Canon’s current crop of camcorders has been gathering a clutch of plaudits, with its flash memory-based HF10 and HF100 leading the way, the DVD-based HR10 and the MiniDV-centred HV30 catering impressively for other storage formats.
The HG20 is the immediate upgrade from the hard disk-recording HG10 and has been brought out in parallel with the HG21, the main differences being the HG21 doubles the available storage from 60GB to 120GB and adds a viewfinder.
Styled in low-key silver and black, the barrel-shaped HG20 measures 80 x 77 x 138mm and weighs approximately 465g. Slightly weightier than its predecessor, the HG10, it nevertheless feels comfortable in the hand and the good news is that many aspects have been considerably improved.
For instance, you can now record up to 22 hours of 1920 x 1080 Full HD movies (rather than 15 hours) and there’s now a fifth recording setting (MXP) where HD movies are captured at 24 Mbps, which is the maximum possible data rate.
If you want to make room for more filming time in one session, then you can use the FXP setting to record 1920 x 1080 at 17Mbps, while the lowest setting (LP) will capture 1440 x 1080 at 5Mbps. In addition, you have the further advantage of dual recording via HDD and SDHC memory card (up to an additional 32GB).
The HG20 utilizes Canon’s HD Camera System which is a combination of a Canon HD Video Lens with 12x optical zoom (the HG10 only had a 10x optical zoom), a 3.3-megapixel Canon Full HD CMOS sensor, plus the powerful DIGIC DV II processor.
Unchanged in the new model is the 2.7-inch widescreen LCD and the mini joystick on the side of it that is used both for scrolling through menus and for manual focusing. The scrolling part works comfortably but the manual focus takes some getting used to and will be frustrating if you’re in a hurry: an extra focus ring would have been preferable. However, you do have Focus Assist tools (in the shape of Magnifying and Peaking) available and of course Instant AF when you’re out of manual mode.
The effects of camera shake are again countered via the proprietary Super Range Optical Image Stabilizer which is effective for both low and high frequency vibrations. Even with the extra zoom, this still works remarkably well even in relatively dim conditions: the minimum lux is 0.2 in Night mode.
In total there are 11 Program AE modes (including Sports, Snow, Spotlight and Fireworks), the same 5 digital effects (Auto Fade, Wipe, Black & White, Sepia and Art) and useful image effects such as Low Sharpening and Soft Skin Detail.
Playback opportunities are considerable, with ports for USB 2.0, AV, Component and HDMI as well as ports for headphone and microphone. The only slight downside is the retention of Canon’s mini Advanced Accessory Shoe on the HG20, which limits any accessories to Canon’s own.
On the plus side, the bundled software replaces the previous Corel Application with PIXELA ImageMixer 3 SE to manage, edit and share HD movies. You can even convert them to different file formats or burn a Blu-ray disc.
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