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First Look: Canon's 2009 VIXIA camcorders

updated 07:15 am EST, Mon January 12, 2009

Canon 2009 camcorders

Canon launched its 2009 VIXIA line this year at CES with several storage options that range from pure flash to hard drives to MiniDV. The line-up includes the HF S10, a 32GB internal flash memory camcorder with an external SDHC slot, the HF S100, the HF S10's cousin which lacks the internal flash memory, using only an SDHC slot for storage, the HF20, offering 32GB internal flash memory and an SDHC slot, and the HF200 is similar to the 20 without the external SDHC slot. All four flash-based models get built-in face detection, which alerts the auto-focus mechanism to track people's faces and they all record at 24Mbps, the fastest bitrate possible for the AVCHD format.

Canon has one new MiniDV tape-based HD camcorder, the HV40, which gets a custom-function button and 24p/30p frame rate choices. It has an awkward feel in the hand compared to the flash-based camcorders in Canon's lineup, but the controls work well, and the menu systems are easily navigated. Canon will continue to sell the HG20 and HG21 hard drive-based camcorders from last year's line.

The HF S10 and HF S100 arrive with a Digic DV III 8.59-Megapixel CMOS sensor, delivering the full 8-Megapixels when shooting still images and deriving 1080p video as well. The S10 only differs from the S100 in having 32GB of internal flash memory; the two are essentially the same externally. Both offer a comfortable grip with logically located controls for zooming the 10x lens and recording video. The zoom switch is just slightly jumpy, but should be easily adjusted to with regular use, and menu controls are easy to read and navigate on the LCD viewfinder (there are no optical viewfinders on any of the new models). The HF S models have a custom function key, and a built-in 1.7x teleconverter, that nearly doubles the reach of the zoom optically, with the flick of one switch.

The HF20 and HF200 offer 15x zoom ranges in bodies that are lighter than the HF S series, but not quite as ergonomic, and lacking the 8-megapixel CMOS sensor. The HF series has a 3.89-Megapixel DIGIC DV III CMOS sensor, that delivers 1080P video, but only 3.3-Megapixel still images. The HF bodies feel slightly less ergonomic along the edges, but have good control placement and good menus. They're marginally lighter than the HF S series, with a longer zoom range.

The new models are due in late March to early April. The HF S10 will retail for $1,400, the HF S100 for $1200, the HF 20 will be $1,000 and the HF200 bows at $850. The HV40 has not been priced yet; the HG20 is $900, while the HG21 is $1,300.

HF S10

HF S100

HF 20


by MacNN Staff



  1. godrifle

    Joined: Dec 1969



    God, why are these writers suddenly using "bows" in articles and headlines. I think they've got it confused with "debut". Strangely.

  1. vasic

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Street prices 20% lower

    The retail pricing is a bit steep and will of course be cheaper.

    Canon has so far consistently outperformed even Sony with overall image quality and usability with their AVCHD line. This year is finally seeing 24Mbps bitrate across their entire line.

    Now, if only Apple's iLife 09 had support for burning Blu-ray formatted DVDs, we could have taken Steve Jobs's statement about 2007 being the year of the HD seriously. As it stands, we still need a third-party (meaning, extra $$$) tool to export our footage recorded in AVCHD (and edited in iMovie 09) into Blu-ray format for burning on (ordinary recordable) DVD-R and playback in HD on a Blu-ray player.

    It is so disappointing to see the majority of consumer camcorders go HD (and tapeless), and Apple not providing a solution for creating and delivering HD content (other than to AppleTV). How am I supposed to send my HD home movies to my father-in-law?

  1. vasic

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Bows - debuts


    You should look at Hollywood Reporter. Every day, there are about at least a dozen articles about new movies in which these films 'bow' in one way or another (at $20m on first weekend; to 1,200 theatres nationwide, etc). It seems that the word has an accepted meaning in certain entertaitnment circles.

  1. clith

    Joined: Dec 1969


    HG21 owner on negatives

    Got an HG21 late last year. Disappointed by the lack of 720p. Disappointed that 24p and 30p are software-generated from 60i input.

    Why no progressive recording at all?


  1. vasic

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Anogue output

    Most current HD camcorders (AVCHD, or HDV) that support 24p or 30p (or 25p in EU) encode this frame rate inside a 60i telecine pulldown. The only reason I can see so far is because of its analogue standard-definition output feature. Both US and EU models output in SD (US in NTSC, EU in PAL), and these obviously need to be in proper interlaced framerate, regardless of the framerate in which video was captured. Therefore, they capture and immediately encode with the pulldown. When editing, you need to do the inverse telecine, hoping your software will properly recognise the telecine cadence and extract the superfluous frames.

    Hopefully, one day, they'll offer a camcorder without a SD analogue output, and progressive framerates will actually be recorded progressively.

  1. cmoney

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Re: Bows

    Macnn writers are diehard thesauri users. Bows isn't so bad, but they've also 'outed' products which has a different connotation to most people.

  1. martinX

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Zoom presets

    The HF S10 has Variable Zoom Speed Control: "you simply select one of the four zoom speeds (three pre-set, one variable) for smooth, steady, professional-looking zooms." so the writer need not worry about jumpy zoom controls. I suppose this really is a first look...

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