The LEGRIA HF G30 is the top of Canon's consumer camcorder range. It's very pricey, but offers features that push it firmly towards the serious end of the scale, including comprehensive manual settings and a sensor lifted from Canon's professional range. The question is, do the features and image quality justify the high price?
The G30 is based around the latest spin of Canon's Advanced HD CMOS Pro, a sensor that has been specifically tailored for enhanced video performance. This is a relatively large 1/2.84-inch unit with a gross 3.09 Mpixels, of which 2.91 Mpixels are used when shooting video. Strangely, the extra Mpixels over the 2.07 required for Full HD are not harnessed for any sort of advanced zoom, although at least the optical zoom is an already healthy 20x.
However, the extra Mpixels will be called upon for the Intelligent IS with Advanced Dynamic Mode. This is a hybrid of optical and digital stabilisation. The primary mode is optical, but the digital addition allows more powerful vibration reduction. In auto mode, this detects shooting conditions and sets itself accordingly. There's dynamic option for general handheld work, powered for extreme zoom, and a macro mode.
A tripod mode (essentially with IS turned off) kicks in when the camcorder has been stable for an extended period. This is particularly handy when doing smooth pans or tilts, as IS can make these jerky when you perform them on a tripod. Panasonic's HYBRID OIS, which uses similar technology, is slightly more effective, but Canon's IS is still excellent.
Footage is recorded exclusively to SD card with no internal memory provided. However, there are two SDXC-compatible slots. You can set these up so movies are recorded to one but stills to the other, or you can record to both at once, creating an automatic backup. There's a relay mode as well, where the camcorder will automatically switch slots when the card in the first one is full, without dropping a frame.
A wide range of shooting modes are available, with both AVCHD and MP4 options. The AVCHD 2.0 options range from 5Mbits/sec at 1,440 x 1,080, to Full HD at 17 and 24Mbits/sec, and then a 28Mbits/sec 50p Full HD mode as well. You can record uncompressed LPCM audio with the top two quality modes, too.
The MP4 options are even more extensive. There's a 35Mbits/sec 50p Full HD mode, plus 17 and 24Mbits/sec Full HD at 25p. But you can also capture at 720p with a 4Mbits/sec data rate, and 640 x 360 at 3Mbits/sec. You can also choose between 50i interlaced and PF25 progressive frame rate options, although only with AVCHD, as MP4s are always progressive.
Conversely, in MP4 mode only you can enable a 2x high-speed recording or 0.5 slow recording. Effectively, this means 50p footage is recorded at 25p, giving twice the playback speed, and 25p footage recorded at 50p, for frame-perfect slow motion. You could create these effects with 50p footage during editing, but the second of these modes means you can record 50p footage at an effective 48Mbits/sec, so image quality will be better.