Canon's new Vixia HF10: The best (and first) camcorder I've ever owned

About a month before my wife gave birth (which explains where I've been the past few weeks), I got a great piece of purchasing, errrr, parenting advice, from my friend Joe via IM:"though you prolly already have this covered, use this as an excuse to buy photo and video gear you've been wanting... no resistance"While I'm not sure I had viewed purchasing a camcorder as strategically as Joe had, I was definitely on the same page.

About a month before my wife gave birth (which explains where I've been the past few weeks), I got a great piece of purchasing, errrr, parenting advice, from my friend Joe via IM:

"though you prolly already have this covered, use this as an excuse to buy photo and video gear you've been wanting... no resistance"

While I'm not sure I had viewed purchasing a camcorder as strategically as Joe had, I was definitely on the same page. In fact, other than loads of meetings, my primary personal goal at CES this past January was to find a camcorder that was worthy of being the first one I had ever purchased (or owned), and one that would be available in time for our baby's arrival in mid-March.

Canon Vixia HF10
When I saw Canon's new Vixia HF10 (read our full review), I knew I had my camera. After all, what says "welcome to fatherhood" more than a high-definition camcorder, with 16GBMB of built-in flash memory (along with an extra SD slot), all in a svelte 2.9-inch by 2.5-inch by 5.1 inch package?

There were only two problems. One, the HF10 was expected to cost close to $1100, or $100 more than my self-imposed limit. The second is that it wasn't due out until early April, so unless my wife was really late, I would miss those first two critical weeks of baby footage (which as I know in hindsight, entails nothing more than the baby laying around, spitting up, and going to the bathroom - not exactly Kurosawa-ian.

First off, I made arrangements to borrow a camcorder so I knew I would be covered at the birth. I got my hands on Canon's older HG10, which while also high-definition, is hard drive-based, and as such, much bigger (albeit, still a perfectly decent camcorder). Then, I started price-hunting, and was pleasantly surprised to find the HF10 available for pre-order for $910 at buy.com, and I quickly placed my order. [Ultimately, I ended up canceling that order and getting it through abt.com, who received their shipments of HF10s earlier than buy.com, was willing to match the price, and, unlike buy.com, had easy-to-reach sales people who actually seemed interesting in getting my business.]

Fortunately, after one of the lengthier purchasing processes I've ever put myself through, the HF10 has more than lived up to my lofty expectations. The video quality is outstanding. Maybe not professionally awesome, but certainly "best home movies ever" awesome. It's remarkably simple to use, which is important given the number of relatives who will likely take turns with it. And it's so small and lightweight (15 ounces), that it's a no-brainer to stick it in a bag and bring it out with us when we go out (or at least, we will be able to once our daughter's doing anything that's worth recording). Transferring footage to a PC was straightforward enough, and despite some thoroughly irritating flaws with Windows Movie Maker (on a Vista Premium box), my wife and I were able to come up with a ridiculously over-produced video of baby's first bath in a couple of hours.

I've yet to use the camera much outdoors, so I can't comment on my colleague Lori Grunin's concerns about the wind filter, but I can say that while I'm clearly no expert, I haven't noticed the fringing in high-contrast images that she encountered. I do wish Canon would have included an HDMI-cable with the camera (though I was able to score a generic one for about $12 on Amazon, a far cry from Canon's own mini-HDMI to HDMI cable that sells for closer to $60). You'll also likely want to pick up an extra long-life battery, since the included battery only gives you about 50 minutes of juice (I purchased the BP819, which lasts over two hours, from Newegg for about $80, including shipping, which was by far the best price I could find from a store that actually had it in stock (many stores and sites sell for between $100 and $120). I also picked up an additional 16GB SDHC card from Amazon for $74.98(it's currently $78.98), so now I think we have more storage and battery life than we'll ever need.

Which is a good thing, because now that we're burning through diapers like they're going out of style, I'm not sure when the opportunity for the next toy purchase will present itself.

Oh, who am I kidding? I'm sure I'll find a way. And Joe, when I do, I'll be sure to return the favor.