If you've got the money for it, the Canon Vixia HF G10 is a no-brainer purchase, what with its excellent, cinematic-quality video and user-friendly manual controls.
The Canon Vixia HF G10 is an excellent piece of hardware, plain and simple. Between its powerful processor, CMOS Pro sensor and multiple shooting modes - including the ability to shoot in cinematic 24p framerate - the HF G10 is a video enthusiast's dream.
While it has its drawbacks, they are relatively minor and none of them make the HF G10 an unworthy purchase. But therein lies possibly the greatest issue with the HF G10: with a price point of $1499.99, actually buying and getting to experience such a great piece of equipment could be a bit of an issue. But if you've got the cash to spare and are looking for a high-end camcorder, then the HF G10 is the way to go. Read on to find out why.
BUILD AND DESIGN
The HF G10 is not the sleekest camcorder you will ever use. In fact, it's quite bulky (its dimensions are roughly 3.5 x 3.0625 x 6.375 inches) and heavy, weighing in at 20.8 ounces with the battery. A lot of its bulk is a result of its most attractive features, though - including the huge wide-angle lens, 32GB of onboard storage, 1/3" CMOS sensor, etc. - so it's the price of admission that is somewhat expected. But despite the larger size and heft of the HF G10, it's still relatively comfortable to hold, and that's coming from someone with smaller than average hands.
As is the industry standard, the start/stop record button is on the back of the device and is easily reachable with your thumb. Also in the back is the battery mounting area, the charging port, a viewfinder (that must be pulled out to activate), and a programmable button and wheel, which can be assigned to perform various tasks such as adjusting aperture, exposure, AGC limit, etc.
On the right side, there is the handstrap, a single speaker, and a flip-out door that nicely conceals micro USB, HDMI, and remote control ports. Towards the back on the same side is a switch for toggling between Intelligent Auto, Manual, and Cinema shooting modes, while towards the front is an external mic jack.
You may not need to use that, though, as a hot shoe - something I found to be an extremely nice inclusion - is found on the top of the HF G10, which is perfect for mics and other accessories. It's located right behind the zoom controls, but if you don't feel the need for an external microphone, towards the front are the left and right onboard mics. On the bottom are the tripod mount and the battery release switch.
Finally, on the left side is the power switch and, of course, the flip-out, 3.5-inch touchscreen LCD display. On the display itself, there are two physical buttons: one for switching between auto and manual focus, and one that can be held down for additional image stabilization, but those are just their default assignments. Like the custom button and wheel in the back, they can also be reprogrammed to do different things.
Hidden behind the display against the camera's body is the switch to toggle between shooting and playback, another toggle switch for turning on-screen info like battery life on and off, component out and AV out ports, and two SDXC slots.
Ergonomics and Controls
On the whole, the HF G10 has an intelligent, uncomplicated design. Buttons are well-located and easy to reach, and, as odd as it sounds, I really love that Canon chose to use little sliding doors to cover most of the ports and slots. It's a little thing, I know, but it seems much more graceful than just having them open or covered by little rubber nubs that are left dangling when they're pulled out.
Though I do like the minimalist design that keeps dozens of physical buttons from plaguing the camera's body, I do wish that there was physical camera button. Instead, to snap photos there's a virtual button that is found on the touchscreen display, which is not only awkward because I have to attempt to steady the camera while poking at the screen with my other hand, but also because its sensitivity is not very good (more on that in a second).
Having to pull the viewfinder out to get it to activate may not be the most immediately obvious design choice in the world, but I do think that it's a clever way to keep things compact and, once again, avoid having another physical button to perform that task. The manual focus ring on the lens offers a slight level of resistance when being turned that makes it comfortable to grasp and use.
Menus and Modes
The HF G10 is packed full of different modes and features which is obviously a good thing, but unfortunately the menu system is convoluted and not particularly streamlined, so it's difficult to find and use certain features when you need them. Once you sort of get used to it, you can see everything that the HF G10 has to offer, including decorations, which let you had various graphical elements to the picture, including stamps, watermarks, and even freehand drawings (you can doodle on the touchscreen with the included stylus). The touchscreen can also be used for zoom controls and selecting subjects to put into focus.
Another unique feature, like the decorations, is the video snapshot mode, which lets you take snippets of video (two, four, or eight seconds apiece) and arrange them to be playback to music of your choice. Similarly, there is the Story Creator, which basically creates suggestions for scenes based on what kind of story you want to make, you fill in those suggestions with your video footage, and it's all played back in chronological order to create a "story." So for the "Ceremony" template, the camera has a list, in order, for the scenes: "What's the occasion?" "Interview with the main character," "Planning the ceremony," etc. And you just tap on each one of those descriptors and you're taken to recording mode, complete with a suggested time for the length of the particular scene, to shoot your video for that scene within the storyline. You can add as many scenes as you like within a single story.
The HF G10 also features automatic face detection, and the camera allows you to set priorities for focus with multiple faces on screen. You can even adjust the autofocus by limiting it so it only applies to faces while letting you use manual focus for all other scenes.
And, of course, there are the general settings for the camera's functionality, like language, power save mode, date/time, battery info, HDMI 1080p output, zoom and focus speeds, etc.
The HF G10 has a massive display, measuring at a roomy 3.5 inches, which is great since it utilizes a lot of touchscreen controls in lieu of physical buttons. Its settings can also be adjusted, which is nice since some cameras lack that feature; information icons can be turned on and off, the screen can be set to automatically dim, and brightness can be adjusted to help with seeing the screen during outdoor shooting. The picture on the display is crisp and colorful, featuring TFT color at 922,000 dots.
My only issue with the display is that its touchscreen sensitivity is very poor. I often find myself repeatedly tapping it to get my commands to register, and in many cases its accuracy is off, too. This proves to be especially frustrating when attempting to navigate the menus and the poor sensitivity makes scrolling a chore, while incorrectly registered taps result in me selecting the wrong options.
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