Canon is one of the biggest players in the DSLR camera market and that fact wonít change any time soon. While it is natural for newer DSLR camera models to boast better image quality and overall camera performance than its predecessors, Canon is also beefing up the video recording features so professional photographers can also use the same DSLR camera to practice their videography skills. Recording video with a good DSLR camera turns out to be a good experience and the overall video quality is significantly better than high-end smartphones and point-and-shoot cameras. But does this spell the beginning of the end for dedicated camcorders? For Canon, apparently not yet because the company continues to make new and exciting camcorders like the Canon HF G20.
The Vixia HF G20 looks a lot like the Vixia HF G10 released 2 years before this G20. Compared to most of the other Vixia models, the Canon HF G20 definitely looks cooler because of that detachable lens hood. The main purpose of the lens hood is to prevent any unwanted flare coming from external light sources. This lens hood can be used even if you want to use a Canon filter.
Although the Vixia HF G20 is positioned as a high-end model, this camcorder isn’t so much heavier than the typical consumer camcorders. If you need a camcorder full of features and manual controls but don’t like the added bulk, the Canon HF G20 is definitely a camcorder worth trying out.
The 3.5-inch LCD display easily pops out like any standard camcorder although doing this can also quickly start the camcorder so you can start recording video immediately. Canon made a strange decision to go for a resistive touchscreen so menu navigation is pretty clunky. Fortunately, the touchscreen can respond to touch inputs even if you are wearing gloves. There are still some buttons on the side including a new prerecord button which replaces the G10’s Powered IS button. If the screen glare gets in the way, you can also use the electronic viewfinder. The viewfinder’s eyecup has also been redesigned and it resembles the one that the professional Canon XA10 uses.
Compared to its predecessor, there are no new game changing features in the Vixia HF G20 so forget about upgrading to the G20 if your G10 is still functional. But the existing features are not outdated by any stretch so they are still worth mentioning here.
The Canon HF G20 is a top performer in low light situations and it even exceeds the G10. The G20 features an upgraded HD CMOS Pro Image Sensor with higher sensitivity so more light can be captured. The sensor is also responsible for the wide dynamic range and good sharpness. To help with the noise reduction and color accuracy, the G20 uses the DIGIC DV III image processor. Generally, the Vixia HF G20 should perform like a high-end DSLR camera and the way the camcorder is designed should give you added comfort. Battery life is also pretty decent as it should take around 2 hours of continuous video recording and you can increase that further by purchasing a higher-capacity battery. The only thing that this camcorder is behind in is its inability to record 60p video.
The biggest weapon that the Canon HF G20 has in its arsenal lies in its manual controls. All you have to do is flick the switch to manual mode and you can play around with various controls without worrying about the touchscreen. There is a focus ring that conveniently activates the focus assist mode. This mode doubles the magnification of the subject so you can better capture the subject and retain all the details. This is the kind of feature that you would normally find in professional camcorders. Although this ring isn’t customizable, three of the available buttons can be assigned a manual function. The matching dial lets you make certain adjustments including the shutter speed and aperture. You also have greater control over the white balance as there are 6 available presets along with 2 manual settings. Color temperatures can be adjusted from as low as 2,000K to 15,000K. Other nice pro-level features that Canon added to the Vixia HF G20 include a waveform monitor that highlights the image brightness and color peaking.
The Canon HF G20 has 32 GB of internal flash memory which should be enough for around 12 hours of high-definition video. You can greatly expand the memory capacity by adding two SD, SDHC or SDXC memory cards. The Relay Recording feature lets the Vixia HF G20 treat the separate storage areas as one so recording won’t be interrupted even if the internal memory is out of space providing that another memory card has some spare space.
While professionals are sure to enjoy the manual controls, the Canon HF G20 is still a fun camera to use for hobbyists that want to make cinema-style videos. There are a set of Cinema-Look filters that replicable commonly used scenes in movies such as “Dream” which gives the scene a flashback look or “Dramatic B&W” which is a black and white mode that increases the contrast and grain. Combined with the great low light performance, the Vixia HF G20 is a fun camcorder to use for recording dramatic scenes.
The Canon HF G20 has a fairly high price of $1,099 but it is actually cheaper than the G10 when it first launched. This shows Canon’s willingness to cater to consumers that don’t want buy a bulky professional camcorder like the Canon XA10. Just bear in mind that much of the stuff you will be getting out of this price is performance and manual controls. You don’t get any of the extra stuff found in many new camcorders like Wi-Fi, GPS and 3D support. Canon has these features in their mid-range camcorders so you can go for those if you are willing to accept the tradeoffs. But for now, the VIXIA HF G20 is a great professional camcorder that is compact and has unmatchable low light performance.
Update: There is a newer model – Canon HF G40