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Customer Review

on March 13, 2012
I recorded a total of 4 hours of video so far with the Canon XA10, including a hike up Sabino Canyon in Tucson as well as various other material indoors and out. My previous camcorder was a Sony DCR-TRV80 (MiniDV) so some of my review is in comparison to the 9 year old prosumer Sony.

The XA10 is an almost perfect camera for the type of recording I do: Family events indoors and outdoors where I possibly cover a lot of ground. On my hike up to Seven Falls I expected that I'd be storing the camera in my backpack occasionally but ended up carrying it in my hand the entire hike; it is very comfortable to hold.

I captured most of my video in 60 interlaced, but tested the other progressive modes with satisfactory but less fluid results. I used 24Mbps MXP and enabled x.v.Color. I played back the video on a Samsung UN55C8000 as well as on a computer connected to a Dell U2410W. Video quality is amazing and almost on par with Blu-ray releases. Video is sharp, color accurate and fluid. If you want a no-nonsense camcorder with the best possible video in a hand-held format, the HF G10/XA10 is hands down your camera.

If I were to rank the HF G10 and XA10 separately, I'd give the HF G10 five stars and the XA10 four stars due to value. They are the same camera except for the handle, internal memory, and IR capability included with the XA10. See Pros and Cons below:

Pros:
Low Light recording - You will not be disappointed. Very good colors indoors, amazing detail in low light. In really dark scenes some AVCHD compression artifacts are visible. Infrared mode is better than expected; handle emitter creates a respectable flood of light.
Image Stabilization - In spite of complaints about the wobble effect, the XA10 has excellent image stabilization. I have been able to reproduce the wobble effect in Dynamic and Powered IS though to get the extent of what you see in a few example videos you have to be shaking the camera beyond the point where most other cameras would resort to a shaky image. And, these aggressive modes do not need to be used, eliminating this wobble effect entirely. The wobble effect is not the same as the CMOS Jello effect, it is the result of an aggressive image stabilization algorithm that works with little to no pixel reserve (though the XA10 does have a reasonable pixel reserve of 13% it seems).
58mm diameter lens threading
Removable handle has perfect ergonomics
No camera noise while recording (no fans like the Panasonic). Sound captured from the XA10's built in microphones is decent.
Relatively light weight, but still looks and feels like quality equipment
Wide lens (30.4mm equivalent), optional wide angle adapter brings it down to 24mm
Custom buttons
Ability to dress the camera down for inconspicuous use. The lens hood attaches easily and does make a significant difference in bright sun. Unfortunately, it doesn't store backwards.
3 second prerecord function captures 3 seconds before you hit the record button.
Follows AVCHD specification exactly; no editing issues with compliant software. The AVCHD file structure can be modified (without re-encoding) for output to Blu-ray disc that will play back natively on a Blu-ray player. Tested on a Sony PS3. Great format for easy archival.

Cons:
No 1080p60 or 720p60 option. No high frame rate modes (i.e. 120fps). 1080i is what I use and looks best on this camera, better than other makes' 1080p60 modes.
Physical size is larger than other prosumer cameras.
No apparent attempt to make the camera water/splash resistant.
Touch screen can be scratched by a coarse fingernail. No stylus storage.
LCD screen at maximum brightness is not bright enough outdoors in Arizona. I haven't found anything better however.
Viewfinder shroud is not comfortable (specific to the XA10) - I prefer the HF G10.
Viewfinder cannot angle up, has low resolution, and is almost unusable/pointless on a camera this size. Would trade the viewfinder for a taller battery. The long and short optional BP-827 battery is awkward.
I don't like the release clip for the battery; seems like it could break after heavy use or a minor drop, especially with the BP-827 hanging off.
XA10 does not have a hot shoe, only cold shoe mount. HF G10 intelligent mount is in an unintelligent location.
Zoom is slow; much slower than my DCR-TRV80 (which had a really fast zoom).
No clip/storage for lens cap.
The XA10 removable handle does in fact rattle (it's the switches). Big oversight but not the deal breaker people make it out to be. Canon should address but a little tape fixes the issue.
Focus ring is a little stiff.
Headphone port as well as the remote control sensor require the LCD screen to be open to use.
Camera takes 5 seconds to power up and read the SD card prior to allowing record.
Some AVCHD compression artifacts are visible, but you really have to look for them. The two cases I notice are:
1. High contrast object in front of moving background - you can see slight residual around the contrast areas. This is really minor and you have to look for it.
2. Dark scenes in motion appear to have some non-moving translucent layer of noise in front. I've read that increasing the gain and adjusting in post has a positive effect but I have yet to test this.
No GPS or Geo-tagging features.

Conclusion:
Despite the numerous cons, none are deal breakers and I am very happy with my purchase. I ruled out the Panasonics due to fan noise and Sony just doesn't have the low light capability I needed. The Sony HDR-CX760V or Panasonic HDC-TM900K is possibly a better choice if most of your shooting is outdoors. If you get the HF G10/XA10 you'll want the following accessories:
Canon BP-819 or BP-827 extended battery and CG-800 charger (Make sure you get real Canon product!)
UV Haze and Circular Polarizing filters (Tiffen HT series work nicely)
HDMI mini to standard cable
Sandisk 64GB SDXC card
Blu-ray burner for archiving
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Product Details

4.2 out of 5 stars
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