Camcorders have recently shifted to a niche category because of the ongoing onslaught of smartphones It is hard to argue the versatility of a modern smartphone right now. The latest devices including midrange models are very capable of recording 1080p video while the cutting-edge flagships are looking to dominate the 4K format. Then there is the app ecosystem that allows these devices to do something with your videos or share them online in all sorts of different ways. This type of video recording approach isn’t perfect though. The small sensor sizes, miniaturized lenses and rectangular form factors do introduce compromises that aren’t apparent until you actually use a dedicated camcorder. This is why Canon is still strong with the VIXIA HF camcorder lineup and even continues to make very basic models like the Canon VIXIA HF R600.
About the Canon VIXIA HF R600
The Canon VIXIA HF R600 is the base model of Canon’s recent update to the entry-level VIXIA HF family effectively replacing the Canon HF R500. Like the R500, the Canon VIXIA HF R600 has two pricier siblings – the R62 and R60. Both of these models come with built-in Wi-Fi, NFC and internal storage while the Canon HF R600 lacks them. The good news is the rest of the features are the same and that includes all of the recording capabilities. Basically, if you want to go the more traditional route and prefer buying your own memory, the Canon VIXIA HF R600 can net you quite a bit of savings. Compared to the 32 GB Canon VIXIA HF R62, the R600 costs $150 less. The price stays comfortably at $299 making it cheaper than a midrange unlocked smartphone and these smartphones tend to have poor video recording capabilities.
While the 3-inch capacitive touch display might seem inferior to those HD 5-inch displays featured on phablets, it can articulate allowing you to record more comfortably at different angles. Of course the comfortable grip adds stability too making it far more pleasant to record for longer periods of time. You also have dedicated buttons for common operations like recording and the touchscreen is quite responsive too. But being an entry-level model, the manual functions are quite basic and there are no physical controls linked to these functions.
Comparison with the Canon VIXIA HF R500
Canon made a new family of VIXIA camcorders to bring very minor improvements to the previous models. For the R62 and R60 models, the main addition was the added NFC functionality to make Wi-Fi connectivity a bit easier for Android users. But the HF R500 and HF400 models didn’t have any Wi-Fi functionality since they are priced far lower than the camcorders with Wi-Fi and the Canon VIXIA HF R600 continues that streak. This means that adding NFC to this camcorder is pointless. Canon kept the specs of the R600 the same too so it can be considered as a rebrand of the R500. Current owners of the R500 should take note. The only minor improvement is slightly improved battery life.
Canon is one of the few companies that believe that basic camcorders can still coexist with the Wi-Fi enabled ones. Canon is right because unlike smartphones and tablets, Wi-Fi isn’t exactly an essential feature. Video recording is the main feature after all and there are no apps that you can launch to access Internet services. It does mean that the Canon HF R600 lacks fancy functions like remote viewfinder and instant sharing to Facebook or YouTube but not everyone is willing to spend extra for that. Basic users still have the old-fashioned approach thanks to the mini-USB port for data transfer to a computer and HDMI out so you can hook up the camcorder to the TV for big screen previewing.
Since the Canon VIXIA HF R600 doesn’t have any internal memory, you have to buy an SD card. This can be viewed as a good thing because you shell out $30 for a speedy Class 10 64 GB SDXC memory card. That bumps your total bill to $329. That’s 8 times the storage space of the Canon VIXIA HF R60 without the Wi-Fi feature but you still save around $70. It also eliminates file storage confusions as not so tech-savvy users will know that all the videos are stored in a single external location. So if you want to copy all of your videos to a computer for backup or editing purposes, you can take out the SD card and put it in the computer’s SD card slot without worrying about any videos stored elsewhere.
Since the Canon HF R600 houses the same 3.28-megapixel Full HD CMOS sensor and DIGIC DV 4 processor as the HF R60 and HF R62, the Canon VIXIA HF R600 offers a better price-to-performance ratio. You can take great 1080p video at 60 frames per second in MP4 (35 Mbps) format. This is the recommended format for uploading videos to the Web or making edits. The AVCHD Progressive format is also available with a max bitrate of 28 Mbps where the quality is better due to the superior codec although the file sizes are bigger. This is the best format for archiving.
Video quality is pretty good even under low light conditions. One of the more enjoyable bits of the camcorder is the 57x Advanced zoom which lets you get really close to the subject without moving. For the best quality you can limit yourself to the 32x optical zoom. Putting the camcorder on a tripod gives you very stable footage but even without it, the SuperRange Optical Stabilizer helps compensate for unintentional camera shakes. There, a Program mode that offers limited onscreen manual controls but the Auto setting works just fine in detecting the right scene preset.
• Great 1080p video quality for the price.
• Cheaper than the R60 and R62 models which both have the same internal specs.
• Slightly longer battery life than the R500.
• Limited feature set makes the camcorder easier for newbies to pick up.
• Doesn’t deviate much from the Canon’s past two entry-level models.
Canon VIXIA fans are likely to yawn at the Canon VIXIA HF R600 for the lack of innovation. But the price of the Canon VIXIA HF R600 remains attractive and it easily beats popular smartphones like the iPhone 6 Plus in video quality. Add a 64 GB SD card and you can do a ton of things with this camcorder.
Update: There is a newer model > Panasonic HF-R800