Canon VIXIA HF R21
Finding a compact digital camcorder that balances price and quality can be a bit difficult because there are so many manufacturers that are trying to get the attention of aspiring video recording enthusiasts. Compact digital camcorders come in all shapes and sizes with the smallest and trendiest models often sacrificing the quality of the lens and that is good for some people that want to store some precious memories. When it comes to that type of quality, Canon is a trusted candidate and it offers a series of compact digital camcorders that basically look like miniaturized versions of the flagship models. The Canon VIXIA HF R-series models are lightweight and have few tricks to offer. The Canon VIXIA HF R21 is an upcoming 2011 model that will redefine the series because of the various improvements over the R11 that it intends to replace.
Design and Interface
The Canon HF R21 basically looks the same as the R11 because changes are not necessary in this comfortable and lightweight device. The R21 weighs less than any of the M-series models and those compact camcorders were already considered lightweight so travelers will appreciate the portability.
One thing that does look different is the screen. The 3.0-inch LCD display is larger than the R11′s display allowing 230,000 dots to be viewable which is good for playing back previously recorded videos. There are also less buttons found on the display because Canon wants to push their touchscreen interface to everyone.
Canon was very proportionate about the improvements in the VIXIA HF R21. Since the screen received a size improvement, Canon decided to give the image sensor a spec bump too. The quality is increased significantly as it uses the improved Full HD CMOS Image Sensor. The R21 can immediately record Full HD 1920 x 1080 video without relying on interpolation. This 3.2-megapixel sensor also means that the camcorder can take 1920 x 1080 still images too. These images and videos can then be viewed on and HDTV through an HDMI cable where 1080p outputs are finally a possibility.
The overall image quality is passable for an entry-level device. It uses the same DIGIC DV III Image Processor that powers many VIXIA devices so those difficult blue and purple shades reproduce well. It is also responsible for putting the Smart Auto feature within reach so image optimizations occur automatically and the exact optimization method used depends on the scene that the camcorder accurately detects so minimal user intervention is necessary.
The HF R21 actually holds an advantage over the midrange M-series by offering more zooming power. The 28x optical zoom capabilities allow many creative possibilities. Recording using the maximum zoom levels can be tricky because of the shaking but the basic Dynamic IS system reduces these shakes and vibrations to exceptional levels. Regardless of the setting, subjects look pretty sharp because of its aspherical lens.
Higher quality videos take up additional space making them not the best format for all people. But sacrificing the quality is optional because the 32 GB internal flash memory is good enough to store around 4 hours of 1920 x 1020 video at 17 Mbps or nearly 3 hours at 24 Mbps. If that is not enough, the 2 SD card slots can be used to add to the internal memory incase that area becomes full. There are no fancy settings to worry about either because the R21 knows how to move on to another storage medium if the internal memory is full. The recording experience is unaffected completely thanks to the Relay Recording technology. The two SD slots make it a great upgrade for R11 owners and the added SDXC compatibility opens up the support for 64 GB SD cards and beyond.
Touch screens are always fun to use and the Touch Decoration feature makes it more enjoyable. This feature allows users to add some personalized customizations directly from the camcorder so there is no need to learn complex video editing software. Users can quickly add bubbles, shooting stars, or any freehand drawing creations that can spice up the video. The Smart Auto mode does the same enhancements to the scenes that it detects and it adds a new Tele Macro mode to allow better close-up shots.
The $499 price tag is a generous price tag considering the fact that R11 started at a $700 price tag. The improvements are evenly distributed from the touchscreen to the improved image sensor and storage options. This pretty much puts the camera in-line with the M-series as long as the camcorder won’t be used for professional purposes.
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