A compact camcorder with a huge zoom and Full HD capability, but what's the quality like?
Canon’s new range of HD camcorders is littered with confusing numbers and names, as it’s long too, and it includes a staggering 17 different models. Confused? We don’t blame you, but it’s simpler than it looks, essentially boiling down to five different series of camcorders, each with different sizes and types of sensors. The models within those ranges are mostly differentiated by the amount of integrated storage.
Thus, the Canon Legria HF R28 is all-but identical to the R26 and R206 models, but with 32GB of integrated storage, as opposed to 16GB and none. Bizarrely, the R28 is currently the cheapest of the lot, so obviously that’s the one we’d choose. It also comes with the same dual-SD card slots as models further up the range, giving you flexible upgrade options.
The R28 and its kin have smaller CMOS sensors than the M-series Canon we reviewed recently, but the specifications look just as impressive.
From its 1/4.85in (0.21in) sensor it produces 1080/50i footage at a high bit rate of 24Mbits/sec, there’s a long 20x optical zoom, and it even has the same Dynamic image stabilisation as the more expensive models in Canon’s range. This combines optical and electronic approaches to image stabilisation to give smoother results than with optical or electronic alone.
The lack of a viewfinder, accessory shoe and microphone input came as little surprise at this price, but there are compensatory factors. The touchscreen is a good one, sporting 230,000 pixels and a 3in diagonal, and the 3.5mm AV output can double as a headphone connector to let you monitor audio levels from the integrated stereo microphone.
A camcorder stands or falls by its video quality, however, and here the R28 falls behind its main rivals. The image stabilisation system isn’t as effective at maximum zoom as Panasonic’s equivalent system, jittering about much more when zoomed in. In low light, we saw a huge amount more noise from its footage compared to either the M-series or Panasonic HDC-SD90.
The lack of a 50fps progressive mode also puts it at a major disadvantage when compared with the Panasonic; panning shots and fast-moving subjects don’t look nearly as silky. Under close inspection, even footage shot in good light looks less clean and crisp.
With such a large gap in quality you’d expect the Canon Legria HF R28 to be far cheaper than its rivals, but alas that’s not the case either; in fact it comes in at roughly the same price as the Panasonic HDC-SD90. That camera may lack the 32GB storage of the Canon, but we’d sacrifice storage for superior quality every time.