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Canon HG20 review

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Canon has the camcorder market by the scruff of its neck at the moment. The HF10 and HF100 set the benchmark for AVCHD models in 2008, and still remain two of the best camcorders currently available. But the company isn't resting on its laurels. With Panasonic's HDC-SD100 and HS100 trumping the Canons for user control, and JVC's Everio GZ-HD40 coming close on image quality, there's no time to stand still in video. So Canon has already upped the ante. The HF11, HG20 and HG21 hit the market just six months after the HF10 and HF100. This week, we take a look at the HG20.

In Canon's world, H stands for high definition and G stands for hard disk (with F referring to flash memory and V to HDV tape). So the HG20 records HD video to hard disk, in this case a 60GB drive. Other than that, many of its specifications are similar to the HF10. It uses Canon's current generation 1/3.2in CMOS, which has a gross 3.31-megapixels, and the same 12x Canon HD lens.

Of course, the HG20 is a little larger than the HF10, to accommodate the hard disk. Its measurements are around 10mm greater in each direction, and it weighs 85g more. But it's still a nicely compact bit of kit.

The big news is that Canon is now offering the option to record AVCHD at 24Mbits/sec. This is the top data rate available for the format, using the H.264 High-Profile Level 4.1 standard. No other manufacturers currently support a data rate this high in their consumer models, using a 17Mbits/sec maximum instead. Considering that the HF10 and 100 are still holding onto their crown for image quality, the higher data rate of the HG20 promises to go even better.

There are five different quality modes to choose from. The top two use the Full HD resolution of 1,920 x 1,080, whilst the other three drop to anamorphic 1,440 x 1,080. Data rates range from the aforementioned 24Mbits/sec down to 5Mbits/sec. Even at maximum quality, the 60GB disk is enough for over five hours of footage, and there's an SDHC slot available for yet more storage expansion.

Philepo

November 27, 2008, 4:50 am

I want to see real upgrades! things like:


- 1080p @ 60fps for keeping up with sport and good slow-mo's


- bigger sensors for better low light shooting


- larger optical zooms, i mean is 12x really the best they can do?


- reducing prices, the people with money have bought their HD cameras by now, now lets allow the rest of us bask in the HD goodness! (Following Samsungs lead)

James Morris

December 5, 2008, 3:57 pm

50p and 60p formats are only available in AVCHD when shooting 720p, not 1080p. So we would only see 1080/50p or 1080/60p with a new camcorder format.


Bigger sensors are available - look at the Samsung VP-HMX20. However, the latest Canons have amazing low light performance from their existing sensors, as do the top JVCs and Sonys.


Optical zoom is a matter of size. A bigger sensor requires a physically larger camcorder to get the same zoom factor. This is why cheap consumer camcorders with 1/6in sensors have 20x or even 35x optical zoom, whereas the HD ones with bigger sensors max out at 10x or 12x. Size is such an important sales point I doubt we will see camcorders getting bigger just so we can have larger optical zooms.


Samsung is reducing prices - hunt around and you can find the VP-HMX20 for as little as 𧹡. Canon's HF100 has fallen in price a lot too recently.

Chris Carr

March 10, 2009, 4:35 am

just need a bit of advice ... im mostly interested in the 25P feature .. would you go for this , the hg10 or the hf100 the basis of the 25P?

Dave Deacon

June 19, 2009, 12:44 am

I agree with James that the format dictates the possibles. Can't have one's cake and eat it.





Greater zoom can be had via say a 2x converter which can be had reasonably cheaply; obviously too you can add a wide converter. Raynox make some very affordable converters which are optically very good. I have a Raynox 250 (£45 normally but I paid £8 on Amazon :) and a Raynox wide converter (£23). The Raynox 250 also fits my Pentax 16-45, etc, on my super cool Samsung GX20. I'd like to add too, since it does not figure much in camcorder talk, that the Canon lenses on my HR10 and HG20 are very good lenses.

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