Hard drive camcorders may pack oodles of recording space but their unsightly storage bulges make for gadget disharmony. Enter the Canon HF10, which opts instead for tiny flash memory to keep its HD footage safe, coincidentally making it one of the most pocketable camcorders around.

It does mean there's only 16GB of storage onboard, compared to the 60GB you'll get from the likes of Panasonic's bulkier HS100 hard drive cam, or the 120GB monsters from Sony and JVC.

That said, it’ll still hold two hours of HD shenanigans at its highest setting. And should a filming spurt leave you nearing that capacity, Canon's also added an SD card slot for topping up with extra gigabytes.

Manual gear

Like the Panasonic HS100, there's the full complement of manual controls, plus the pro-shooter hallmarks of a hot shoe and headphone and mic inputs.

Alas, though, there's no viewfinder, just the LCD screen, which will mark it down in some people's books. And, while Panasonic has 5.1 surround recording to add that multiplex sparkle to your home movies, the HF10 makes do with old-school stereo.

What it lacks in extras, though, the HF10 more than makes up for in its diminutive size. Canon's crafted an undoubted ergonomic winner – perfectly sized for wrapping hands around. Panasonic’s SD9 may be smaller but it doesn’t have that handy 16GB of memory tucked away inside.

Sadly the organisational triumph doesn't carry through the dodgy menus, which is where you'll find all the manual controls buried.

Still, if your idea of video tweaking extends to turning the camera on and hitting auto, you'll find the record button and the comfy zoom rocker more than adequate for your movie-making needs.

Colour tweak

If you do stick to auto, though, you'll be missing a trick. The colour on footage filmed in the default mode looks, well, a little muted. Switch to 'Cine' mode, instead and colours are given the swift saccharine injection we need.

Canon can’t boast the three, colour-specific sensors that Panasonic makes much of. Instead the HF10 has just one sensor to capture the full spectrum.

The good news is it aces Panny’s three in the sharpness stakes. And while there are is the tell tale dancing pixels noise in really low light, footage still stays remarkably bright in all conditions.

We would love to have seen some of the manual toys from the Panasonic HS100 – like the lens ring we fawned over – but when it comes to getting the best quality footage, it’s this cam we’ll be reaching for.

Stuff says... 

Canon HF10 review

Shoots better than camcorders twice its size without compromising too much on storage. The bar’s been raised again