All the features which made the HF10 and 100 so popular here at TrustedReviews are still to be found on the HG20. Minijacks for microphone and headphone are built in, and there is an impressive level of easily accessible manual control available. Switching out of Easy, which configures everything for you, there are five different manual shooting modes available. The basic Program AE offers just brightness configuration, but there are also aperture and shutter priority modes to choose from. These enable you to set the iris between F1.8 and F8, and shutter from ½ to 1/2000th respectively. You can then use the brightness slider to provide quasi-independent control over the setting you haven’t configured directly.
The HG20 also offers Cinema mode, which sets the gamma curve for a more film-like look, with greater mid-tone detail. Unfortunately, you can’t use this in tandem with the priority modes. The fifth option is to choose a scene preset, with Portrait, Sports, Night, Snow, Beach, Sunset, Spotlight and Fireworks options to choose from. Progressive shooting mode is available, too. This uses the 25PF system, where the progressive frame is stored in an interlaced signal, allowing devices and editing software only compatible with 1080i to get the full benefit. Canon also provides Image Effects, from which you can choose Vivid and Neutral modes that boost or reduce saturation compared to the default. There’s a Low Sharpening setting, plus Soft Skin. Best of all, the Custom setting lets you adjust Colour Depth, Brightness, Contrast and Sharpening independently by plus or minus one increment.
One of the only downsides of the HF10 and 100 is also replicated on the HG20, unfortunately – the proprietary “S” Mini Advanced accessory shoe. This won’t support standard third-party attachments, instead forcing you to use Canon’s own peripherals. The HG20 also lacks a lens ring – hardly an uncommon omission, considering Panasonic’s HDC-SD100 and HS100 are the only consumer AVCHD models currently offering this control mechanism. So manual focusing relies on the joystick. This is aided by a Focus Assist system, which temporarily zooms in the LCD view by a factor of two during focusing. Once finished, the LCD goes back to showing the full frame. But even with this aid, manual focusing is a little fiddly.