Canon AVCHD Camcorder Review:  HF S10

900 Lines of Beauty: A Standout Canon

One of the big standouts at CES this year was Canon’s new AVCHD camcorder, the HF S10. One of the most impressive cameras to hit the market in some time, the S10 is without a doubt a beautiful camera. And with 900 lines of resolution packed into every shot, the video is quite breathtaking. The new standard in prosumer technology, the Canon HF S10 is finally here.

Make a Statement

The S10 is a very compact, sharp-looking shooter. Fitting in the center of the palm, at 1.1 pounds, it packs in just enough weight to make zooming feel sturdy (sometimes with a lighter camera, zooming is hard to control and doesn’t feel secure). The 10x optical lens barrel has the flash for the 8.0 megapixel still camera embedded just under the screen. Inside the LCD panel, we have the SD/SDHC card slot along with the record/playback buttons. A mini-joystick toggle sits next to the 2.7″ Multi-Angle Vivid Color LCD, as well as the FUNC menu access button. A mini accessory shoe sits on top of the camera. The DC and A/V plug-ins make their home on the back of the camera, while the HDMI, USB and component video output ports sit under the hand strap on the right side of the body, just behind the mic input. In this way, all the jacks stay clean and protected.


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900 Lines of Resolution!

Canon has decided to make a bold statement by claiming that the S10 can capture video with up to 900 lines of resolution behind it. We tested the claim and – believe it or not – yes, the S10 can capture 900 lines of resolution. That means the S10 is on par with a professional broadcast camera. What does that mean for cinemaniacs out there? That video shot with an S10 will look incredible. We were amazed at how much detail was captured in our shots when we took some video out in our nearby park with lots of trees and grass around. Even off in the distance, the S10 could still retain the detail, and we noticed that there was still quite a bit of color separation.

Canon has also added a new 8.59-megapixel CMOS image sensor, as well as adding its DIGIC DV III image processor. The lens filter diameter is 58mm, the same as Canon’s prosumer model, the GL2. Using a 1/2.6″ CMOS imaging device makes capturing true high definition at 1920×1080 pixels a breeze. It also writes data at the highest possible data rate for the AVCHD specification at 24Mbps.

Turn It On

Powering up the S10 was rather quick and led us to the new innovative menu design. We found that navigating with the joystick across the menu felt very intuitive. Here we found most of our presets and settings, including the standard Auto Exposure options, Digital & Image effects and bitrate options. We liked that we could change our Zoom Speeds and use the peaking option as well as zebra strips to assist us on our various shoots.

One of the more impressive features is the on-board 32GB of Flash memory. When combined with a 32GB SDHC memory card, this adds up to an impressive 64GB of memory. In the LP setting, that means that we could store up to 24 hours of video! The one downside, if there is one, would be that, if one of the cards runs out during a shoot, users have to manually switch to the other to continue recording. This can cause a loss of potential video footage of the moment.

Feature Changes

A useful new feature is the dial and Custom button, located on the left side of the lens barrel. It allows users to control Exposure, Focus, Assist Functions, Mic Level and AGC Limiter. It took a bit longer to focus than we expected, but the idea is still nice. There is no viewfinder, which may be a hindrance to some users. It is replaced with the power dial, which rests above the lithium ion rechargeable battery. The built-in Electronic Lens Cover offers nice protection and automatically opens when the camera is powered on. Turn it off, and the lens snaps shut. A nice design, very compact and functional with nothing in the way.

Pacing Just Got Easier

An innovative new feature on this model is Video Snapshot. Think of this as a way to pre-edit footage or edit it directly in the playback mode. The feature allows shooters the option of collecting multiple 4-second long shots, so that later they can be automatically edited on the camera directly and even set to music that has been pre-loaded on an SDHC card. This is great for novices, because it teaches them how to shoot more effectively, since they only have four seconds to work with to be descriptive instead of pressing Record and grabbing a long, boring shot. Short and descriptive is always better than long and rambling. This feature teaches those who are new to this concept. Unfortunately, some users who don’t understand good pacing might use the Snap Shooting function too severely, making some shots that should be longer too short to be usable. All in all, though, it’s a great concept to teach people how to edit themselves, especially in shoot-to-show situations.

Canon’s Face Detection has also made the cut, as well as a nice new Pre REC feature that captures the three seconds of video prior to hitting the Record button. This ensures that shooters don’t miss out on anything when capturing their video.

It’s Time for an Upgrade

Canon’s HF S10 is without a doubt one of this year’s MVPs. It is a prosumer at its best, perfect for high-end amateurs, pro shooters and all-around video enthusiasts. 900 lines of resolution, Canon’s DIVIC image processor, 32GB of internal Flash memory, Video Snapshot, 8.0-megapixel Stills, etc. This one is loaded – blame Canon!


Recording Media: 32GB internal flash, 1 SD/SDHC card slot

Data Format: AVCHD (1080i)

Image Sensors: One 1/2.6″ CMOS, 8.59 million pixels gross, 6.01 million pixels/sensor effective


Interchangeable Lenses: No

f-Stop: f/1.8

Optical Zoom Power: 10x

Focal Length: 6.4-64mm

Filter Diameter: 58mm

Focus: Auto/manual

Maximum Shutter Speed: 1/2000

Image Stabilization: Optical

Internal ND Filter: No

Video Features

Manual Shutter Speed Control: Yes

White Balance Control: Auto, manual, preset

Direct Iris/Gain Control: Aperture-priority AE

Zebra Stripes: Yes

Viewfinder: No

LCD Monitor: 2.7″, 16:9 aspect ratio

Frame Rate Modes: 60i, PF24, PF30

HD Focus Assist: Peaking, B&W

Color Bar Generator: Yes, SMPTE

Audio Features

Audio Modes: Dolby Digital Stereo

Standard Mic Input: 1/8″

VU Meters: Yes, appears on on-screen display

Level Controls: In menu

Headphone Jack: Yes

Speaker: Yes

Video Input/Output

Analog Video In: No

Analog Video Out: Composite, component

FireWire In/Out: No

Analog to DV Conversion: N/A

USB (for Video File Transfer): Yes

Other Digital Video Out: HDMI

Wireless Remote: Yes


Battery Charging: On camcorder

Form Factor: Standard

Media Loading Orientation: Side

Onboard Video Light: LED

Accessory Shoe: Yes, mini advanced shoe


  • 900 lines of resolution
  • Up to 64GB of Flash memory
  • Video snapshot on camera editing


  • No viewfinder


Canon’s HF S10 is a top consumer camera for shooters looking to step up into the forefront of professional videography.

Tom Skowronski is Videomaker‘s Associate Editor.

Canon USA

1 Canon Plaza

New Hyde Park, NY 11042

Price: $1300

Canon HF S10 AVCHD Manual

View the Manual for the Canon HF S10 AVCHD.

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