The HV10 was capable of excellent results in good lighting, but its abilities in low light let it down somewhat, particularly compared to Sony’s direct competitors. The HV20 is similarly good in sunny conditions, and in fact showed slightly less noise than the HV10. But in low light it was more noticeably improved. Shooting regular interlaced HDV, the image was much brighter than the HV10, although still quite noisy, and on par with Sony’s single-CMOS camcorders such as the HDR-HC3E
But when we switched to 25PF mode the noise was quite significantly reduced, comfortably making the HV20 the most capable single-sensor high definition camcorder we’ve tested. It can’t hold a candle to semi-professional models like the Sony HDR-FX7E or Canon’s own XH-A1, but the excellent video quality in good illumination and surprisingly decent low light performance make the HV20 much more than just a consumer camcorder. In fact, it’s a great choice for the more serious videomaker on a budget.
The HV20 offers two ways of watching your video directly on your HDTV – analog component and HDMI, the now ubiquitous high-definition digital video interconnection. Again, the HV10 lacks the latter. However, neither offer S-Video for watching on a standard definition TV, just composite. FireWire is available for capturing footage onto a PC or Mac, and as this is an HDV camcorder virtually every video editing application out there now supports the format.
Although the HV20 is at least £100 more expensive than its upright HV10 sibling, the extra cash is definitely worth it. The ability to attach external microphones and video lights, the improved low light performance, and the progressive shooting mode make the HV20 fit the bill nicely for the enthusiast or semi-pro.
After a slow start with HDV, Canon is back on the form it had when the market was predominated by DV. Not only does the company now produce the best professional HDV camcorder currently available, the HX-A1, it has the most successfully realised HDV model for serious consumers as well. The HV20 may not have every feature the semi-professional might want, but it has the most important ones on offer, with excellent image quality to match.