Sometimes new models of cameras arrive heralding new and exciting technologies or breakthroughs, signaling the next great leap forward in video production greatness. Much of the time however, new models arrive with little fanfare and relatively minor improvements over their predecessors.
Canon’s VIXIA HF G20 falls into this latter category, as a comparison of its features and specifications with those of the earlier G10 reveals little in the way of change other than a claimed 20 percent improvement in low light performance and a significantly lower starting price than the G10. That isn’t to say however that the G20 doesn’t have merit. While it may not represent a groundbreaking upgrade, it certainly has packed a great many highly desirable features into a compact high-end consumer camcorder design at a reasonable price.
What’s In The Box
The VIXIA HF G20 camcorder comes with a lens hood (with lens barrier), battery pack, power adapter, wireless controller, stylus pen, USB cable for connecting to your computer, stereo video cable, Mini HDMI cable and CD-ROMs containing Pixela Video Browser and Photo Applications.
A Quick Survey
The VIXIA HF G20’s build is good and solid with a suitable amount of weight. It fits the hand well, is easy to hold and has good balance. The lens hood has a manual, integrated lens barrier, a very nice upgrade over the typical lens cap. A large, manual focus ring surrounds the lens and sits just ahead of the twin built-in microphones.
The 3.5-inch flip out LCD monitor features touch screen navigation. The monitor’s bezel contains two user assignable buttons for convenient access to frequently used functions.
The battery slides in the back from underneath. Unfortunately, an attached tripod adapter plate would cover the battery release switch making it impossible to change batteries while the camera is attached to a tripod.
Also at the rear are a custom button and wheel for quick adjustments to exposure compensation, auto gain control limits (AGC), adjusting manual exposure, shutter speed or aperture (depending on the current recording program selected) and audio recording levels.
Puttin’ It to the Test
The VIXIA HF G20 records at up to 1080/60i to a built-in 32GB flash drive, then with dual SD card slots and the relay recording mode, SD cards can take over automatically when the built-in memory is full. Having full control over manual settings, focus assists such as magnified focusing, an edge monitor and peaking options (red, blue, yellow highlights with or without black and white) as well as exposure assists in the form of zebra patterns (70 or 100 percent) and a waveform monitor are extremely welcome features for the advanced shooter.
In tests we found the visual quality of the VIXIA HF G20 to be exceptional. It is capable of capturing very fine detail in textures and complex images. Excellent color reproduction, broad dynamic range and the ability to focus selectively, add to the appeal of the VIXIA HF G20. Of course rolling shutter is an issue, as with any CMOS-based system, but it isn’t excessive. The onboard mics are actually pretty good, producing warm, full audio, though one must be very careful of handling noise, as these guys are very sensitive. We detected no noise at all however while zooming or focusing.
Sometimes you simply don’t have time to set all the manual adjustments so to check out the auto functions as well as its low light capabilities we set the VIXIA HF G20 on auto and went for a drive through town after sundown. With only street lights, headlights and rapidly dwindling residual light from the sky to light our way, the result was surprisingly bright with very little noise. Color reproduction was very good and the image stabilization system is obviously top notch as the bumps and bounces were kept to a minimum (we rode a 1983 Firebird Trans Am – hardly the smoothest ride around).
While the VIXIA HF G20 may not represent a huge leap forward in camcorder technology, Canon has certainly packed quality and features into a compact, affordable package that should appeal to beginners and advanced shooters alike.
VIXIA HF G20: $1,100
Image Sensor: 1/3-inch CMOS Pro, RGB Primary Color Filter
Total Pixels: Approx. 2.37 Megapixels
Effective Pixels: Approx. 2.07 Megapixels (1920×1080)
Lens Zoom Ratio: 10x Optical; 40x/200x Digital (Movie mode only)
Focal Length: 4.25-42.5mm (35mm equivalent 30.4 – 304mm)
Zoom Speed: Variable, Constant: Fast, Normal, Slow (16 steps in each mode)
Maximum F/Stop: f/1.8-2.8
Recording Format: MPEG4-AVC/H.264
Focusing System: Instant AF, Medium AF, Face Priority AF, TTL (through the lens)
Manual Exposure: Yes
Max Shutter Speed: 1/2000 second
White Balance: Auto, Set 1, Set 2, Custom (2000K to 15000K in 100K increments), Daylight, Shade, Cloudy, Tungsten, Fluorescent, Fluorescent H, Manual
Frame Rate: PF24*, PF30*, 60i, 24P (*60i recording)
Minimum Illumination: NTSC Auto mode 1.2 lux; Low Light mode 0.1 lux
Image Stabilization: Dynamic and Standard SuperRange Optical (lens shift), Powered IS, Intelligent IS
Filter Diameter: 58mm
Viewfinder: .24” color widescreen viewfinder (Approx. 260,000 dots; Approx. 100% field of view)
LCD Screen: 3.5” Touch Panel Widescreen Color (Approx. 922,000 dots)
Recording Media: Built-in 32GB memory, SD/SDHC/SDXC (2)
Accessory Shoe: Mini Advanced Accessory Shoe
Outputs: Mini-USB, component, composite, Mini HDMI, 1/8” (3.5 mm) stereo mini mic jack, AV mini/headphone terminal
Audio: AVCHD Satisfied: Dolby Digital 2 Channel (AC3), 5.1 channel optional
Dimensions(WxHxD): 3.0” x 3.1” x 6.3” excluding lens hood and grip belt
Weight: Approx. 1.4 lb. (620g.) including battery (BP-808), memory card (x1) lens hood and grip belt
- Excellent video quality
- Focus assist: magnification, peaking, edge monitor
- Exposure assist: zebras, waveform monitor
- Built-in neutral density filter
- Unable to change batteries while attached to tripod
- No 60p recording
For quality images with loads of manual features including focus and exposure assists check out Canon’s VIXIA HF G20.
Contributing Editor Mark Holder is a video producer and trainer.