Predicting when Canon will release their new camcorders is pretty easy now. That’s because Canon decided to announce both their budget Canon VIXIA HF R50 and HF R60 camcorders at CES 2014 and 2015 respectively. It’s a pretty growing trend for these consumer electronics companies to tell the world that digital camcorders still have a place in people’s lives even though smartphone cameras are getting progressively better every year. But no matter how good the app ecosystems get, no phone beats a good old camcorder with a 57x optical zoom. The pattern continues with CES 2016 when Canon announced the Canon HF R70.
About the Canon VIXIA HF R70
The Canon VIXIA HF R70 is once again part of a family of three Canon VIXIA camcorders just so consumers get to decide how important certain features are or if they just want to save money. It is the middle child of the trio and retains the $399 launch price. Basically, the HF R70 is the model to pick if you want a Canon camcorder with built-in Wi-Fi and/or internal memory for the cheapest price possible. Canon decided to stick with the same design possibly because it works just fine and would really make the older models feel obsolete especially once you get to know some of the minor but significant improvements under the hood.
Comparison with the Canon VIXIA HF R60
The Canon HF R60 was a little bit disappointing because it offered very few new features. Compared to 2014’s HF R50, only NFC and compatibility with a new accessory served as the extra features. This time around Canon made several welcome refinements to make the Canon HF R70 truly the upgrade R50 owners have been waiting for.
The main theme surrounding the HF R70 is eliminating the need to buy extra stuff to make the budget camcorder more capable. It starts with the internal memory where R50 and R60 users had to deal with 8 GB of internal memory which meant buying an SD card to at least double the capacity. The Canon HF R70 has 16 GB to boot and the dual SD cards option still remains. Considering the fact that there is no increase in price, it is definitely a welcome improvement.
The HF R70 also has slightly better battery life and Canon didn’t really have to do anything other than including the BP-727 battery pack that has been selling for years rather than the BP-718 battery that came with the R50 and R60 models. This makes the Canon HF R70 roughly 20 grams heavier but it is hard to notice and still ends up being a welcome improvement since the extended memory capacity generally means that you’ll have more time to spare recording a video. Plus, the BP-727 costs $130 at Canon’s online store so it is nice to know that an upgrade is no longer needed unless you require a spare.
A few improvements that you can never enjoy in older models can be found on the Canon HF R70 as well. This includes an improved LCD display. The display still measures 3 inches with the same 230k-dot resolution but the display panel itself has been upgraded making improving outdoor visibility even under direct sunlight. When turning the camcorder on, you will also notice a revamped interface with larger icons and easier menu navigation.
Finally, the HF R70 introduces a refined Zoom Framing Assist setting which is meant to track moving subjects. This feature can be used in both auto and manual modes. The rest of the specs including the 3.28-megapixel sensor, DIGIC DV4 image processor and lens remain the same.
The Wi-Fi module built-into the Canon HF R70 is primarily about offloading recorded videos to your iOS device so you can then upload it to the Internet from there. The Canon Movie Uploader app for iOS makes it all possible. It does have some limitations though like the inability to upload 60p MP4 videos or any form of AVCHD recordings. It is also surprising that there is still no Android version. Fortunately, many of the more modern Android phones can easily pair with the HF R70 thanks to the built-in NFC. Touching the camcorder with the NFC-enabled smartphone is all it takes to establish a connection so you can use the CameraAccess app to remotely control the camcorder or use the live streaming features. This app is available for iOS too. PC users do not have to install any app since you can control the Canon HF R70 straight from the Web browser. The Canon Image Gateway service remains alive and well providing a simple means to upload stuff to social networking sites.
If you are having a hard time deciding between the MP4 and AVCHD formats, you can opt for both if you have an SD card inserted and don’t mind a slight drop in quality (35 Mbps/28 Mbps isn’t supported).
Canon once again didn’t improve the internal specs of the HF R70 so you can expect the same video quality and low light performance as the aging Canon HF R50. It isn’t disappointing by any stretch compared to a smartphone because the 57x Advanced optical zoom does open up a lot of possibilities but it would have been nice to see some slight improvements in that department too. Then again, the price is unchanged. Those that are contented with the video quality on smartphones should also remember that the Canon HF R70 has an optical image stabilizer allowing for smoother video even if your hands aren’t so steady. As for the battery life, you should be able to record around 5 to 6 hours which is a remarkable improvement over the 3-hour battery life of its predecessors.
• Improved screen.
• Improved battery life.
• Double storage capacity over predecessor.
• Still $399.
• No improvements to video quality or zooming capability.
• Design might bore existing Canon fans.
• Still no Android version of the Canon Movie Uploader app.
Even though budget camcorder growth is getting stagnant, Canon managed to cram some very welcome improvements in the Canon VIXIA HF R70 all without increasing the price.
Update: There is a newer model > Canon VIXIA HF-R80