Canon Legria HF20 HD flash memory camcorder

Full HD flash memory-based camcorder with 32GB of inbuilt memory

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Canon Legria HF20
  • Canon Legria HF20
  • Canon Legria HF20
  • Canon Legria HF20

Pros

  • Good image quality in optimum lighting, 3.5mm microphone jack, speedy 24Mbps AVCHD bit rate

Cons

  • Poor low light performance (compared to the Canon HF11), slightly cumbersome and uncomfortable design

Bottom Line

The Canon Legria HF20 is a decent high-definition camcorder with some interesting features on board. Unfortunately, it is trumped by its HF11 sibling; an identically-priced model that offers a superior low-light performance.

Would you buy this?

The Canon Legria HF20 is a midrange camcorder that records high-definition video in the AVCHD flash memory format. Falling somewhere below the Canon HF11 and Canon HF S10, it can be viewed as an affordable alternative to the company’s high-end offerings. The Legria HF20 digital video camera comes with 32GB of inbuilt storage and a 15x optical zoom lens, along with many of the modes and features that made its HF11 predecessor such a success.

However, its components have been significantly downgraded compared to the HF11, leading to a slump in image quality. While it’s still capable of taking great looking video, the HF11 definitely has it beat. And here’s the rub — with an RRP of $1699, the Legria HF20 is exactly the same price as its superior sibling. Why anyone would choose this camcorder over the HF11 is beyond us. Nonetheless, it remains a very impressive camcorder in its own right, provided you use it in optimum lighting.

The main difference between the HF11 and Legria HF20 is probably the new CMOS sensor; which has shrunk from 1/3 of an inch to a more conservative 1/4in. Both camcorders sport an identical gross pixel count of 3890k (3.89 megapixels). What this essentially means is that the Legria HF20 has to cram the same amount of pixels into a smaller area; leading to higher noise levels. This was especially noticeable in our low-light tests, where graininess quickly enveloped the picture. Canon has included an inbuilt video light and a dedicated night mode to help alleviate this problem, but its performance still falls short of the Canon HF11. On the plus side, colours remained sharp and accurate in optimum lighting, with plenty of fine detail in complex areas. Provided you stick to bright and sunny environments, the Legria HF20 will not disappoint.

With dimensions of 770x62x124mm, the Canon Legria HF20 is smaller than the HF11, yet it is still fairly bulky for a flash memory-based camcorder. Its glossy black finish is very attractive, with a subtle glitter effect that does a good job of camouflaging fingerprints. The right-hand side of the camera has an unusual ‘stepped’ appearance that sticks uncomfortably into the palm. This could start to get painful over prolonged periods, so beware if you’re planning on lengthy shoots. Otherwise, we had no qualms with the way the camcorder handled, with the zoom rocker, record button and shutter all within easy reach.

For menu navigation, Canon has once again stuck with a traditional joystick interface, despite the growing popularity of LCD touch screens. Novice users will also be disappointed by the absence of an Easy button, as found on most of the HF20’s competitors. In fact, it would seem that Canon is ignoring the casual user altogether with this camera — which is weird, given that they’re supposed to be the target audience.

For hands-on users, the Legria HF20 comes with a decent array of options. While there are no full manual modes available, it allows you to adjust shutter speed, exposure and aperture (from f/1.8 to f/8.0) and also comes with a handy focus assist tool. We were also very happy to see a pair of external microphone and headphone jacks on this camera. This is something that some vendors are beginning to remove from their mid-range offerings (as seen in the Sony HDR-XR200 and Panasonic HDC-HS20-K).

As mentioned above, the Canon Legria HF20 comes with 32GB of inbuilt flash memory, along with an SD/SDHC card slot for additional recordings. This will net you up to 12 hours of HD video; courtesy of the maximum AVCHD bit rate 24 megabits per second (24Mbps).

All up, the Canon Legria HF20 is a decent high-definition camcorder with some interesting features on board. Unfortunately, it is doomed to remain second fiddle to the identically-priced HF11 until Canon yanks it from the market. We recommend you get the HF11 while you still can.

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