolution (1920x1080/30p, for example), but another important dimension is bitrate, since that gives you a sense of how heavily compressed the images are. You can have 1920x1080/30p at many different bitrates...consumer camcorders do 10-18 Mbps, higher end products tend to go up to 20-25 Mbps and broadcast quality systems are 40 Mbps and up. The HF G10 is 24 Mbps at its highest setting.

Where the dilemma comes in is that Canon's pro-grade XF100 HD (for instance) is based on essentially the exact same technology as the HF G10, but it includes 4:2:2 color sampling and a codec that goes up to 50 Mbps. It's also more expensive, however.

If the HF G10 offered the codec found in the XF100, I'd give it my unconditional recommendation. As is, while the HF G10 is by all measures a wonderful product, you still might want to consider the higher-end XF100 for absolutely best image quality. Definitely recommended, with that one footnote, however.
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Tracked by 2 customers

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Showing 1-8 of 8 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Apr 18, 2011 9:29:56 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Apr 18, 2011 9:43:00 AM PDT
V. Levy says:
Thanks for your thoughtful review -- which camera did you end up going for?

Respectfully, I think the value and fairness of your conclusion are limited when you deduct a star because the G10 doesn't measure up compared to a professional model both costing and weighing twice as much, requiring a lot more skill and training to operate, and pro-level computing hardware and software to manage 50 mbps footage. Even then, the XF100 HD does not really offer the "absolutely best image quality," since Canon has other pro models with three sensors instead of the G10's and XF100 HD's one sensor. For example, the XF300 ($6,945.79 on Amazon today).

Personally, I am torn between the G10 and the pro entry-level XA10, but I will probably go with the M41 - it has the same sensor as the G10, XA10, and XF100 HD, but it has the viewfinder I require, and I can't justify the increase in price over the M41's suggested $799.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 18, 2011 6:30:21 PM PDT
@V. Levy: For now, I went with the G10 (I wouldn't review something I don't own) and I've convinced myself to rent pro-level gear when I have that need. I'll revisit my choice in a few years, and I'm sure by then there will be many more options. To be clear, I think the G10 is a wonderful product overall - I've owned three Canon camcorders, and the G10 is the best by far.

Still, as you suggest, the G10 and XF100 (and the upcoming XA10) share the same sensor, but the G10 software compresses video substantially more: 25Mbps vs 50Mbps. This isn't a failing of the camera - it's not like Canon advertises 50Mbps but fails to deliver it. But for me, it's a particular problem because some of the work I do specifically requires 50Mbps or higher, and I feel that since the sensor obviously supports these modes, it would have been nice for Canon to include them. Instead, as you point out, you need to spend nearly double on a camera that doesn't seem awfully different from the G10 except for the firmware.

Is the XF100 worth the premium over the G10? Well, in addition to higher bitrate recording, it also comes with pro-style XLR mic inputs, records to CF cards (which means I can share memory cards with my still cameras), and has a handful of small pro-level features. Whether that's worth carrying another pound and spending another $1500 is a personal choice, but for me, it wasn't.

In reply to an earlier post on May 4, 2011 9:51:06 AM PDT
Just an FYI, the M41 (and M40, too) use the same sensor as the G10, but the lens isn't nearly as good.

Posted on May 9, 2011 8:21:10 AM PDT
Darden Adams says:
The problem here is not with Canon. The problem is with the storage medium. The limit on SD cards is something like 30Mbps. Yes, you could record on the built in memory at greater rates, but for the sake of simplicity Canon seems to have decided against this. Anyway, that's why Canon uses CF cards, or DV tapes, in their professional camcorders. Much faster write speeds.

In reply to an earlier post on May 9, 2011 11:22:01 AM PDT
Yes, memory speeds are part of the problem here...people expect to put any type of cards in their cameras and have it work.

Still, the 32Mbps limit you cite is for SD Class 4 cards. Newer and more expensive SD Class 10 cards support up to 80Mbps. There are even some special-purpose SD cards that can handle 240Mbit write speeds. Feels like I should be able to get 40-50Mbps video performance on readily available Class-10 SD cards, assuming Canon has the internal bus speed to handle it.

In reply to an earlier post on May 10, 2011 7:50:53 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 10, 2011 8:07:02 PM PDT
GB says:
Since the G10 is a prosumer camcorder, my hunch is that, from a marketing perspective, 50mbps would make the record time per GB look rather anemic to your mid-to-upper-class Joe Sixpack, who "knows" that an optional bit rate of 25mbps would be of inferior quality, and therefore unacceptable to his uninformed assumptions. From a practical perspective, without 4:2:2 I'm not convinced there would be enough of a visible difference to justify burning double the memory anyway.

On that note though, it is my understanding that, if you're planning on doing a lot of green screen, 4:2:2 is the way to go. But I have no personal experience to offer on the subject at this time.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 18, 2011 4:08:31 AM PST
D. F. Abella says:
i have m41 and notice noise when i shoot indoor. i am thinking of buying hf g10 but i hesitate because it has the same sensor with hf m41. does the lens make the difference? will it minimize grain? please advise. many thanks.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 18, 2011 5:17:28 AM PST
Low-light/high ISO performance is the weak link in many of today's camcorders due to the small size of the sensor. In my opinion, the G10 is one of the best in this class, since Canon wisely opted for lower resolution and thus larger pixels and better low-light performance - indeed, this is one of the best features of the G10.

Still, in low light, most camcorders attempt to boost the sensor's sensitivity automatically (that is, raise the ISO level) so that you can get reasonable exposures, and at some point, image quality starts to degrade. The G10 lets you manually override this so that the ISO stays put, and you'll get consistently high quality images - but of course that puts limits on how dark your scene can be, and you might find yourself needing to carry around some extra lighting equipment to get what you want.

Some software (Adobe Premier, for example) can be used to reduce the type of grain you're talking about. Since grain is essentially random noise, it's possible to compare video frame by frame, smoothing away the random noise associated with pushing a video sensor too far. It's not magic, but it helps. If you don't have the Adobe software and a really fast Mac/PC, it can also be expensive.

If low-light/high ISO is key to what you want to do, another approach is to go down the path of using a DSLR with video capabilities. The sensors in modern DSLRs tend to be much larger than what you find in most camcorders, and so they generally do much better in low-light situations. DSLRs also tend to give you more lens choices...if you can find a faster lens, you'll have less need for high ISO. There are also professional camcorders with larger sensors that have better low-light performance - it's just a matter of how much you want to spend, and how much gear you want to carry around.

Good luck!
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