The Canon Vixia HF G10 (*Est. $995) HD camcorder retains its crown in a shrinking category. With the HF G10, you're essentially getting a professional camcorder in consumer body," say the reviewers at CamcorderInfo.com.
Canon packs its CMOS Pro image sensor (the same one you'll get on Canon's entry-level pro camcorders) into the HF G10, along with an excellent 10x optical zoom lens, a rock-steady image stabilizer and a ton of manual controls. Also, it's one of the few consumer camcorders that can shoot at a true 24p frame rate for a film-like picture. It's "not just the 24 frames per second captured as progressive but encoded as 60i, as is most common for AVCHD models, but 24p encoding," CNET's Lori Grunin says.
The result? "Sparkling HD footage even in hairy lighting conditions," says Wired's Dan Havlik, who gets great video of a child illuminated only by her birthday cake candles and a nighttime basketball game at a playground. Owners who post reviews at Amazon.com call the HF G10's footage "fantastic," "outstanding," "stunning" and "silky smooth." Nearly three hours of best-quality footage will fit in the 32 GB built-in flash memory, and you can add more memory via the camcorder's dual memory-card slots.
In January 2013, Canon announced the debut of the Canon Vixia HF G20 ($1,100), which promises better performance in low light, but it has not been independently tested.
As for the competition? Similar models from Panasonic, Sony and JVC have been discontinued, and many new models don't receive thorough evaluations. If you don't want to spend $1,000 on a standalone HD camcorder, your best alternative is investing in a digital camera that shoots in HD or upgrading your smartphone.