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Canon Legria HF S21 - Performance and Verdict

By James Morris


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Review Price £859.00

Further enhancements have been made to the stabilisation modes. Like many other manufacturers, Canon has added more powerful image stabilisation on top of the standard implementation. The Dynamic mode improves slow shaking, whilst the Powered mode does a better job when the vibrations are more violent. Strangely, unlike Panasonic's new stabilisation system, the most powerful option isn't always the best overall, since the Powered mode is not as good as the Dynamic one for mild undulations.

All the usual enthusiast features are present and correct, including minijacks for headphones and an external microphone. However, whilst an accessory shoe lurks under a sliding door, this is Canon's "S" Mini Advanced Shoe, so won't accept standard peripherals. The Legria HF S21 is quite a large camcorder in its class, weighing 100g more and measuring 10mm extra in each dimension compared to Panasonic's HDC-TM700. This doesn't make it any less comfortable to use, but we'd recommend using a dedicated camcorder bag rather than stuffing it into a general one.

Although it has the same sensor and image processing engine as the Legria HF S10, the HF S21 shows slight improvements in image quality. In the best lighting, there's no discernible difference, and performance is equal to or better than any other consumer camcorder currently available. But the image looks marginally brighter in low light compared to the previous model. The picture is still slightly darker than some competitors, in particular Panasonic's HDC-TM700 and JVC's Everio GZ-HM1. However, the HF S21's 25PF mode allows the shutter to drop to 1/25th even in auto mode, for a noticeably brighter image than the competition, with no sign of extra grain.


Fortunately, the most important thing the Canon Legria HF S21 doesn't have in common with the HF S10, at launch, is price. It's still on the costly side, coming in at around a grand. But this is much closer to the competition, making the HF S21 a much keener option. Whilst we'd still opt for Panasonic's HDC-TM700 due to its exceptional manual control, thanks to its lens ring, the HF S21 comes close in most other respects.

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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!


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.


James Morris

July 27, 2010, 2:59 am

@Ripsnorter Thanks!


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!


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?


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:


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!


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!


September 23, 2010, 7:18 pm


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


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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