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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.