Canon HF11

A case of deja vu.

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Canon HF11
  • Canon HF11
  • Canon HF11
  • Canon HF11

Pros

  • Exceptionally sharp image quality, lots of manual features, improved 24Mbps bit rate

Cons

  • Too similar to previous model, joystick ill-suited to manual control

Bottom Line

If you already own the HF10, there is next to no reason to make the switch to the HF11. Everyone else, on the other hand, would do well to seek this camcorder out.

Would you buy this?

The HF11 is a high-definition camcorder that records AVCHD video to SD/SDHC memory cards. It is Canon’s second stab at a camcorder with removable flash memory, and there are no prizes for guessing which model it replaces (for the numerically challenged, it’s the HF10). The new version shares much in common with its nine month old predecessor, including the same 1/3.2in CMOS sensor, an effective pixel count of 2070k, a 12x optical zoom and a near identical appearance. In fact, so similar are the two models, Canon probably should have called this camcorder the HF10.5.

To be fair, the HF10 was such an impressive performer that there really isn’t much room for improvement. Though it fails to bring anything new to the table, the HF11 is easily one of the best camcorders in its price range, exhibiting exceptionally sharp video and an extensive array of manual features. With superb image quality (including support for 'full' 1080p HD), advanced audio capabilities and inbuilt flash memory, it will suit both casual shooters and serious videographers alike — just like the HF10. In other words, the best just got marginally better.

So what does the HF11 actually offer that’s new to justify its existence? Perhaps the most notable change is the amount of onboard memory, which has been boosted from 16GB to a more generous 32GB. This will net you around 12 hours of video at the highest possible quality. (Naturally, the recording time can be boosted further via the SDHC/SD memory card slot.) Another significant improvement — on paper at least — is the maximum AVCHD bit rate, which has been increased from 17 megabits per second to 24Mbps. This is supposed to translate to superior video quality, though we were hard pressed to tell the difference.

In terms of video performance, the HF11 is every bit as impressive as the HF10, which gave one of the best performances we’ve seen from a consumer-level camcorder. In optimum lighting, our test footage exhibited stunning true-to-life colours and razor-sharp detail. The 3.3-megapixel, 1/3.2in CMOS sensor did a reasonable job of combating noise levels, though it naturally works best in bright environments (a front-mounted light can be activated for nocturnal shooting).

Like the HF10, the HF11 doesn’t skimp when it comes to audio quality. In addition to its front-mounted microphone, it sports a pair of mic and headphone jacks, as well as an accessory shoe compatible with Canon external microphones. The audio level can also be manually adjusted via the camera's miniature directional stick. Once again, Canon has opted to place the stick on the outer side of the LCD cavity. While we generally prefer a back-mounted joystick, it shouldn't pose too many problems during operation. With that being said, we would have liked to have seen a control dial implemented for certain manual functions — we found that the joystick was far too fiddly to adjust focus, for example. Oh well, perhaps this will be remedied on the HF12.

The HF11 strikes the right balance between size and portability. While bulkier than some of its competitors (such as Panasonic's HDC-SD9), it should still fit comfortably into most jacket pockets and will not weigh you down while shooting. We were also impressed with the overall look of this camera: despite adopting a familiar shape and colour scheme, it manages to stand out from the crowd thanks to its exceptional build quality.

So there you have it. The HF11 can be viewed as a nominal upgrade that offers more inbuilt memory — and precious little else. While we would have liked see some additional polish, it remains a top class camcorder.

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