Canon charges a lot for its high-end Legria camcorder, and we can see why. This is not the camera for those who just want to capture happy snaps. There are enough bells and whistles here to cater for the most ardent hobbyist videographer. Central to the G10's appeal is its HD CMOS Pro sensor, also used in the high-end professional XA10 camera and the cheaper HF M40, which affords the G10 some rather excellent low-light performance.
Design and features
As for the external design, the G10 sits very comfortably in the hand with a good and even weight distribution. It also feels incredibly well made, with a satisfying response from all buttons and dials. The G10 comes equipped with 32GB of internal memory and two SDXC card slots. The crowning glory is its 3.5-inch touchscreen, which boasts its high-resolution cred (920,000-dot) from the treetops. It's incredibly easy to see in sunlight and low-light, and is very precise to use.
Full automatic, manual and cinema modes are provided, as well as a 3.5-inch microphone input, component and AV out. Cinema mode provides a range of filters from dramatic black-and-white to dream, cool and sepia.
A remote port, mini-HDMI and USB out are located just under the hand grip. The 10x optical zoom at 30.4mm wide-angle and f/1.8 is stabilised optically, with a manual focus ring at the front. The stereo microphones are separated nicely at the top of the lens, which does make a noticeable difference to sound quality.
Full manual and automatic controls are provided, as would be expected, accessible via a selectable mode switch and the custom button. This button and accompanying dial are located at the bottom left of the camera, which can be a stretch to get to for smaller hands. It also makes you stabilise the camera with your other hand in order to reach them. Among other usability quirks, you need to press and hold the custom button down to switch between shutter/aperture priority, full manual exposure, AGC control and exposure compensation. A decent electronic viewfinder rounds out the physical specs.
The HF G10 encodes in AVCHD 1080/50i and supports 25p (rather than the 24p in the US model, rather confusingly titled the Vixia HF G10 but otherwise identical).
Canon provides quite a few editing options onboard, including a few "storytelling" modes that are, perhaps, a little too basic for many users kitted out with a camcorder as expensive as this. You can piece together video stories under different headings, according to theme, including travel, kids and pets and party to name a few. Once you create a new story, you can film little vignettes according to topics that the camera suggests. So, if you're having a party, you can film four seconds (a recommended number only) of footage describing what the occasion is, then follow up with footage of dressing up, setting up the venue and other party-related prompts. It's a novel idea, but actually piecing together the clips in a story is almost impossible without a lengthy session consulting the manual.
Video and image quality
Like the HF M40, the G10 produces nice-looking still images, though not decent enough for any enlargement beyond an 11x20cm print. Colours are vivid without being oversaturated, and the camcorder exposes correctly pretty much all the time. Dynamic range is excellent with good definition between shadow and highlight areas, with only a really small amount of blown highlights in extreme situations.
There's very little noise across video when shooting in low light, and when reviewing footage on the G10's screen, video quality looks excellent. Things are slightly less rosy when reviewing video on a computer, with a slight softness to the image. We would have liked it to be a little sharper straight out of the camera. Fringing and chromatic aberrations are controlled well, and there's not much barrel distortion noticeable at all towards the wide end.
The Powered IS option (a button to the bottom left of the screen) can be used to achieve more stabilisation at the telephoto reach. It's incredibly effective at stabilising the image at 10x optical zoom, though you do need to press and hold it, and the positioning of the button means that, ergonomically, things are a little hard to handle. Unfortunately, battery life is particularly short with all the use of the touchscreen and Powered IS, meaning that time between recharges is uncomfortably short.
Provided you've got a wallet padded enough to take the blow, the Canon Legria HF G10 is an excellent high-end camcorder with a wealth of features. A few usability quirks here and there, as well as a frustrating in-camera editing experience, stops us from giving the HF G10 a glowing recommendation with an Editors' Choice award.