Canon set the benchmark for AVCHD camcorders in 2008 with its groundbreaking HF10 and HF100. But its competitors have been responding with increasingly capable alternatives. So scarcely more than six months later Canon is already updating its range. Although essentially an evolution of the HF10, the HF11 incorporates some important improvements, making it another contender for the best HD camcorder on the market.
The HF11's sensor and optics are unchanged from the HF10. It sports the same 1/3.2in CMOS sensor with 3.31-megapixels and Canon HD lens. The first major change is an increase in the maximum video data rate. Like the HG20, the HF11 supports 24Mbits/sec, the highest rate available from the AVCHD format. This won't produce a quantum leap in quality over the HF10's already excellent level. But with AVCHD's greater efficiency than HDV, it will further push the tape-based format into obsolescence.
As a result of the new higher rate, HF11 has five quality modes on offer compared to the HF10's four. The new mode is called MXP+, and sits above the original quartet. So now you have two Full HD options using a 1,920 x 1,080 resolution, and three operating with anamorphic 1,440 x 1,080 - but no standard definition alternative.
The other major difference is the amount of internal memory supplied inside the device. Where the HF10 includes 16GB, the HF11 doubles this to 32GB. So, despite the increase in the data rate of the top quality mode, the HF11 can hold nearly three hours of footage at its best setting, compared to just over two hours for the HF10. This is a very useful amount of storage, and as before, there's an SDHC card slot available, too, for archiving footage or expanding capacity.
Overall settings and features remain identical to the HF10. But this was already a strong point. If you really don't want to bother with any settings at all, there is Easy mode, which does everything for you. Otherwise, you can use the Function menu and joystick to call up a variety of manual options. Program mode only lets you alter exposure, or you can select aperture or shutter priority modes for finer tuning. The former offers iris settings from F1.8 to F8, whilst the latter lets you configure the shutter from ½ to 1/2000th sec. Unlike some camcorders, in either of these modes the Exposure control is still available, giving you a very similar experience to full independent control over shutter and iris - although not quite the same.