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Canon Legria HF S21 review

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9

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A couple of years ago, Canon was setting the benchmark for HD camcorders, with the seminal HF10 and its derivatives. But the 2009 Legria selection fell between two stools. The HF S10 was too costly at launch, and the HF20 didn't have the same image quality as Canon's 2008 models. So now we're well into 2010, can Canon's latest high-end offering, the Legria HF S21, redress the balance?

The new model has a lot in common with the HF S10. In particular, it's built around the same large 1/2.6in CMOS sensor with a gross 8.59-megapixels, 6.01-megapixels of which are used for video and 8.02-megapixels for still images. Canon doesn't add any interpolation, so the maximum still image resolution is 3,264 x 2,456 pixels. There are no changes to the recording formats available, either. The HF S21 records Full HD AVCHD at 25 frames/sec up to the top rate of 24Mbits/sec. An interlaced signal is used, but Canon's 25PF mode is available to encode true progressive frames within.

With so many excess pixels available for shooting video, Canon has put them to good use with its Digital Tele-Converter. This adds an extra 1.7x multiple to the relatively modest 10x optical zoom, for a much more impressive 17x total. Unlike a pure digital zoom, the Digital Tele-Converter doesn't involve a loss in resolution, although there are also 40x and 200x digital zoom options if you do feel you can tolerate this. But we wouldn't advise it.

Whilst the core specification is the same, there are key areas of improvement with the new model. The on-board memory has been doubled to 64GB, and there are now two SD Card slots instead of one, both of which support SDXC. So the maximum storage available would be 192GB, with both slots populated. Even at the top video data rate, that would be enough storage for 18 hours of footage.

The LCD has also grown from 2.7in to 3.5in, with 922,000 pixels of resolution, and acquired touchscreen capabilities. In tandem with Canon's Multiangle Vivid LCD technology, the display is clear and viewable even in quite bright conditions. And when it isn't, there's now an electronic viewfinder available as well, which extends from the rear sufficiently for comfortable usage.

Ripsnorter

July 26, 2010, 2:02 pm

@James Morris - Excellent review and you had me biting my nails down to the wire as to how the Canon stacks up against the Panasonic HDC-TM700!

Mike337

July 26, 2010, 11:59 pm

A few questions:


1. Is it true that the LEGRIA HF S200 and HF S21 are completely identical apart from the HF S21 having inbuilt memory and a viewfinder? If thats the case I would probably buy the HF S200 as its slightly smaller, lighter and £300 cheaper!





2. Does the HF S21 (and/or HF S200) do 1080p on the highest quality "MXP mode" by default or does it do 1080i and we have to switch on "CINE mode" or something to get progressive video?





3. Are you 100% certain that HF S21 (and i guess HF S200 since they're meant to be identical) support SDXC cards? It doesn't mention it at all on canons website. It would be a definite deal breaker for me if they don't support SDXC.





Thanks.

James Morris

July 27, 2010, 2:59 am

@Ripsnorter Thanks!





@Mike337





1: as far as I know, the S200 is as you say the S21 minus the viewfinder and on-board memory.





2: No Canon camcorders record "native" 1080p. Instead, they record 25PF to a 1080i signal. So you have a signal which can be read by 1080i equipment, but internally the lines are scanned progressively. The 25PF mode can be selected independently of CINE mode, unlike most Panasonic HD camcorders.





3. Good question. There have been a lot of reports that the S21 and its siblings do in fact have SDXC-compatible SD card slots, but Canon lists them as SD/SDHC. I will have to ask Canon to clarify and get back to you, as although I still have the camcorder until Friday I don't have any SDXC cards to try in it!

Mike337

July 29, 2010, 7:31 pm

@James Morris


Thanks for answering those questions. Were you able to get any word from Canon clarifying the situation regarding SDXC card support in the S21 and S200?

supersalva

September 22, 2010, 5:17 pm

Hi all,





I checked a lot on the intenet in order to solve the SDXC compatibility dilemma and I found this page of the Canon USA site:





http://www.usa.canon.com/cusa/...





Here you can download a firmware update for the VIXIA HS S21 in order to make it compatible with SDXC cards.





Now, the question is still open, because I suspect that all of us here in Europe cannot install such firmware, since VIXIA and LEGRIA differ for all the PAL 50i/NTSC 60i issues, and such firmware may be SPECIFIC for the VIXIA model...





I tried to ask to Canon Italia but they are not able to even understand my questions. I would appreciate if TrustedReviews can solve the firmware update enigma with Canon UK or USA and getting some declaration about if/when such firmware will be available for Legrias in Europe...





Best regards!

supersalva

September 22, 2010, 5:32 pm

I want to add to my comment that, to my knowledge, SDHC and SDXC are perfectly compatible slots (they are the SAME slot). The difference just lies in the operating system software: drivers for SDXC cards read file names and directories in a different way with respect to drivers for SDHC cards (SDXC drivers can addres a whopping 1 Terabyte of data so they allow for larger directory structures than SDHC drivers), so the entire problem is related to the possibility to have a firmware update, because the whole physical/electronics is the same.





You will notice that the software update for VIXIAS has been released on 8/31/2010, so it is really a fresh novelty... just 22 days ago! If you click on the filename you get this description: "Allows commercially available SDXC memory cards to be used". Let's wait for the European version!

supersalva

September 23, 2010, 7:18 pm

Hi,





I want to share with you that I have contacted Canon USA in order to ask them if their firmdate supprots just the VIXIA version of the HF S21 camcorder or both the VIXIA and LEGRIA variants.





I am so happy to report you that the answer is YES: we old-world Europeans can get our SDXC memories on the LEGRIA, too!!!





Here is their answer, verbatim (I just erased email headers and Canon representative's name):





"Thank you for contacting Canon product support. We value you as a Canon


customer and appreciate the opportunity to assist you with the firmware


update for your Legria HF S21 (Vixia HF S21).





Actually, this firmware supports both the Legria and the Vixia


camcorders. The link you had would be the one to use to update your


camcorder.





I hope this information is helpful to you. Please let us know if we can


be of any further assistance with your Canon HF S21.





Thank you for choosing Canon."

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