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Canon Legria HF20 review



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Canon Legria HF20
  • Canon Legria HF20
  • Canon Legria HF20
  • Canon Legria HF20
  • Canon Legria HF20
  • Canon Legria HF20
  • Canon Legria HF20
  • Legria HF20 Digital Camcorder (Flash Memory - 16:9 - 6.9 cm 2.70" Active Matrix TFT Colour LCD - 15x Optical/300x Digital - 32 GB Flash Memory)


Our Score:


Canon has changed its HD camcorder strategy in 2009. Where the 2008 models were all essentially variations on a theme, the new Legria range has split in two. One half is even higher end, represented by the HF S10, while the other half is intended to be more mainstream and affordable. Our first taste of this more modest division is the HF20.

Where the HF S10 is bigger and more packed with features than any of Canon's previous Flash memory-based offerings, the HF20 is slightly smaller. It is 40g lighter and a few millimetres shorter in each dimension, but this reduction in size has come at the expense of an important internal specification - the sensor. The HF20's 1/4in CMOS is considerably smaller than any Canon HD camcorder produced until now, but it's relatively high resolution, with 3.89Mpixels, although only 2.99Mpixels are used when recording video.

Unlike the HF S10, the extra sensor pixels aren't harnessed for a digital telephoto, but the optical zoom is already a healthy 15x, thanks to the smaller sensor. Image stabilisation uses an optical system, too, which is more effective than digital methods.

So the HF20 is not the leap forward in specification of the HF S10. It lacks the manual control wheel on the lens, too, but it does have some features in common with its premium cousin. For a start, there's the same quick access to a selection of frequently used settings. Simply push the joystick up to scroll through the options, which range from toggling the built-in LED video light and backlight compensation to controlling mic levels.

You can also turn on or off the face detection system. Without the HF S10's control wheel, the joystick is used for manual focusing, too. The HF20 does still include a focus assist system, which zooms the LCD as you adjust so you can get a closer look. However, there are no peaking or alternative methods to further aid focusing. Fortunately, Canon's Instant AF is one of the quickest autofocus systems in the business.

Canon's now-familiar 'Function' button puts the HF20's various modes just a few finger presses away. In addition to the standard 'Program' mode, there are aperture and shutter priority options, plus 'Cine', which alters the gamut for more film-like colour. Finally, there is the usual array of scene presets. Priority modes can be used in tandem with the exposure setting to provide quasi-independent control over both shutter and aperture.

Ken Dublin

April 18, 2009, 8:56 pm

Thanks James for telling it like it is!

First review that's answered all my questions...HF11 here I come!!

James Morris

April 19, 2009, 2:08 am

Glad to be of service!


April 20, 2009, 10:05 pm

I'm been considering camcorders at around 𧽂 and narrowed my search to ...

Panasonic HDC-SD200

Canon HF10

With low light performance being important your Canon HF20 review makes it clear the Canon HF200 is not an option.

Buying 16GB Class 6 memory for the HDC-SD200 at 㿅 I don't see as an issue.

Which camera would you recommend?

James Morris

April 21, 2009, 7:31 pm

@Derek Have you considered the Canon HF100? You can still pick that model up for a very keen price. The Panasonic HDC-SD200 should beat it (just) in low light, but it's also more expensive.


April 27, 2009, 8:42 pm

Hi James, and thanks for the really helpful reviews. I have been sitting on the fence for a while now, but need to get on with making a purchase. I must confess to finding the naming hierachy confusing so don't always end up comparing like for like, but got to the point of choosing the HF11, working on a budget of 𧾦. Is there anything else I should consider (particularly Sony as I can get a friends and family discount that amounts to around 20%)

Many thanks

James Morris

April 28, 2009, 4:58 am

Well, if you can get 20% off Sony, hold off until Saturday. I finally have something to show you! It might change your mind.


May 1, 2009, 8:53 pm

OOOOhhhhh - do tell. It's nearly saturday.......

James Morris

May 2, 2009, 9:14 pm

It's Saturday now!

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