The R18 shoots decent enough footage in bright conditions. Colours are vibrant but faithful, and detail is quite sharp, although the picture is less fine than premium models, due to the effective CMOS sensor resolution being less than Full HD. Areas of high contrast are also handled commendably.
However, the R18’s abilities in poor illumination are not so outstanding. Now that even cheap pocket Internet camcorders such as Kodak’s Playsport Zx3 have quite large sensors, the R18’s smaller one seems meagre. Although the image was quite bright with a fair amount of colour maintained in our 100W ceiling light test, it was marred by a considerable helping of seething multicolour grain, and this was echoed in our less formal low light testing. The R18’s performance implies that the company should consider back-side illumination technology if it wants to compete on quality using a CMOS sensor this small.
Doors at the rear cover a comprehensive set of video output ports, alongside the USB 2.0 connection. There’s mini HDMI, component and composite analogue. Cables are supplied for both the analogue connections, but not the mini HDMI, so you’ll have to fork out a little extra if you want to view your video digitally on your HDTV.
You can pick up the Legria HF R18 for around £300, and it has a fair amount to offer for the money. However, it’s not the only fully featured Full HD camcorder at this price. Panasonic’s HDC-SD60 has a similar range of capabilities, better image quality in low light, and costs about the same when you add a 32GB SDHC card. So it remains our budget HD choice. But Canon has some new models just around the corner, so watch this space. The R18 may not be the one, but it successor just might be.