Canon Legria HF21 Full HD camcorder

A midrange flash memory-based camcorder with good image quality and features

Canon Legria HF21
  • Canon Legria HF21
  • Canon Legria HF21
  • Canon Legria HF21
  • Expert Rating

    3.75 / 5


  • Impressive high-def video quality, solid array of modes and features, 64GB inbuilt memory


  • Video performance struggles in low light, no 'Easy' button for novices

Bottom Line

The Canon Legria HF21 is a solid workhorse of a camcorder that ticks most of the right boxes. On the other hand, it doesn't do much to distinguish itself from similarly priced rivals.

Would you buy this?

The Canon Legria HF21 is a Full HD flash memory–based camcorder aimed primarily at casual users. With an RRP of $1699, the Legria HF21 is significantly cheaper than Canon’s high-end efforts yet still hovers above the entry-level mark. Its video performance is acceptable for the asking price, with an impressive array of manual modes and consumer-friendly features. In short, it’s a good, solid camcorder that does the basics well.

As its name implies, the Canon Legria HF21 is a minor refresh of the Canon Legria HF20. In fact, both cameras are so similar to each other that we probably could have copied and pasted our HF20 review and gone down the pub for the afternoon. Sigh. You see how dedicated we are? [Oi! Stop moaning and get back to work — Ed.]

The Canon Legria HF21 records high-definition video in the AVCHD flash memory format. It sports the same 1/4in CMOS sensor, 15x optical zoom lens and gross 3890k pixel count as its HF20 predecessor, along with most of the same modes and features. Canon has made some minor tweaks to the camera’s low light performance and doubled the onboard memory to 64GB. (Naturally, this makes the HF21 a bit heavier to handle, but not to any detrimental degree.)

With dimensions of 70x62x124mm, the Canon Legria HF21 isn’t the smallest flash memory camcorder on the market. Nevertheless, it should still squeeze into a handbag or jacket pocket without too much hassle. The HF21’s glossy black finish is synonymous with the Canon Legria brand — which is to say, it’s stylish but kind of characterless. Mind you, with the exception of Sanyo’s pistol-grip Xacti range, the same thing could be said about every camcorder on the market.

For menu selections, Canon has stuck with a traditional joystick interface. If you’re a member of the hip, happenin’ iPod brigade, the lack of a touch screen is sure to rub you the wrong way. That said, the directional joystick is well positioned and remained responsive throughout testing; it also cuts down on ugly fingerprints on the LCD.

The HF21’s menu boasts a respectable range of options, including adjustable shutter speed, exposure and aperture, a range of white balance presets, 11 scene modes (including Underwater, Low Light and Fireworks) and manual focusing. Other noteworthy features include an x.v.Color mode (for ultra-vibrant colours), a focus assist tool, a Soft Skin mode for flattering flesh tones, individual colour sliders and the obligatory face detection. Rather sportingly, Canon has also included microphone and headphone jacks on the Legria HF21, which many of its costlier rivals lack.

A unique feature offered by the Canon Legria range is Video Snapshot mode. This is a beginner-friendly tool that records video in four-second bursts. The clips can then be automatically merged into a montage via inbuilt editing software, resulting in a slick highlights reel. While it obviously won’t suit every occasion, Video Snapshot is a great way to get fast, punchy results with minimal effort. Mind you, we think most casual users would have preferred an Easy button, which is sadly absent.

Like most consumer-level camcorders, the Canon Legria HF21 is best used in sunny, outdoor environments. We previewed our test footage on a Pioneer KURO PDP-C509A307112 plasma TV and were fairly satisfied with the results. While it fails to meet the lofty standards set by Canon’s Legria HFS11, its output remains sharp, with plenty of detail and colour in well-lit subjects.

As expected, the HF21’s undersized sensor struggled in low light, with an ugly amount of grain creeping into the picture. It should prove satisfactory for occasional night use (especially when the focus assist lamp and Night Mode are activated), but frequent nocturnal shooters may want to look elsewhere.

The Canon Legria HF21 can store up to 24 hours of video on its 64GB memory drive (or around 12 hours at the highest quality). This can be bolstered by an additional 48 hours courtesy of an inbuilt SD memory card slot; though you’ll need to purchase the SDHC media separately.

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