Cheap and affordable midrange phones often have at least one problem – the camera is pretty basic with average image quality when taking pictures and even worse video quality and limited recording options. But upgrading your midrange phone to a flagship-class is also expensive and isn’t exactly the best decision if you want improved video recording capabilities. Sure there are high-end phones that can record in 4K but you can forget about zooming in and expecting decent image quality. Most phones don’t have hand straps and aren’t equipped with serious image stabilization technologies either making it a bit tricky to record smooth video while walking and keeping your hands still. This is why camera manufacturers still make entry-level camcorders and outfit them with these very features. In order to keep the price down, entry-level camcorders don’t really evolve that much. However, the Canon VIXIA HF R700 wants to offer a little bit more for the buck and it may pressure other camcorder manufacturers to do the same.
About the Canon VIXIA HF R700
The Canon VIXIA HF R700 is a part of Canon’s yearly tradition of announcing a bunch of new camcorders at CES. This CES 2016 was no different offering a range of VIXIA HF R models and some higher-end ones. Canon’s HF R lineup always consistent of three models with the one with the double zero suffix being the most affordable. The HF R700 is proof that Canon isn’t backing away from its trend and is already in its seventh generation. It also retains the same attractive $299 price tag when the R500 and R600 models launched.
Opting for the Canon HF R700 instead of the HF R70 or HF R72 means accepting a couple of sacrifices just to net the $100 savings. First the HF R700 has no internal memory so unless you have a spare SD card lying around, you need to set aside some cash to buy one. Fortunately, high-capacity 32 GB and 64 GB SD cards are pretty cheap these days and you don’t exactly have to buy the highest-end ones since the HF R700 is unable to record 4K video. Second, the Canon HF R700 doesn’t have any built-in Wi-Fi eliminating the possibility of wirelessly transferring videos to a smartphone or tablet for quick uploading or allowing a computer or mobile device to control the network-connected camcorder remotely.
Comparison with the Canon VIXIA HF R600
Even though both the HF R600 and HF R700 are pretty barebones models with similar specs, the R600 didn’t really do much to differentiate it from the much older R500. This time around, the Canon HF R700 offers a couple of real reasons to go for the R700 instead of the R500 even if the price is much lower.
The Canon HF R700 comes with a bigger battery which means better battery life. It isn’t exactly a new battery as Canon sells the BP-727 separately. Having this as part of the standard package is definitely a welcome addition. Due to the slightly heavier battery, adding it will make the HF R700 feel a tad bit heavier but nothing dealbreaking.
The 3.0-inch capacitive touch panel display has also received a small improvement. Although the resolution remains the same, the screen is far more visible when reviewed outdoors and the color reproduction looks good.
To make the HF R700 feel more like a fresher device to own, Canon overhauled the entire user interface. Icons look larger and more recognizable and looks friendlier for those new to Canon VIXIA camcorders. Deep in the new interface is a couple of new features too like Zoom Framing Assist which is a setting that you can use in both Auto and Manual modes. This is useful if you utilize the 57x zoom to its fullest. On an ordinary camcorder or older Canon model, it can be difficult to keep the subject in the frame especially if it is moving. The Zoom Framing Assist feature takes the form of an icon which you can tap to instantly zoom out so the subject is visible again. Then you can conveniently zoom back to the subject once spotted. There is also one new feature called Highlight Priority which is like a poor man’s HDR mode which alters the compression to make high brightness zones look a bit more detailed.
Even without the built-in Wi-Fi, the Canon HF R700 still has some nice tricks like the Advanced Baby Mode feature which is like a preset meant for keeping a journal of sorts on a baby’s development. It supports up to three kids and can be easily activated via a dedicated button. It will automatically pick the most optimal settings for recording children and turn on the “Pre-Record” function. This means that every time you press the record button, the camcorder will also include some footage a couple of seconds before the button was pressed. Any videos created with this mode are saved in a special baby album for easy access and you can use Touch Decoration to add some cool overlays such as the baby’s height, weight and birthday. It’s surprisingly polished for a feature that not everyone will use.
Performance-wise, there is nothing really new since the HF R700 has the same 3.28-megapixel CMOS image sensor for 1080p video, DIGIC DV 4 processor and 57x Advanced Zoom. Most beginners should be fine with the Intelligent IS setting which automatically picks the mode and image stabilization option for you depending on the shooting condition. Picture quality is pretty good just like its predecessor and can handle low light far better than a typical smartphone. The real difference is the battery which surprisingly increased the recording time to close to 6 hours.
• Nice battery and screen improvements.
• User interface looks fresh and more intuitive.
• Zoom Framing Assist is convenient.
• Same attractive $299 price.
• No Wi-Fi
• No improvements to the lens and/or internal processors.
The only reason to even consider an older model like the R600 is if you find a refurbished model (which could be priced under $200). But when it comes to comparing a brand new Canon VIXIA HF R700 to a brand new R600 sold at some store, the HF R700 is a better deal because finally Canon improved its entry-level model in more ways than one.
Update: There is a newer model > Canon VIXIA HF-R800