There's a lot to like about Canon's entry-level Vixia HF R series of "high-definition" camcorders, including a better user interface than their more expensive siblings and mic and headphone jacks, which are rare for their class. Just not the video quality.
Basic, but solid
The camcorder has a sturdy, basic design that is in many ways superior to its more expensive Vixia siblings.
The membrane buttons inside the LCD recess let you toggle between capture and playback modes; take 2, 4, or 8-second video "snapshots"; downconvert video from HD to standard definition for wireless upload via an Eye-Fi card (Web); and control display and playback options. Interestingly, the manual states that "This product is not guaranteed to support Eye-Fi card functions (including wireless transfer)." That's kind of annoying given that Canon touts it as a feature.
I really like this connector layout, with the miniHDMI, USB, component, mic and headphone jacks all on the back of the camcorder. The external mic and headphone is rare in a camcorder for this price range, which make this model especially attractive to the education market. Because the camcorder lacks an accessory shoe, though, there's no place on the camcorder to attach the mic.
Canon doesn't burden the comparatively low-resolution display with touch-screen operation, instead sticking with joystick-based navigation and a refreshingly easy-to-traverse menu system.
The Func button pulls up options for the camcorder's limited set of shooting capabilities. Exposure modes include Program, Cine (which adjusts gamma) and Portrait (wide aperture); there are no real manual exposure controls on this model. A flyup menu allows you to set a prerecord interval, adjust exposure compensation, manual focus, set mic level and enable face detection AF.
The camcorder has neither the resolution nor the bandwidth to handle a lot of movement--notice all the compression artifacts. Background details like leaves and grass also get smeary. On the upside, the lens doesn't incur fringing like many of the cheap camcorder lenses do.
It's pretty bad, as you can see--there are tons of compression artifacts and noise. And this is the highest quality setting, not the default. The latter looks similarly noisy, as well as soft and smeary.