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Canon HF11 review: Canon HF11

It might not fit every hand, but the results it provides are excellent whether you're a manual fiddler or just want quick and easy automatic filming capabilities.

Alex Kidman
Alex Kidman is a freelance word writing machine masquerading as a person, a disguise he's managed for over fifteen years now, including a three year stint at ZDNet/CNET Australia. He likes cats, retro gaming and terrible puns.
Alex Kidman
3 min read

Design
Flash memory based camcorders have a clear design advantage over their tape and hard-disk based brethren; because the storage medium in question is the size of a postage stamp, the amount of body space needed is reduced considerably. Designers, however, have still got to allow space for a decent lens barrel and, like many of its flash card based brethren, Canon's HF11 is pretty much all lens barrel with a slender LCD slapped on the side. Predictably for Canon, it's also incredibly similar to its immediate predecessor, the HF10.

8.3

Canon HF11

The Good

32GB on-board. Variety of available bit rates. Able to fiddle manually, or just shoot automatically. Great picture quality.

The Bad

Square camera body can be fiddly to pick up. Battery life is a touch short.

The Bottom Line

It might not fit every hand, but the results it provides are excellent whether you're a manual fiddler or just want quick and easy automatic filming capabilities.

Strangely for something that is pretty much all lens barrel, it's got an oddly square profile, which sits a little unusually on the hand. That's very much a personal preference thing though; a random test with half a dozen candidates was split exactly down the middle as to whether they found it more or less comfortable than a rounded shape would be. In any case, the HF11 does manage to come in a little heavier than some of its competitors at 430g, which could wear on the hands after a while.

Features
The HF11 is a high definition flash memory-based camcorder, with support for SDHC cards. It ships with an 8GB card, but also features 32GB of on-board memory. That's an upgrade from the HF10, which featured 16GB of on-board storage. While most home videographers could well do to learn that less is more when it comes to shooting video, it's nice to have that much storage on hand.

The HF11's real party piece lies in the array of variable bit rates on offer. If you're not fussed about visual clarity, shoot at a paltry 5Mbps (and, it should be noted, squint at every pixelly block along the way). Alternatively, pump the bitrate up to 24MBps and squint at every flea on every dog you pass, albeit only until the HF11 runs out of battery power. In still image terms, the HF11 is rather hamstrung by its 3.31-megapixel sensor, although if you're only looking for regular six by four-inch shots, the quality lens does make a big difference. We're not convinced, however, that too many customers dropping AU$1699 on a high-def camcorder would make their choice based on still image quality anyway.

Performance
The HF11's basic shooting quality was good at most bit rate settings. With its generous internal memory you can shoot for far longer than the battery will last, and we did find there wasn't much to tell between the higher bit rate settings. Focus was sharp and quickly adjusted to fast movement — a important feature when filming sports or children playing — and the built-in microphone had good pick up, with the option to attach an external unit for more precise work.

Speaking of precise work, the HF11 continues the HF10's trend of placing the control joystick on the side of the LCD panel. Tastes in control methods vary and, while we're normally happy with a good joystick control (they're at least less prone to input errors than touchscreens), the placement of the joystick makes it somewhat annoying to use in our opinion.

Canon ships the HF11 with the 890mAh BP809 battery pack, which it claims is good for a maximum of 90 minutes shooting time, although its own specifications suggest an average of 55 minutes is more likely. The HF11 will take a variety of optional batteries if you need additional charging time. Unlike most flash-based camcorders, where we've strongly suggested that extra memory cards are key, we'd plump for an extra capacity battery for the HF11.

Conclusion
If its shape suits your taste in camcorders, then Canon's HF11 is the first flash memory-based high-def camcorder we've tested with the quality and the capacity to mix it with the hard-disk boys.