The Canon Vixia HF G30 ($1,699.99 direct) is the company’s top-end consumer camcorder, and it’s a good one. It features an impressive 20x zoom lens that captures a wide-angle field of view, excellent image stabilization, and 1080p video that looks great. There are manual controls and other features that will make serious videographers happy, and built-in Wi-Fi for quick online sharing of videos and remote control. It’s on the bulky side, which can be a turnoff for some, and one of the pricier models that you can buy. But its performance is impressive to the point where it earns our Editors’ Choice award for high-end consumer camcorders, despite a few drawbacks.
Design and Features
Compared with most other consumer camcorders, the G30 is a huge beast. It measures 3.3 by 4.5 by 9.1 inches (HWD) and weighs 2 pounds when fully loaded and ready to shoot. Compare this with the Panasonic HC-X920, which measures just 2.8 by 2.6 by 5.9 inches and is half the weight of the G30. The larger body is still comfortable to hold, thanks in part to an integrated handstrap that features more padding than other camcorders. There are two flaps on the right side; one covers the headphone, mic, remote control, mini USB, and mini HDMI ports, the other covers the DC power input and analog A/V output connectors. The zoom rocker sits on the top right, above the handstrap, and next to it is a toggle switch that allows you to choose Automatic, Manual, or Cinema shooting modes. The record control is on the rear face of the camera, next to a joystick that is used to navigate through menus.
There are two accessory shoes on the top plate—a standard cold shoe at the front, just behind the integrated stereo microphone, and a Canon Mini Advanced Shoe at the rear. The latter has data contacts, so it can be used with accessories that require power and benefit from communication with the camera, including Canon’s directional stereo microphone ($290) and the GP-E2 GPS receiver ($390).
Other controls include a toggle switch to change the behavior of the ring around the lens (it can be used to manually focus or to adjust the zoom), five numbered buttons (two on the rear of the camera, two on the flip-out display, and one on the left rear side), all of which can be programmed, and a control wheel at the front of the body, next to the lens. By default it is used, along with the Custom button, to make positive or negative adjustments to the autoexposure setting, but it too can be reprogrammed to perform other functions.
There’s no built-in memory, but the G30 does have two SD memory card slots. When shooting in AVCHD the second card is simply there to record more video if the first one runs out of space. But if you shoot in MP4 you can record high bitrate footage to one card and low bitrate footage to the second (for quicker Wi-Fi transfers), or use the second card as an overflow bucket just as you would with AVCHD. A fully charged battery is good for 105 minutes of recording at the highest quality settings, and a 16GB memory card can hold up to 75 minutes of 1080p60 AVCHD footage with LPCM audio.
The lens is a 20x zoom, but it covers a wider angle than others in its class. Its range is 26.8-576mm (35mm equivalent) with a variable aperture that starts at f/1.8 and narrows to f/2.8 at the telephoto extreme. The entry-level Sony Handycam HDR-CX230 has a longer 27x lens, but its 29.8-804.6mm range can’t shoot as wide as the Canon. The G30 features a large lens hood with an integrated flip-up lens cover. It adds some size to the already bulky camera, but is worth using due to the extra physical protection it provides for the lens, both from damage and from unwanted lens flare.
The stabilization system does a good job keeping things steady. I shot handheld video at the maximum 576mm focal length and footage was impressively smooth. The G30 acquires focus quickly, even at its maximum zoom setting, and I was also impressed by its close focus capability. At the wide angle it focuses to 0.3-feet; that distance is measured from the sensor, which means that you can almost touch the subject with your lens and get an in focus shot. At f/1.8 this provides a bit of background blur, but not as much as you can get from zooming all the way to 576mm and focusing at the minimum distance there, 2 feet. Autofocus is a little bit slower when working this close to your subject, but the manual focus ring is there and is quite easy to use. The center of the frame is automatically magnified as you adjust focus, so you can clearly see what is in focus and what isn’t.
The swing-out display isn’t an LCD, it’s a 3.5-inch OLED panel with a 1,230k-dot resolution. It’s impressively sharp, and the OLED design is more impressive to the eye than the 1,152k-dot LCD that Panasonic uses in its X920. Like the X920, the G30 also includes a built-in EVF. Canon packs 1,560k dots into a 0.24-inch LCD. It’s impressively sharp, and as an added bonus it can tilt up 45 degrees—that’s a feature that’s missing from the Panasonic EVF.
There’s built-in Wi-Fi, which seems like a must-have for most image capture devices these days. The G30 supports remote control via another device, but it doesn’t use an app to do so. Instead the camcorder broadcasts a network SSID, which you can access from any Web browser. There’s a basic control panel that allows you to control zoom and start or stop recording, and a more advanced control panel for changing camera settings during recording.
Transferring video to your smartphone is also possible. You’ll need to download the Movie Uploader app, available for free for iOS or Android. You can transfer any images or MP4 videos wirelessly to your phone or tablet; just keep in mind that AVCHD transfer is not supported. It is possible to convert recorded AVCHD movies to MP4 in-camera, but that conversion is done in real time, so a 5-minute clip will take five minutes to convert. It’s also possible to upload MP4 footage directly to a Web service (you’ll need to configure settings via the Canon Image Gateway service), or to upload them to an FTP server.
Video Quality and Conclusions
The G30 records video in AVCHD or MP4 format at 1080p60, 1080p30, or 1080p24 quality. Even though the camera only has a single 1/2.84-inch image sensor, a departure from the 3-chip design used by the Panasonic X920, the footage looks great. It’s colorful and shows impressive dynamic range, preserving highlights and bringing out details in the shadows in our outdoor tests. Details are crisp, even when zoomed all the way in. Still image quality is pretty decent for a camcorder, but the resolution leaves a lot to be desired. The camera’s image sensor is a 3-magapixel design; stills are essentially single frame captures of 1080p video, matching its 2-megapixel (1,920 by 1,080) resolution. The low pixel count is a boon to video as there’s no need to downsample from a high-resolution sensor in order to record at 1080p.
The Canon Vixia HF G30 has a lot going for it, and earns our Editors’ Choice award despite its high asking price. For your money you get excellent 1080p video quality, a 20x zoom lens, a top-notch OLED display as well as a tilting EVF, and some physical controls that are lacking from lower-end camcorders. The Wi-Fi system is also impressive, as it allows remote control from a phone, tablet, or laptop, direct MP4 video transfer to an iOS or Android device, and uploading to YouTube and other Web services via the Canon Image Gateway. If the G30′s bulk and price are turnoffs, the Panasonic HC-X920 is a good second option; it’s priced around $1,000, and is also quite capable. But if you can afford it, and are more on the serious side for home movies or are doing video work that doesn’t require a true high-end camcorder, the G30 is a good one to get.
|Mic Input Jack||Yes|
|Optical Zoom||20 x|
|Dimensions||3.3 x 4.3 x 9.1 inches|
|Video Resolution||720p, 1080p|
|Video Recording Format||Secure Digital, Secure Digital High Capacity, Secure Digital Extended Capacity|
|LCD Aspect Ratio||16|
|LCD size||3.5 inches|
|Focal Length (Telephoto)||576 mm|
|Focal Length (Wide)||26.8 mm|
|Interface Ports||mini USB, mini HDMI, Mic, Remote, Headphone|
|Sensor Size||1/2.84" mm|
|Still Image Recording Format||Secure Digital, Secure Digital High Capacity, Secure Digital Extended Capacity|
|CCD Resolution||2.9 megapixels|
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc