Weblog Archives: May 2008

Canon HF10 and HF100 Review

Executive summary: The Canon HF10 and Canon HF100 are two new sibling HD camcorders from Canon that can record in full 1920x1080 resolution onto SDHC cards. They are conveniently small and perform very well for cameras in their price range. I recently purchased the HF100 and took it on my trip to San Francisco; here is my experience.

If you're reading this, you've probably already done a little research into the two cameras, so I'll skip detailed specs and the like. The HF10 and HF100 are nearly identical, except that the HF10 contains 16GB of internal flash storage (plus an SDHC slot for expansion) and is black, while the HF100 has no internal storage (only SDHC) and is silver. I went with the HF100 because it was less expensive even if one adds the price of a 16GB SDHC card.

I think that the best way to go about this review is to use bullets! You may notice that there are more "cons" than "pros" listed - this is simply because there are many implied "pros" that can be gathered from the camera's feature list, so I have generally omitted the normal features that work as advertised. The "cons" are just the areas of improvement I've noticed during my four weeks of use so far.


  • The optics and sensor yield excellent sharpness under most conditions.
  • Optical image stabilization (OIS) works well, even at 12x.
  • The camera's tiny size makes for unintrusive recording. I find that big, professional-looking cameras cause people to act less naturally, either avoiding the camera or giving it excessive attention, so this one doesn't suffer from that nearly as much
  • SDHC cards are very fast and seem to be a format that will be around for a while.
  • Little to no compression artifacts appear in the video except in the busiest scenes.
  • Several output formats are available: composite, component digital, and mini-HDMI (which requires a cable that costs $5-$6 on monoprice.com).
  • AVCHD, the codec used to store the video files, looks like a relatively futureproof format. It's the format used on Blu-ray discs.
  • Canon's wide-angle adapter for the HF10/100 (model WD-H37C) is excellent.
  • Captured sound quality is excellent because there's no tape noise.
  • HDMI output can be 480i or 1080i, and all outputs support 4:3 or 16:9, which provides a good range of support for older and newer TVs alike.
  • Many manual controls exist: frame rate (24p, 30p, or 60i), focus, shutter-priority, and aperture-priority.


  • The included battery's life is subpar, lasting roughly an hour. You'll want to get the BP-819, which usually lasts me more than two hours. Still, both batteries are impressive considering their diminutive size.
  • The default viewing angle is not very wide, which is a problem that exists on many video cameras. Luckily the wide-angle adapter (model WD-H37C) works well, but it adds to the overall cost.
  • Purple fringing is apparent when aperture is wide open (in night scenes).
  • A powerful PC needed to play videos, and especially to edit them.
  • The optical image stabilization (OIS) takes a couple seconds to stabilize when shooting from a tripod.
  • The remote control's IR output is weak, and the camera's IR sensor requires the LCD display to be open because it is mounted on the inside of the display.
  • The camera has no Firewire output. Without Firewire, it's currently difficult to capture live HD output. The existing video outputs will show live video, but the cost of an HDMI or component digital capture card is currently high. USB supports file transfers only, so it's not an option for live video.
  • Using the USB connection requires AC power hookup, even when the camera's battery has plenty of juice. This is pretty silly considering that the camera has its own battery, and there is up to 500mw of power available from the USB port.
  • The included software is pretty useless; it only extracts and organizes the videos, and it seems to have issues when you have lots of nonstandard codecs and DirectShow filters installed, like I do.
  • 24p mode records as 60i, requiring 3:2 pulldown removal in post.
  • There is no s-video out.
  • Browsing clips is sluggish, and it takes too many steps to delete files. Here is the shortest key sequence to delete a selected file: FUNC, left, OK, OK, right, OK, OK.
  • I can't currently say that it's the camera's fault, but several codecs that claim to support AVC have issues decoding the MTS files that come straight from the camera.

If you're in the market for a new camcorder, hopefully this list will help you in your decision making process. Despite its flaws, I like the camera and feel that it was definitely worth the money. I consider image and sound quality to be the most important aspects of the camera, and the HF100 does not disappoint. We may even see some of the software issues fixed in a future firmware release. I imagine that recording video files to a flash card will become a much more popular option in the future, and for that reason this camera is a pioneer in its field.

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