Canon's 2009 range of HD and Flash-based camcorders come with a new brand name – LEGRIA.

What it means or what it stands for is, for now, enigmatic but in the shape of the HF S10 it represents a high-def camcorder with imaging power that'll blow your socks off.

This is a serious, and seriously stylish, bit of kit, aimed at moviemakers who want Full HD (1920x1080) recording, using the AVCHD format, and manual settings that give total control over image capture.

Boasting a mean-looking, brushed-black design, the HF S10 incorporates stylish elements from Canon's DSLR cameras, including a mode dial that is also incredibly practical.

To get the most from the HF S10 you'll need to familiarise yourself with the external buttons and packed menu system – even the 2.7in LCD incorporates a joystick controller and playback buttons.

That said, the menus are clearly defined, beautifully designed and straightforward to navigate – it's just if you want this cam to deliver you're going to have get to know it inside and out.

Double the memory

The HF S10 features Dual Flash Memory, a concept Canon really pushed in 2008. Here, it sees the combination of a 32GB internal flash memory (for over 12 hours of HD movie recording) and the capacity to extend recording by storing footage to SD and SDHC cards.

Using a 32GB SD card, bulking storage up to 64GB, you'd have access to over 24 hours of high-def video.

Canon's optics deservedly receive plenty of plaudits, and on this model the blend of a 1/2.6in CMOS sensor, DIGIC DV III processor, optical image stabilizer and 10x optical zoom creates superb images.

What sweetens this mix is the addition of manual focus, exposure and white balance, plus real pro stylings such as zebra-pattern exposure warning and a 25p progressive shooting mode for flim-like footage.

Get in the ring

Among the benefits of a high-end cam like this are superb connectivity options. The HF S10 packs in pro essentials like an external mic input and a headphone output.

There's also component (RGB) output and a USB port. For the absolute best in picture quality we'd recommend the HDMI (mini HDMI on the camcorder) connection.

An early contender to slug it out with the Canon HF S10 is Panasonic's HDC-TM300, which boasts an identical mix of 32GB internal storage and SD recording.

The Panny pulls out a whopping 10.6 megapixel still image resolution that trumps the Canon's 8MP option, and early indications suggest Panasonic has shaved a few more precious pounds off its price tag.

Panasonic's TM300 incorporates a 2.7in touchscreen LCD as well as a viewfinder. While the touchscreen merely provides a different way of accessing the menu – and its popularity or not is a personal preference – the lack of a viewfinder on the Canon is a disappointing omission.

Stellar performance

Video and audio results are outstanding. The camcorder delivers images with vivid, accurate colour that display rich texture and depth.

On close up shots especially the detail is superb. Indoors and outdoors there's a great consistency, and there's only a hint of grain and loss of focus on low light shots.

The only gripe we could muster is that on fast pans or tilts, and on the most complex, complicated scenes, there is evidence of picture noise (jitter). This is remarkably infrequent and does virtually nothing to detract from the overall wow factor.

It's a significant chunk of change for a camcorder, but the Canon HF S10 is so unlikely to disappoint that what you're actually looking at is a good investment in great-quality images. Top notch.