Unlike the more premium-oriented Legria HF M31, the R18 doesn’t use a touchscreen for menu control. Instead, you get a more traditional joystick, which is located on the edge of the LCD. On its own, this operates a quick menu, which provides rapid access to a few of the most often-used functions, including manual exposure and focus. The latter can be a little fiddly to operate with a joystick, but at least there’s an assist function, which magnifies the frame to help you with adjustment.
The quick menu also provides a speedy way to switching on the Pre REC function and Face Detection. The former keeps three seconds of video constantly buffered, which are then added to the clip when you hit record. The latter now almost universal function picks up human faces and uses them as reference for exposure and focusing. Most amazingly, access to manual audio levels is available, despite the lack of minijacks for an external microphone or headphones. There’s no accessory shoe, either, for attaching peripherals.
The range of settings is reduced compared to many Canon camcorders, too. We’ve gotten used to seeing virtually all Canon camcorders, even the budget ones, offering aperture and shutter priority modes, with a separate exposure control providing the next best thing to fully independent configuration of both settings. But the R18 doesn’t offer these, only the exposure control on its own.
White balance options include just single indoor and outdoor presets, plus automatic and manual. A 25PF progressive shooting mode can be called upon if you want to avoid interlacing artefacts. There’s a cinema colour option to go with it, although you can’t use this at the same time as scene modes. Most impressively, Canon has kept its image effects available. So you can make colour vivid or neutral, reduce sharpening, or soften skin tones. But the user-customisable setting of higher-end Canon camcorders is not available.
If you delve into the full menu, goodies like x.v.Color can be found. There’s flicker removal for 50Hz and 60Hz sources – great for shooting when there’s a TV in the background. For those not interested in manual configuration, the Smart Auto mode detects conditions and sets the scene mode accordingly, although there aren’t quite as many different modes as, for example, Panasonic’s Intelligent Auto.