Finally, a good-enough HD camcorder: Canon iVis HG11/HG21

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Canon is releasing two new camcorders that record in AVCHD at 24 Mbps, the maximum bitrate for AVCHD.
The main difference between them is that one uses 32 GB of flash storage, while the other uses 120 GB of hard drive storage.
Both support an external SDHC slot (and you *can* shoot video to SDHC using the hard-drive model) for both video and still pics, which are 1920×1440.

I’ve been waiting a long time for an affordable, decent-quality HD camera.
The old, tape-based (HDV) camcorders had excellent quality, but only 1440 horizontal resolution (1920 compressed to 1440 and then expanded back to 1920 for playback).
Tape is also very slow.
The more recent AVCHD cameras have lots of good features, but the basic video quality has always been lower than that of HDV.

This increase to the maximum bitrate allowed for in the AVCHD spec should finally allow it to apprach and maybe surpass HDV in terms of quality.
Note also that AVCHD can play directly in most Blu-ray players.

See also: Engadget Jul 22 2008
HDCamcordersBlog Jul 25 2008
Digital Cameras (pics) Jul 27 2008 Aug 7 2008
CamcorderInfo Aug 7 2008
Electronista Aug 7 2008 Aug 8 2008 Aug 8 2008 Aug 9 2008 Aug 12 2008

Update 1: Added more sites to the list of links above the specs.

Update 2: There is now an official Canon USA page
for the camera.

Update Fri Sep 5 2008:
grabbed the following specs table from the Canon USA site.
I’ll leave the Japanese one below it for comparison. :-)

Power Consumption 3.8 W (SP Mode)
Image Sensor 1/3.2″ CMOS Sensor, RGB Primary Color Filter
Total Pixels Approx. 3.3 Megapixels
Effective Pixels Video: Approx. 2.07 Megapixels (1920 x 1080)
Still Image: Approx. 2.76 Megapixels (1920 x 1440)
Maximum recording time 120GB Internal Hard Disk Drive
LP (5 Mbps) 45 hours 55 minutes
SP (7 Mbps) 36 hours
XP+ (12 Mbps) 21 hours 40 minutes
FXP (17 Mbps) 15 hours 45 minutes
MXP (24 Mbps) 11 hours 05 minutes
Greater recording time is possible by adding an SDHC Memory Card
Lens Zoom Ratio 12x Optical/200x Digital
Focal Length f=4.8 – 57mm
Zoom Speed Variable/3 Fixed Zoom Speeds
Max. F/Stop f/1.8-3.0mm
Filter Size 37mm
Focusing System Instant AF, Through the Lens/Manual Focusing Possible
Manual Exposure Yes
Programmed AE Auto, Program, Av, Tv, CINEMA, Portrait, Sports, Night, Snow, Beach, Sunset, Spotlight, Fireworks
Max Shutter Speed 1/2000, 1/500 (card)
Auto Date/Time Yes
Record Search/Review Yes
Minimum Focusing Distance 10mm (wide) / 1m (tele)
White Balance Daylight, Shade, Cloudy, Tungsten, Flourescent, Flourescent H, Auto, Manual
Minimum Illumination Night Mode .2 lx (shutter 1/2 sec.)
Image Stabilization SuperRange Optical (lens shift)
Viewfinder .27″ (approx. 123,000 pixels)
LCD Screen 2.7″ Multi-Angle Vivid Widescreen LCD (approx. 211,000 pixels)
Microphone Built-In, 3.5mm stereo mini jack, Mini Advanced Accessory Shoe
Flash Built-In
Recording Media Internal Hard Disk Drive (120GB) or SD/SDHC Memory Card
USB Terminal mini B, USB 2.0 Hi-Speed supported
Video Terminal component (output), composite (output)
Audio Dolby Digital 2ch (AC-3 2ch)
HDMI Terminal Type C 480i / 480p / 1080i Format Supported
Microphone Terminal 3.5 mm Stereo mini-jack
AV Mini Terminal
/Headphone Terminal
3.5 mm 4 pole mini-jack
Operating Temperature range 32° – 104° F (0° – 40° C) relative humidity
Dimensions (WxHxD) 3.1 x 3.0 x 5.5 in. (80 x 77 x 139 mm)
Weight (not including
lens and battery pack)
1.1 lbs. (490g)
Weight (fully loaded) 1.2 lbs. (540g) (BP-807, including memory card)

Note: 1920 x 1080 movie recording requires a Class 4 or higher memory card. For other recording formats, a Class 2 or higher card is recommended. Also, movie recording requires cards with 128 MB of memory or more. Cards made by Toshiba, SanDisk or Matsushita are recommended. No particular restrictions apply for still images.

Below is a massaged version of the Google translated version of
the Japanese specs.
Apologies for weird ALL-CAPS terms that seem to make no sense. :-)

Model name iVIS HG21
Applied media Hard drive (1.8-inch, 120 GB), SD Memory Card ※ / SDHC Memory Card ※

  • * Video and still images can be recorded
  • SD card is kind of operation following the Video Recording rough time please.
Video Recording Mode Standard Record: AVCHD standard (high profile)
How Video Compression: MPEG-4 AVC/H.264 standard audio compression method: Dolby Digital 2ch / sampling frequency 48kHz
Video Recording Time MXP (high-definition + +) mode: about 5 hours 11 minutes (about 24 Mbps ※)
FXP (+ high quality) mode: about 15 hours and 45 minutes (about 17 Mbps ※)
XP + (high quality) mode: about 21 hours and 40 minutes (about 12 Mbps ※)
SP (standard) mode: about 36 hours (about 7 Mbps ※)
LP (long) mode: 45 hours 55 minutes (about 5 Mbps ※)

  • ※ average bitrate. “IVIS HG21” built-in hard drive (120 GB) recorded cases
  • * MXP mode is more than nine hours, or other mode is more than 13 hours of continuous recording. When you hit the prescribed time automatically stops recording.
  • * MXP / FXP Video Recording mode is 1920×1080 pixel resolution. In other modes of 1440×1080 pixels
Imaging device CMOS sensor 1/3.2 type (read lesser)
Total pixels: about 3.31 million pixels effective pixels
Video Recording: Approximately 2.07 million effective pixels resolution still picture / record: Approximately 2.76 million pixels (4:3 mode)
Effective pixels / record still images: Approximately 2.07 million pixels (16:9 mode)
Filter RGB primary color filter
Configuration signal NTSC-compliant system, 1080/60 i system
Scanning system Progressive
Images Recorded
  • Recording media

    • Built-in hard drive, SD Memory Card/SDHC Memory Card
  • Recording system

  • The total number of recorded images

    • L (2048×1536 pixels)
    • LW (1920×1080 pixels)
    • M (1440×1080 pixels)
    • SW (848×480 pixels)
    • * Movie mode (simultaneous record) only when
    • S (640×480 pixels)
  • Compression

    • JPEG format (compression rate: SuperFine/fine/normal)
Minimum illumination Approximately ⅕ lux (night-time mode, shutter speed 1/2½ seconds)
About 3 lux (Easy/P mode: When OTOSUROSHATTAON Tv mode: the shutter speed of ⅟₃₀ seconds when selected)
Illumination range Approximately â…• lux to about 100,000 lux
  • Lens Construction

    • 9 group of 11 pieces (two aspheric lens use, adopt a gradient ND)
  • Focal length

    • 4.8 – 57.6mm F1.8 – 3.0 (See time/hours and still images)
  • 35mm equivalent

    • Video: Approximately 42.9 from 514.8 mm
    • Still pictures: Approximately 39.3 from 471.6 mm (4:3 mode)
    • Still pictures: Approximately 42.9 from 514.8 mm (16:9 mode)
  • The shortest distance shooting

    • 10mm (AF-linked, wide end)
  • Zooming

    • Variable-speed (15 stages) compatible power zoom and slide lever system
    • Video: optical 12x, 40x in conjunction with digital/200x
    • Still pictures: optical 12x
Electronic shutter
  • Video hours

    • ⅟₃₀ to ⅟₅₀₀ seconds (Easy/P mode, OTOSUROSHATTAON) ※
    • ⅟₆₀ to ⅟₅₀₀ seconds (Easy/P mode, OTOSUROSHATTAOFU) ※
    • â…›, ⅟₁₅, ⅟₃₀, ⅟₆₀, ⅟₁₀₀, â…Ÿâ‚‚â‚…â‚€, ⅟₅₀₀, ⅟₁₀₀₀, ⅟₂₀₀₀ seconds (Tv mode)
    • PF24設定時は除く Except when setting ※ PF24
    • ½ to ⅟₅₀₀ seconds (Night mode)
  • When still images

    • ⅟₁₅ to ⅟₅₀₀ seconds (Easy/P mode, OTOSUROSHATTAON)
    • ⅟₃₀ to ⅟₅₀₀ seconds (Easy/P mode, OTOSUROSHATTAOFU)
    • ½, ¼, â…›, ⅟₁₅, ⅟₃₀, ⅟₆₀, ⅟₁₀₀, â…Ÿâ‚‚â‚…â‚€, ⅟₅₀₀ seconds (Tv mode)
    • ½ to ⅟₅₀₀ seconds (Night mode)
Vibration reduction Optical (lens shift system)
LCD monitor 2.7 inch wide color LCD (approximately 211,000 dots)

  • * Wide viewing angle/gamut support, hard court surface treatment AR
Finder 0.27-wide color LCD (approximately 123,000 dots), adjustable diopter
AF mechanism High-speed AF (TTL-detection system and external video signal measuring the phase difference距方expression) and normal AF (TTL-video signal detection method) are available
Exposure control
  • Auto iris control
  • AE mode

    • Easy, P, Av, Tv, cinema ※, SCN (Portrait, Sports, Night, Snow, beach, sunset, spotlights,打上げ花火)
    • シネマモードは、動画時のみ ※ cinema mode is only when the video
  • Metering system

    1. Evaluative metering
    2. Center-weighted average metering
    3. Spot (still images recorded only)
    4. Metering None (打上げ花火)
    • The record still images * P, Av, Tv when only 1. Three. Selectable
  • Exposure Compensation

    • +11 From -11 to 23-step exposure compensation is possible
    • * Easy, except mode打上げ花火
White Balance FURUOTOOTO / set / preset functions
Built-in microphone Stereo microphone (EREKUTORETTOKONDENSAMAIKU)

  • * Wind cut feature (Auto/Off), Mike ATT, and MAIKUREBERUMETA
Auxiliary light source Built-in flash
Inputs and outputs MINIKONEKUTA HDMI (type C 19-pin: output only), AV mini-pin (φ3.5 mm 4 pole minijack: output only), external microphone input jack (φ3.5 mm MINISUTEREOJAKKU), headphone terminals (φ3.5 mm mini stereo Jack, AV mini-port terminal), a component terminal (Terminal D special: output only), USB terminal (mini-B, Hi-Speed USB), memory card connectors (special multi-pin), the battery terminals (special 4-pin) , DC input jack (φ3.4 mm jack)
Power DC7.4V (battery pack), DC8.4V (DC IN)
Power consumption BYUFAINDA used: about 3.7W (quality: SP, use the built-in HDD, recording, AF Focus)
Using the LCD monitor: about 3.8W (brightness: normal and quality: SP, use the built-in HDD, recording, AF Focus)
Size Approximately 80 (W) × 77 (H) × about 139 (D) mm (excluding GURIPPUBERUTO)
Mass Body only: approximately 490 g
The total mass shooting: approximately 540 g (battery pack BP-807, Memory Card)

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Mac developer

9 thoughts on “Finally, a good-enough HD camcorder: Canon iVis HG11/HG21”

  1. Ya, that's a major reason to just get the HG21. I would expect that if you recorded to the SDHC, it would save a lot of battery, since you don't have to spin up the hard drive.

  2. I keep looking for info on these two but there is barely anything published. It seems that these cameras are Japanese market only. Any word of a North American product?

  3. The linked article from Electronista mentions:

    “Canon has quickly followed up on earlier Japanese releases with North American versions of its new VIXIA HD camcorders.
    The new VIXIA models ship in September at prices of $949 for the HG20, $1199 for the HF11, and $1299 for the HG21.”

    That's all the info I have.

  4. These are currently on sale here in Japan for about $1225 and I'll be picking up an HG21 once I get off work in a couple hours. I'm pretty excited about it as this will be my first really nice camcorder. My previous Panasonic one from about 5 years ago had the firewire port die on it right after the warranty expired and a year after that it stopped ejecting tapes. I've been camera-less since.

  5. Sorry to double post, but I just noticed a typo that you may want to fix. I think you meant to put “HF11” instead of “HG11” in the title.

  6. OK, so I picked up the HF11 instead of the HG21 (yay credit cards!). The main thing that led me to the flash based one was my fear of the internal hard drive in the HG21 dying and not knowing how the camera would react with a bad hard drive. Would it just warn me and only use the memory card or would I be screwed? Also, if I ever hike Mt Fuji, I'd like to take my camera up there without fear of breaking it. I couldn't tell if the hard drive powered up with the camera or powered up when put in to a mode that requires the hard drive. If I could keep the internal hard drive off and use only memory cards, then I may have gotten it, but they wanted about $1350 for it and that's a lot of money for that much uncertainty. I got the HF11 for about $1000 thanks to it being on sale for $1150 and me paying with my DeoDeo card which removed the tax. They even threw in a free tripod and case! The HG21 has very nice hi-res menus though (totally different than the HF11's).

    I haven't had a chance to really play with the HF11 yet since it's been dark outside, but I tested it a little bit inside. I recorded some videos then hooked it up to my PS3 for playback on my TV. This is my first HD camcorder so I don't have much to compare it to, but I thought the video was a little noisy and I noticed that trailing that I've seen mentioned, but it wasn't TOO bad; definitely tolerable. This could have just been the lighting conditions (I only have florescent lights in my apartment) and my inexperience with the camera though. There's definitely a difference between 17Mbps and 24Mbps, but maybe not as big a difference as some people think. I will be shooting primarily in 24Mbps, but I feel bad for my poor computer that's got to do the processing (sucks that I'm the only one in my family that has an HDTV and a blu-ray player…I'm going to be stuck converting all my vids to DVD). I'll be playing with it outside some tomorrow and getting the hang of all the settings (manual is in Japanese so I'm on my own). So far, I'm really liking this camera.

  7. Yep, I don't think there's an HG11. I got the latest Canon product catalog (for Japan) and there's no mention of it.

    The HF11 has a 32GB solid state disk and the HG21, as you know, has a 120GB hard drive. Hard drives will destroy themselves if used in low air pressure environments (above 10,000 feet), but solid state drives have no moving parts so they'll be fine. Also, all hard drives eventually die (the drive in my wife's Mac just died after less than 2 years). A solid state drive will probably last longer. They both can also record to SD cards. The HF11 does not have a viewfinder, but has a camera light. The HG21 has a viewfinder, but no light, although there is an attachment which is probably better than the built in light on the HF11.

    Also, here's a review of it:… . It's in Japanese, but it's easy enough to click on the pictures and videos. It seems as though the HF11 and HG21 have the same lens and sensor so the quality should the very similar, if not exactly the same. The English review is here:… (The US camera is all black while the Japanese one is black and silver), but the Japanese review includes real life examples of pictures and videos.

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