With its own-brand lens heritage, Canon has been one of the biggest players in digital stills cameras for years. Canon camcorders have had a similar heritage in the past, but since the HF100 led the pack for technology, the company hasn't quite managed to get a winning combination of cost and features. Price has been a particular difficulty, so it's great to see the LEGRIA HF R26 available for £250. But this is not quite a rock-bottom budget shooter.
For a start, whilst camcorders in this price range often rely on a tiny 1/6in CMOS, the R26 offers a slightly larger 1/4.85in sensor, with 3.28Mpixels. Size does matter where a CMOS is concerned, as a larger unit means greater light sensitivity, although the R26 doesn't further enhance this with back-side illumination technology. Video recording is exclusively in HD, at data rates ranging from 5Mbits/sec to 24Mbits/sec, the highest available for the non-2.0 version AVCHD format that the R26 uses. The top two quality modes operate at Full HD, whilst the rest switch to anamorphic 1,440 x 1,080 instead, the same as the tape-based HDV format. You can also select either 50i or Canon's PF25 modes. The former is the standard interlaced format, whilst the latter records progressive video inside a 50i video format.
Despite being a budget camcorder, the R26 still incorporates 8GB of memory, which is a useful amount to get you started but will definitely mean upgrades will be required sooner rather than later. At the top quality setting, the camcorder only has room for around 45 minutes of footage on board. Fortunately, the R26 also offers two SDXC-compatible SD card slots. With 64GB media in each, a total of 136GB would be possible - enough for nearly 13 hours of top-quality footage.
Being a budget model, the R26 isn't exactly brimming with features, but it does have enough to put it above the bargain basement. There's a healthy 20x optical zoom, which can be boosted to 28x in Advanced mode. This crops into the frame slightly, taking advantage of surplus pixels, so doesn't degrade image quality like a traditional digital zoom. Unfortunately, the image stabilisation is somewhat budget-oriented, being electronic rather than optical. It does at least offer a Dynamic mode, which can compensate for the kinds of motion caused by shooting when walking. But it's not particularly effective at smoothing out the higher-frequency vibrations in handheld footage shot at a high zoom factor.
The R26 unsurprisingly doesn't have a lot for the enthusiast, considering its budget orientation. There's no accessory shoe or microphone input. However, the AV output doubles as a headphone jack, and you can even adjust audio levels. There's also a fair range of settings available in manual mode. Focus can be adjusted either using the increasingly popular touch method, or onscreen buttons. Meanwhile white balance options offer the usual range of automatic and manual settings, with presets for artificial and sunlit conditions.