Good feature set, well designed interface, 2 memory card slots
Touch screen could have been better, low battery life, default mode for video recording is low quality, no support for SDXC cards, price is a bit high as compared to other camcorders.
The Whiz Kid Speaks:
Canon Vixia HF S20 is a 1080p camcorder with 200x digital zoom, it has total of 8.59 megapixels, optical sensor size is 1/2.6 inch, minimum illumination is 0.3 lux, analog video format is NTSC, Digital Video Format is AVCHD, Special Effects include Custom Effect, Vivid, Neutral, Skin Detail, Low Sharpening. Digital Scene Transition effects include Sepia fader, Wipe fader, Black and white fader, Minimum Shutter Speed is 1/2 second, maximum shutter speed is 1/2000 sec, Shooting Programs include Beach, Snow, Sunset, Low light, Fireworks, Spotlight, Sports mode, Night mode, Portrait mode. White Balance options include Presets, Automatic and Custom.
White Balance Presets include Shade, Daylight, Cloudy, Tungsten light , Fluorescent light (cool white), Fluorescent light (daylight). Exposure Modes Program – Shutter-priority, Automatic, Aperture-priority. Exposure Metering options include Evaluative, Spot, Center-weighted. Images are stored in JPEG format, supported resolution is 1080p and 1080i. Resolution options for image storage are JPEG 3264 x 1840, JPEG 3264 x 2456, JPEG 1920 x 1440, JPEG 640 x 480, JPEG 1920 x 1080.
The camcorder has Zoom lens – 6.4 mm – 64 mm – F/1.8-3.0 with focal length of 6.4 mm – 64 mm and Lens Aperture of F/1.8-3.0, 10x optical zoom. Minimum focal length 6.4 mm, maximum focal length is 64 mm, Minimum Focus Range 0.4 inch. Additional features include Additional Features Direct print, Dolby Digital AC-3 (2 channel) recording, 24p Cinema Mode, Face detection, Relay Recording, Contrast control, Built-in speaker, Histogram display, Brightness control, Sharpness control, PictBridge support, Video Snapshot mode, Saturation control, Accessories hot shoe, Touch-screen control, Progressive scanning, YouTube capture mode, Backlight compensation, USB 2.0 compatibility, Digital tele-converter, RGB primary color filter, HD-to-SD downconversion, Touch & Track technology, Display brightness control, Face-priority AF function, 5.1 channel surround sound ready, Scene Detection Technology, Takes photos while movie recording ,
Canon Vixia HF S20 is heavier than other camcorders that we have previously tested but it still feels quite comfortable to hold in the hand. The device is compact and hence will easily fit in a jacket pocket. The rubber covering on the outside give you better grip on the camcorder.
Previously, I got Vixia HF S1x series in my labs but that was about an year ago and it didn’t have an electronic viewfinder. You cannot live without an EVF if you are a pro. Due to the Canon Vixia HF S20’s high resolution screen, the on screen buttons are really big and the interface is quite user friendly. You can view the screen well in direct sunlight too but you will have to find a sweeetspot because it is a bit reflective and shiny. Our only gripe with regards to the interface is the menu system which is a bit frustrating. Firstly, the scroll area is located on the inside edge so the screen is blocked by the hand when you scroll. Secondly, the screen supports multitouch gestures and hence it is difficult to move an entry at a time. While testing, I frequently scrolled pass the feature that I wanted to select and there were lots of wrong entries selected. I am sure you will get on with it fine after some acclimation but I still recommend you to try it before purchasing the Canon Vixia HF S20.
The electronic viewfinder or the EVF has a low resolution but still it is better than having nothing. Both the HF S200 and HF S20 offer this. The location of the diopter makes it a bit annoying to use, you will have to strain your eyes and you need to keep a good control over your fingers too.
Canon Vixia HF S20’s zoom is pretty nice and it helped me keep a steady rate of zoom. There were a few bouts of frustrations when the autofocus was wrong about the subject but once the subject got locked, the camcorder performed well. One reason behind this is the fast AF but accuracy is the trade off for zippy speeds.
Canon Vixia HF S20’s default video quality is one step above the lowest version – the 7 mbps mode of 1,440×1,080 pixels. You might start shooting out of the box, then look at the quality and say that it is poor. You will have to tweak up the settings up before you start shooting. We don’t know why the manufacturer did this; they could have put something like the second best mode of 17 mbps full HD mode. The best quality is 24 Mbps.
The manufacturer says the sensor in the Canon Vixia HF S20 is tweaked for improving the performance in low light conditions and the processor too is enhanced so that the purples and blues are better rendered. We tested this in our labs and the video of sky indeed looked better. Video quality is quite good in decent light conditions. I will say it is sharper than what you have in the competition but the difference is not drastic. The camcorder did struggle while reproducing the deep pinks and reds but overall, the color quality was quite pleasing. In conditions of low light, the exposure gets brighter and the colors too look saturated as compared to Sony but there is a bit of noise in the video. However, as compared to last year’s models, the quality is definitely improved. Audio quality is excellent too.
I took some photos from the Canon Vixia HF S20 and found that they look processed. However, they are still better than interpolated stills from low resolution sensors of Panasonic and Sony. I would recommend you to click in the photos mode only because in the video mode, the stills look noisy.
I would recommend the Canon Vixia HF S20 for both professionals or video enthusiasts. The latter might not need a few manual controls like Zebra stripe level choices, shutter speeds below 1/15 second and hence they might say that the price is too high. There is another model in this series, the HF S200 and I would recommend that to you, if you don’t need EVF.