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There are high definition camcorders and there are HIGH DEFINITION camcorders. The difference? The former thinks it's done its bit simply by shooting at HD resolution, without giving the sharpness level and the overall picture quality that should come with it. The latter, on the other hand, is the real deal – high resolution, high detail... and high definition. The Canon HG10 belongs to the latter category.
Just a look at the device and it gives you an idea that it's not aimed at the casual vacationer. It's a little too big, a little too heavy, and a little too serious for that. The overall design doesn't break from the traditional camcorder look, even if it's a bit on the curvaceous side. The hard drive is placed on the right, over which you have the handstrap. The zoom toggle is located conveniently on top of the camera, while most other recording-related controls can be accessed from the rear.
The 2.7-inch LCD display is non-touchscreen, which is a pity considering the otherwise high specs of the camcorder. Instead it has the playback controls located at the bottom of the display with a jog cum d-pad based menu control system on the left of the screen. This is where Sony camcorders have an advantage. As much as one may crib about touchscreen, it's still the best option to have in camcorders instead of dodgy controls that are questionably responsive.
The HG10 opens up to reveal slots for everything, starting from a flash/accessory shoe on the top to the connectivity options hidden next to the hard drive. It took me a couple of minutes to figure where to find the connectivity and expansion options, but considering how many of these the HG10 supports, they're definitely better left hidden.
The biggest draw of the HG10 is its ability to shoot in full HD resolution (1080p), but what I really like about it is the number of quality settings it offers you for each resolution. Not everyone has a machine that can support AVC HD video playback in full quality settings, so you have the option to select the right bitrate (5-15Mbps) that would run well on your system. Of course, you don't have to bother about that if you're playing the video directly from the camcorder, but selecting a lower bitrate will help you make the most of the 40GB hard drive.
For connectivity, the HG10 provides you with practically every option you would need. You can output the video using composite, component, as well as direct HDMI. It actually features an HDMI slot so you can use a standard cable instead of a custom conversion cable. You can access the files on your computer via USB. There's no firewire option though.
As far as picture quality goes, the Canon HG10 is quite brilliant. It is well capable of capturing the right amount of detail level even in video mode to qualify as real 'high definition'. The colors look very natural with the right amount of saturation, without any of the dreaded compression marks that plague lower-end HD camcorders.
The HG10 shot without hiccups even under low lighting conditions, but I wouldn't advise going gung-ho with it at night, as that's where it tends to take a while to get the right focus. But that's an inherent problem with camcorders anyway.
The overall audio clarity was very clear. Even the sound from behind the camera was well recorded. But as always, the camera mics are placed a little too close together to get any real channel separation.
At Rs 75,000, the HG10 is obviously not meant for the casual user. Enthusiasts and semi-professionals who can truly appreciate the quality output could definitely give it a look.