Canon seems to have done pretty well with its recent line of flash-based AVCHD camcorders, Canon HF20 being the latest release. The camcorder is almost identical to its sister model, the HF200. The only two things that set those two models apart are their colors (Canon HF20 has a black, more classic, look) and the fact that the HF20 is equipped with a built-in 32GB flash memory, unlike the HF200.
The HF20 has kept most of the features that the previous models, the HF S10 and the HF S100 had. Some differences in the new model are: Smaller but longer 15x zoom lens and a 4-megapixel sensor, which means lower resolution. Canon’s new model is a bit less powerful, smaller and lighter than its predecessors, but an upgrade all the same. The camcorder weighs 13.9 ounces and its dimensions are just small enough to fit into a small bag or a pocket: 2.8-inch-by-2.4-inch-by-4.9-inch.
At $700-$750, the Canon HF20 is pricier than rival models such as Panasonic’s SD20 but it boasts essential features which most mid-range camcorders lack, such as headphone jack and an accessory shoe. Judging by various user reviews, it seems that the video quality and the camcorder’s performance are excellent. The video is surprisingly sharp and crisp, given the small lens. The camcorder performs well even in low-light conditions. The maximum bit rate is 24Mbps and it also has a 25p Cinema mode. You can choose from a range of effects including neutral, soft, soft skin detail and custom settings so you can get more detail in various light conditions. The focus is precise and quick and the battery life is reasonable – about 1.5 hours. The audio is great but not perfect as some wind noise could interfere. The recording uses the Dolby Digital AC-3 (2 channel) standard.
The camcorder has got a DIGIC DV III image processor, offering face detection, and a video snapshot mode. That mode enables the seamless creation of musical multi-shot movies. There is a broad manual option, a rare commodity in small camcorders. Exif print, PictBridge, progressive scanning and USB 2.0 are also supported. Another handy feature is the ability to shoot still photos.
Overall it seems that Canon HF20 is a fine HD camcorder. It’s lightweight and compact without compromising on video and image quality. Yes, it’s a little pricier than the competition but it comes with more essential features that will pay off in the long run.