The digital camcorder business is far from dead as top manufacturers like Canon continue to pump out new flagship models like the Canon VIXIA HF G30. But even the feature-rich camcorders are facing threats from multiple fronts especially if you consider the HF G30’s $1,699 price tag. You can now spend that money on a decent DSLR camera with fairly high-end video recording features or you can step into the prosumer category and get a bit more serious with something like the older Canon XA10 which has the same price tag. You cannot also count out the other heavy competitors that still make digital camcorders. But even with intense opposition, the Canon HF G30 still manages to carve a path to the demanding consumer thanks to its rich set of features and improvements.
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The design of the VIXIA HF G30 is actually enough to address the DSLR camera situation completely. It shares a similar design to the HF G20 making the G30 significantly more comfortable for long recording sessions compared to handling a DSLR. It is also more convenient to use the camcorder’s electronic viewfinder since you can tilt it up to 45 degrees. While you are using the viewfinder, you can operate a joystick using your thumb so you can actually record video and adjusting using one hand. Just bear in mind that the Canon HF G30 weighs close to 2 pounds which is a bit heavier than the G20 since the G30 has a superior lens. Attaching the included lens hood not only makes the camcorder look cooler but it also prevents the lens from being exposed to stray light. Like the HF G20, the HF G30 features a 3.5-inch display but the display in the G30 is significantly superior as it uses an OLED panel. Previewing videos on this display is a very pleasant experience because the increased 1,230,000-dot resolution helps reproduce very clear video with great color accuracy and improved viewing angles. Plus, the screen is more responsive to touch inputs which is important if you will use the touch controls to adjust the exposure or focus on an area.
The Canon HF G30 is also taking a swing at the other competing camcorders by offering full 1080p 60p support along with the ability to record 35 mbps MP4 videos. Combined with a larger 2.91-megapixel Canon HD CMOS Pro image sensor, the video quality surpasses its predecessor and moves even closer to Canon’s prosumer models. Low light performance is very good and the refined DIGIC DV 4 image processor enhances the overall output quality even further by reducing noise. This processor is even powerful enough to handle the Dual Recording feature which allows the camcorder to record both AVCHD and MP4 formats simultaneously. Of course, the Dual Recording feature can quickly eat up storage space and unlike the G20, the HF G30 doesn’t have any internal flash memory. But what the Canon HF G30 does have is a pair of memory card slots so you can easily insert 2 64 GB SDXC cards so you can record about 4 hours of 35 Mbps video or about 46 hours of 3 Mbps video. It is best to utilize the dual memory card slots since Dual Recording can save the AVCHD video files in one SD card while saving the MP4 files in the other. This is useful if you need to retain the high quality format but also need the MP4 file for quick web sharing. You no longer have to worry about manually converting the AVCHD file to MP4 using a separate computer software. The Relay Recording feature which has already been present in many Canon VIXIA camcorders is still available if you would rather have the camcorder treat both memory cards as a single storage so you can continuously record video even if the first memory card runs out of space. The lens of the HF G30 has been improved as well allowing you to optically zoom up to 20x which is pretty impressive for a high-end camcorder and you can use the focus ring to conveniently focus manually as well. The aspherical lens technology helps keep the chromatic aberration at low levels while the super spectra coating technology handles ghosting and flare. To make sure that you can record video at longer focal lengths without getting so affected by handshakes, the camcorder comes with SuperRange Optical Image Stabilization. Some attributes of the Canon XF camcorders are also present in the Canon HF G30 including the Hi index Ultra Low Dispersion technology and 8-blade circular aperture. This basically means that this camera is all set for professional recording and it has the manual controls to keep professionals busy. The last major feature that the HF G30 offers is built-in Wi-Fi which allows the camcorder to connect to a wireless hotspot for sharing video. It can also connect to any iOS device with the free Canon Movie Uploader app installed. This app makes it easy to upload videos online. What is most impressive about the built-in wireless LAN is the support for 5 GHz dual-band allowing very fast HD video transfers. It is also possible to remotely control the Canon HF G30 over Wi-Fi using a standard Web browser which means that PCs, smartphones and tablets can all utilize the recording features.
The Canon HF G20 was already an impressive camcorder at the time of its debut and the HF G30 ups the ante in just about every possible respect. It feels more comfortable than a DSLR and it is just as capable as a larger prosumer camcorder thanks to the support for 1080p 60p video and improved lens and internals. The screen is absolutely gorgeous and the Wi-Fi features really add a new dimension to video recording creativity and video sharing. All of this comes at a price that is significantly more than the G20 and it is definitely a price worth paying if you want all the cutting edge features in a small package.
Update: There is now a newer model – Canon VIXIA HF G40