Because of the popularity of the Canon Vixia HF20’s older model, HF11, when this new camcorder showed its gleaming glass face, many consumers were ecstatic, because it comes in at a much lower price than its previous incarnation. But of course, as with all electronics, price cuts also mean cuts in performance.
The HF20 camcorder comes with a 32 gig onboard memory, which can be upgraded and expanded with an SD/SDHC card. The camcorder doesn’t have an electronic viewfinder, and it looks much like the models that came before it, so there is no real difference in design. There is a comfortable strap attached for ease of use, and experienced users will be happy to note that they can mess with the controls—from shutter speed to aperture to focus—though the controls are limited and do not work independently from each other. It is still enough to keep the control freak happy.
The video quality is disappointing, as there is a lot of noise in the video, especially when the scene is dark. The Canon series is well known for its noise in low light settings however, and this wasn’t well addressed in the HF20, as the sensor was shrunk down by ¼ of an inch. The menus are also confusing and hard to navigate, and it is difficult to find what you are looking for amid the sea of confusing destinations.
The camcorder also has good audio capabilities, including a headphone jack, mic, and a hot accessory shoe. There is also a neat feature called pre-record, which when activated records 3 seconds of video before you even press the record button. But unless you want to catch a racing cheetah, it’s a good idea to keep this function off, as it takes up quite a lot of battery life.
The HF20 can also run in an easy mode for new users, which blocks certain menus and keeps users from messing with them if they are not experienced. However, with the HF20 it is harder to locate this feature, as it is called something different (“Dual-Shot”) which doesn’t provide a clue to what it really means.
If you are looking for a camcorder to compare this to, take a look at the Canon HF100, which is very much like the HF20 save for the fact that it has no internal memory, which makes that camera a cheaper buy. In the end you’ll have to trade off somewhere if you want to buy the cheaper camera.