Review – Canon Vixia HFR-20 Camcorder – HD Video to Travel

Canon has been a technology leader for many years. They may be most frequently associated with still cameras, but consumers shouldn’t overlook the impact that Canon has had on video cameras. From the pioneering XL-1 Mini-DV camcorder first introduced in 1997 which boasted interchangeable lenses, 3-chip CCD, and quickly became the darling of indie filmmakers everywhere, to the current HD systems that bring incredible quality at an affordable price, Canon has a wide range of video offerings. . To find how this evolution translates into a high-quality consumer product for today, we spent time with Canon’s Vixia HFR-20 camcorder. Not in the market for a high-end camera, but need a solid tool to record your family events, vacations, sports, and creative filmmaking on a budget?  Read on and learn more about the Vixia HFR-20, an affordable video camera with a well-respected pedigree.

Like much of the current crop of flash memory-based camcorders, the HFR-20 can actually fit in your pocket! OK, maybe not the back pocket of your jeans, but it fits easily into a jacket pocket, purse or backpack making it convenient and easy to use while traveling. The 3.0-inch display opens on the left side, and features a touch sensitive screen where most settings are available. I tried a variety of settings including recording in different modes, saving to internal and external memory, and setting basics like time and date. The display was responsive, and using slight finger pressure I found it easy to move through the menus. I did find myself referencing the instruction manual on a regular basis to navigate the myriad of menu options.

The camera is available in a choice of fashionable colors, including red, black, and silver. The basic features of the camcorder were up to our expectations, with 1920x1080 HD capability, 3.28-megapixel CMOS sensor recording, 20x optical zoom, 3-inch touchscreen, Dynamic Image Stabilization, 24p cinema mode and 30p progressive mode. It has 8GB of internal memory, and its dual SDHC memory slots can accept the newer, faster SHDC cards. The build quality is excellent, with well-thought out controls and plastic castings. The camera can capture 3.0 MP still images in the JPEG format, and the camera produced high-quality images.

We did find, unfortunately, that battery life was shorter than expected, so we would recommend that users buy at least one additional battery to make sure a charged battery will always be available. The camera lacks a hot shoe accessory slot, a flash for still photography, and a fill light option, but it seems the omissions were a necessary compromise to keep the size and cost down.

The Vixia HFR-20 ships with a battery, charger, and plenty of cables, plus the camera has the requisite mini HDMI port. We found that to work perfectly with our Vizio HD test set. The included Pixela Video Browser software is Windows only. It does ship with both Mac- and Windows-compatible software for editing still images from the camera, but for video on the Mac, you need a recent version of iMovie, Final Cut Pro, or that can read AVCHD files, Final Cut Pro, Adobe Premiere Elements or Premiere Pro, or an application that can read AVCHD files. We would like to see Mac compatible software included, and hope that in the future Canon will see fit to properly address the Mac platform by bundling Adobe Premiere Elements 10.

We used the camera in a variety of settings, including for beach and surfing scenes, indoor interviews, and sporting events, using the macro and telephoto focal lengths, as well as with different capture modes. In all cases, the image quality was exemplary, with sharp, clean, and well-defined images. The Auto Focus locked on to moving subjects firmly, even in moderately low-light levels.

If you are looking for a small, affordably priced personal camcorder with a full feature set normally found in much more expensive models, the Canon Vixia HFR-20 HD Camcorder comes highly recommended The Canon Vixia HFR-20 HD Camcorder is a Mac Edition Radio Holiday Pick!

Harris Fogel, posted 12/18/2011

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