Videomaker's 2009 Best Memory Card Camcorder: Canon VIXIA HF S11 AVCHD Camcorder Review

View all of the best consumer video production products of 2009, selected by the editors of Videomaker

The dust hasn’t even begun to settle around the impact crater created by the entry of Canon’s Vixia HF S10 onto the battlefield, and they have already unleashed the Vixia HF S11. Armed with the same great features as its predecessor and a few high-impact improvements, the Vixia HF S11 promises to hit the prosumer market with explosively successful results.

Out of the Box

With the delicate touch of trained munitions experts, we removed the package’s protective wrappings, revealing the contents. The device itself is a thing of beauty. Nicely compact and weighing in at barely one pound, it is the epitome of modern stealth technology. The Vixia HF S11 Dual Flash Memory Camcorder is accompanied by a battery pack, a compact power adaptor, a stereo video cable, a wireless controller (battery included!), a USB interface cable, a component cable and a Video Solution disc containing a variety of useful applications.

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Killer Features

Despite its small size, the Canon Vixia HF S11 packs a plethora of devastatingly cool features. Dual Flash Memory allows you to capture video both to the roomy internal 64GB Flash memory and to a removable SDHC memory card.

The Canon 10X HD video lens captures images brilliantly in full HD optical quality, while the HF S11’s Dynamic SuperRange Optical Image Stabilization technology assures steadier shots, no matter what you’re shooting, or how. This is particularly critical with HD video’s hi-res images. Stunningly beautiful hi-def images record in full 1920×1080 resolution, at the highest AVCHD bitrate of 24Mbps, via a single 1/2.6″ 8.59 megapixel full HD CMOS image sensor. Canon’s DIGIC DV III image processor is responsible for the excellent image quality, true color reproduction and exceptional low light performance.

As part of the testing process, we took the HF S11 on a field trip to the grand opening of the new Fine Arts building at a local community college. We shot a wide variety of colors and backgrounds, slow and fast movement, reflective surfaces and varied lighting conditions. From a dimly-lit theatre to the brightly-lit white walls of a contemporary art gallery, we were very pleased with the camera’s performance.

Images (both video and still) were gorgeous, colors brilliant and true, audio clear and strong. Camera movement was minimal due to the Dynamic SuperRange OIS technology, and the results under low light conditions were very nice. Instant Auto Focus and Focus Assist were instrumental in achieving a razor-sharp focus.

Simultaneous Photo Shooting is a handy feature that allows you to capture photos on the fly while shooting video, without skipping a beat. The mini advanced accessory shoe terminal is a pro-level feature that allows you to attach a number of optional accessories, such as the RA-V1 remote control adaptor. The RA-V1 provides a LANC terminal for connecting a wired remote control device (Canon’s ZR-1000 or ZR-2000, for example) for those times you may want to use your Vixia HF S11 with a tripod. The built-in electronic lens cover is a very handy feature that provides critical lens protection without the potential loss of a lens cap.

The Advanced Video Snapshot mode lets you create four-second video clips you can then play back in-camera with pre-loaded background music, while Night Scene mode is a welcome improvement to low light shooting. The result is better video “noise” reduction and greater clarity, with those pesky neon and other artificial lights from buildings, billboards and bridges all recording beautifully, without the usual overexposure issues.

War Room Wrap

Its many prosumer and professional-level features and benefits make Canon’s Vixia HF S11 a great new addition to the videographer’s production arsenal. It’s sure to become the weapon of choice for many who are on the front lines of today’s video production wars. As one of my daughters commented repeatedly many years ago at the firing demonstration of a civil war cannon, “Ready, aim, fire, BOOM!”

Tech Specs

Media: 64GB internal flash, 1 SD/SDHC card slot

Data Format: AVCHD

Image Sensor: One 1/2.6″ CMOS, 8.59 megapixels total, 6.01 megapixels effective

Interchangeable: No

f-Stop: 1.8-3.0

Zoom: 10X optical

Focal Length: 6.4-64mm

Filter Diameter: 58mm

Focus: Auto/manual

Maximum Shutter Speed: Video -1/2000;Still -1/500

Image Stabilization: Optical

Manual Shutter Speed Control: Yes

White Balance: Auto, manual, presets

Direct Iris/Gain Control: Aperture-priority AE

Zebra: Yes

Viewfinder: No

LCD Monitor: 2.7″; 16:9

Frame Rate Modes: 60i, PF24, PF30

HD Focus Assist: Peaking, b&w

Color Bar Generator: Yes, SMPTE

Audio Modes: Dolby Digital Stereo

Mic Input: 3.5mm stereo mini-jack

VU Meters: On-screen display

Level Controls: In menu

Headphone Jack: Yes

Speaker: Yes

Analog Video In: No

Analog Video Out: Composite, component

FireWire In/Out: No

USB (for file transfer): Yes

Other Video Out: HDMI

Wireless Remote: Yes

Battery Charging: On camcorder

Media Slot: Behind flip-out display

Onboard Video Light: LED

Accessory Shoe: Mini advanced shoe

Strengths

  • Large internal Flash drive (64GB)
  • Additional Flash storage via SDHC card slot
  • Full HD recording
  • Highest quality AVCHD (24Mbps)
  • Night Scene mode

Weaknesses

  • No viewfinder

Summary

Moderately priced, Canon’s Vixia HF S11 is a powerful choice for video producers looking to make their mark on the professional video landscape.

Mark Holder is a video producer and trainer.

Canon USA

1 Canon Plaza

New Hyde Park, NY 11042

www.usa.canon.com

$1,400

The Videomaker Editors are dedicated to bringing you the information you need to produce and share better video.