Canon HR10 Camcorder Review
Canon is out with the HR10 ($1,199 MSRP), virtually identical to the HG10, but recording to DVD. Will Canon make it a trifecta, or will the frustrations of the DVD medium upset the applecart?
Video Performance* (9.75)*
The Canon HR10 is equipped with the same imaging system that made the HV20 and HG10 producers of such great video. Inside is a single 1/2.7 CMOS, with a gross pixel count of 2,960,000. The effective pixel count in 16:9 mode is 2,070,000; in 4:3 mode, the effective pixel count is 1,555,000. Sorting out all of those pixels is the Digic DVII processor. Ten months into the year, we’re absolutely certain Canon was right to settle on this particular imaging system. While the dueling codecs (HDV versus AVCHD) have drawn out some variances in artifacting and motion, the general sharpness and color can’t be beat.
To test the Canon HR10, we first shot our DSC Labs Color Checker chart at an even 3000 lux. Not to our surprise, the image was essentially identical to the Canon HG10, its sibling HDD camcorder. The color performance, once again, is fantastic. Everything in the image pops, and the dynamic range looks great. The sharpness is perhaps the most impressive aspect of the shot compared to other AVCHD camcorders. Every edge is incredibly crisp. Unfortunately, it still doesn’t match the Canon HV20, which has a superior HDV compression. The AVCHD compression creates artifacts that have a noticeable impact on apparent resolution. See the images below.
Comparatively, the Sony HDR-UX7 showed nearly the same level of sharpness. The colors were also very good. However, the UX7 produces much higher levels of noise, as well as more ghosting along areas of high contrast. Canon managed to produce an overall cleaner image. The HDC-SX5, Panasonic’s second generation AVCHD camcorder, did not show any more noise than the Canon HR10, but lacked the sharpness. Part of this seems to be due to increased compression artifacting.
|*Canon HR10 crop (above); Canon HV20 crop (below)*|
In static shots, the 24P mode showed a slightly higher exposure than 1080/60i. As a result, the colors looked brighter and more vivid. But as we saw with the HG10, the blur that occurs at 24P is significant. What’s worse is the stuttering during pans and tilts. The effect is so noticeable that even the most casual audience would notice. While the 24P mode was the "killer app" on the HV20, it’s all but useless on the AVCHD models.
The HR10, along with the other high definition Canons, comes equipped with a Cine color setting that can be of use in certain types of shooting. The feature shifts the gamma curve, which dictates how the camcorder deals with shadows, mid-tones, and highlights. When activated, the highlights and shadows contain less detail, and more emphasis is put on the mid-tones. (This graph, from the Canon XH A1 manual, explains. The Cine 1 curve corresponds to the Cine setting on the HR10). Using the setting can help you get colors that approximate the look of film, provided you light the scene correctly.
Overall, the HR10 produces the best looking video of any AVCHD DVD camcorder on the market. Of course, that’s a very slender market. It does not rival any HDV camcorder we’ve seen to date. Also, the data speed is behind that of AVCHD camcorders recording to hard drive and memory cards. If you’re dead set on a high definition DVD camcorder, this is probably the one to get, but consider your options first.
Video Resolution* (18.75)*
The video resolution of the Canon HR10 was tested by shooting a DSC Labs video resolution chart, then looking at playback footage on an HD monitor. This test measures the actual outputted video the consumer would see on their TV, not the idealized resolution manufacturers sometimes like to advertise. At best, the HR10 was able to produce an approximate horizontal resolution of 625 line widths per picture height (lw/ph) and a vertical resolution of 600 lw/ph. This is an excellent score.
Low Light Performance* (8.54)*
The low light testing takes places in multiple stages. The first involves shooting a DSC Labs Chroma DuMonde Color Checker chart at an even 60 lux and 15 lux, then comparing the results to the same charts from other camcorders.
At 60 lux, the Canon HR10 showed identical results to the Canon HG10 (no surprise). Again, we were surprised to see that the AVCHD camcorders seemed to produce less noise than the HV20, which records in the sharper HDV codec. It’s possible that the compression artifacting and data loss actually glossed over some of the noise, making it less noticeable. The AVCHD camcorders also looked softer, overall, lacking the sharpness of the HV20.
The HR10 offers shutter control, so we lowered it to 1/30, a speed at which there wouldn’t be too much motion blur. The image brightened up considerably, and the colors looked more accurate.
At 15 lux, the Canon HR10 fell apart, as most camcorders do. Noise increased, which was expected, but there was also some considerable discoloration. Areas that should have been neutral took on a slight sepia tinge.
At 15 lux with a 1/30 shutter speed, the image showed a definite improvement. The noise wasn’t diminished by much, but the discoloration disappeared.
As stated above in Video Performance, the 24P mode on the HR10 creates a serious stuttering effect that kills most shots. In very select instances, however, like shooting an evening turtle race (with a tripod), the 24P mode could come in handy. In this mode, the image looked much brighter than in 60i, due simply to the fact that the default lowest shutter speed is 1/48. As long as the image remained static, everything improved – color, sharpness, noise, and brightness.
The next part of our low light testing involves shooting the DSC Labs Chroma DuMonde color chip chart while steadily lowering the light. We watch a waveform monitor until the camcorder is able to output a peak 50 IRE (an measurement of exposure). The Canon HR10 was able to output a peak 50 IRE at a light level of 8 lux – exactly the same light level as the Canon HG10 and a very good score compared to the competition.
Finally, we shoot a GretagMacBeth Color Checker chart at an even 60 lux, then output frames to Imatest imaging software to determine color accuracy, noise, and saturation. We found the Canon HR10 produced a color error of 10.5, which is very good at this light level. The noise level measured 0.8125 percent, also a good score, and the saturation measured 85.49 percent.
Overall, the Canon HR10 is a solid low light performer. It’s a shame the 24P mode produces such ill side effects, as it has great potential benefits for low light shooting, and proved to be a boon for the Canon HV20.
We tested the effectiveness of the HR10’s optical image stabilization (OIS) by using our custom-built shake emulator. The camcorder was tested at two speeds similar to typical, everyday shooting patterns. Speed one simulates light handheld recording while standing or walking lightly down the street. Speed two is a bit more intense, along the lines of a light jog or bumpy car ride.
The HR10 exhibited an 85.7% shake reduction at Speed One and a meager 40% shake reduction at Speed Two. This is most likely due to the camcorder’s tall, thin frame. The DC50 performed better at Speed Two with a 60% shake reduction, but at Speed One it was only capable of a 75% reduction. The Panasonic HDC-SX5 and Sony HDR-UX7 both produced superior OIS scores in comparison with the HR10.
Wide Angle* (9.6)*
We measured the HR10’s maximum field of view by using a vertical laser. The camcorder is set to Auto mode and the zoom is pulled back to its widest angle. Footage is then viewed on an external monitor to attain a true 16:9 picture. The HR10’s maximum field of view is 48 degree, which falls within the median of most wide angle measurements.
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