Canon was somewhat late in bringing out a consumer HDV camcorder. Its HV10 only arrived towards the tail end of 2006 when Sony had already been through a couple of generations and is now turning its attention more to AVCHD. Although Canon will be joining the AVCHD market too when the HR10 arrives, the company still sees HDV as an important format. So here is the HV20, Canon’s second tape-based high-definition camcorder – and it looks like it was well worth the wait.
The HV20 shouldn’t be seen as a successor to the HV10, however. Where the latter has an upright palmcorder format, the HV20 takes the more conventional handycam approach. This will be more familiar for some, but it’s more a matter of taste. An initial glance at the specifications also shows that the internal workings are basically the same as the HV10. The sensor comprises a single 1/2.7in CMOS with 2.96 megapixels supplemented by the DIGIC DVII image processing system, and the f/1.8 Canon lens offers the same 10x optical zoom for an effective focal length of between 6.1 and 61mm. Both offer Canon’s excellent optical image stabilisation, which – unlike the electronic equivalent - doesn’t sacrifice resolution in return for more solid shooting.
However, where the HV20 cruises ahead of its stable mate is in features. Nestling beneath a removable plastic panel is a standard-sized hot accessory shoe. So, unlike Sony’s consumer camcorders, you’re free to use regular third-party add-ons rather than being confined to proprietary branded ones. Underneath another panel is a minijack microphone input, and the composite A/V minijack doubles as a headphone connection, although you have to switch its function over in the menu. The HV10 lacks all of these. The tape transport is top loading, too, so the HV20 has all the basic physical checkboxes ticked for usage beyond point and shoot.