Exposure metering can be set to either spot, for difficult exposures where the central part of the frame defines the exposure of the whole, or matrix, where an exposure is set based on a dynamic range estimated for the whole frame.
Play, fast-forward and rewind controls are on the side of the camcorder. Editing and DVD burning options are browsed using the on-screen menu system. Before you can play a half-size DVD back on a domestic DVD player the DC10 must 'finalise' the disc. This involves writing the TOC (table of contents) to the DVD, and takes a few minutes to complete.
It may come as a surprise to those familiar with MiniDV camcorders, but there is no FireWire connection on the DC10. This makes advanced editing more or less impossible. You could rip the encoded footage from your finalised DVDs and then convert the DVD codec into a format you can use with a major editing suite, but to be honest this is very time consuming and yields disappointing results. You'll effectively be editing a heavily compressed format -- hardly the ideal if you're a stickler for quality.
The DC10 was up and running a few minutes after we unpacked it. Recording functions are easy to understand. Flick the slide on the rear of the DC10 into Camera mode and press the record button. The camcorder will begin writing video to disc; a second press will stop it.
Recording times depend on how complex your scenes are. The amount of data needed to describe a single image will increase as the detail of the scene increases -- this is the way DVD compression works. A blank wall with a single subject framed against it will use relatively little space on the DVD, but a crowd scene with lots of colour and movement will use lots of space. This is nothing to worry about when shooting, but does explain the slightly unpredictable running lengths of your recordings.
Consistent with our experiences of other DVD camcorders, the DC10's footage is slightly degraded by the compression methods used by the camcorder to write video to DVD. Whether this is problematic for you will largely depend on your expectations of the format. Anyone who's used to MiniDV may find the results disappointing, but casual users may well feel that the convenience of straight-to-DVD recording more than compensates.
There is still a considerable way to go before DVD camcorders can match even modest MiniDV offerings, and Canon has a slight disadvantage in its late arrival to the scene. But there's not a huge difference between the DC10 and the ostensibly more mature Sony DVD models in the same price range. As a technology, on-the-fly DVD compression just isn't quite there yet.
As with the DC20, the DC10 showed visible compression artefacting under low light conditions. The camcorder struggles with both the shortcomings of a single-CCD system and the compression methods used to write the DVD. These are high demands to place on what is an emerging technology. Given that the odds are stacked against it, the DC10 makes a decent effort at rendering a good picture.
It's difficult to recommend this camcorder over much cheaper, MiniDV models, because the image quality lags so far behind. The appeal of popping a DVD straight out of the camcorder and into a DVD player is as mesmerising as ever, but the format still fails to deliver an equally futuristic picture quality.
Edited by Mary Lojkine
Additional editing by Kate Macefield