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.