Why You Can Trust CNET

Our expert, award-winning staff selects the products we cover and rigorously researches and tests our top picks. If you buy through our links, we may get a commission. Reviews ethics statement

Canon Vixia HG2x review: Canon Vixia HG2x

Canon Vixia HG2x

Joshua Goldman

Joshua Goldman

Managing Editor / Advice

Josh Goldman helps people find the best laptop at the best price -- from simple Chromebooks to high-end gaming laptops. He's been writing about and reviewing consumer technology and software for more than two decades.

See full bio
4 min read

The Canon Vixia HG21 is an excellent HD camcorder that's reasonably easy to operate out of the box and looks good, too. It's almost identical to the company's Vixia HF11, but rather than recording mainly to internal flash memory, it records to a hard drive. As for performance, it's as good if not better than the Sony Handycam HDR-SR11. So in the end, it comes down to a preference for flash memory or a hard-disk drive as your storage medium of choice. And if it's for flash, your willingness to pay extra for it.


Canon Vixia HG2x

The Good

Excellent video quality; 120GB hard drive; attractive, understated design; eye-level viewfinder.

The Bad

Wind filter not as dependable as previous Canon models; manual focus pretty useless.

The Bottom Line

Like its cousin, the flash-based HF11, Canon's Vixia HG21 delivers excellent HD video quality and performance albeit in a slightly larger, heavier package. However, you do get more storage space and a lower price.

In addition to the price differential--which varies quite a bit on the Web, so it pays to shop around--there are only a few spec variations between the flash-based HF11 and the HG21. The obvious is the HG21's 120GB hard drive versus the HF11's 32GB internal memory. In recording time, it's 11 hours and 5 minutes to 2 hours and 55 minutes at 24Mbps (and both can be supplemented with SDHC cards). The HG21 also offers an eye-level viewfinder, which is more and more of a rarity.

Aside from capacity, it's really just a matter of size and weight separating the HG21 and HF11; the HF11 is smaller and lighter at 2.9 inches wide by 2.5 inches high by 5.1 inches deep and 15.1 ounces to the HG21's dimensions of 3.1 inches wide by 3 inches high by 5.4 inches deep and 17.6 ounces. Positions for controls and I/O jacks are slightly altered between the two as well. Most notably, the dial to switch from video/still record to video/still playback is on the back for the HG21, and is on the side for the HF11. However, regardless of the model, the controls are large and easy to operate.

A five-way joystick and Function button--which navigates frequently needed shooting settings--live on the bezel of the camcorder's 2.7-inch LCD. Putting the controls out on the LCD instead of under the thumb can make it difficult to simultaneously change settings and keep the camcorder steady. In addition, manually focusing with the joystick can be a pain, regardless of the zoom-view focus assist.

The HG21 records AVCHD video at a maximum bit rate of 24Mbps, and can hold up to 45 hours, 15 minutes of video at the lowest bit rate of 5Mbps. (There are five quality settings in all, which I find excessive.) That higher bit rate goes to support the full 1,920x1,080 capture, the norm for most new models, compared with 1,440x1,080 for older AVCHD camcorders, which required only a 12Mbps maximum bit rate. You can record best quality movies to SDHC cards as long as it's a Class 4 or better (Class 6 is currently fastest).

Its optically stabilized f1.8-3.0 12x zoom lens has a longer reach than the typical 10x lens available in this class, but the rest of its features are fairly common in Canon's prosumer models. For video, these include aperture- and shutter-priority exposure modes, 3 fixed/1 variable zoom speed options, a video light, Instant AF, and a wind-screen filter. You can also record in progressive 30 or 24 frames per second modes, as well as 60i. For still photos, metering, flash, and burst and exposure bracketing, options become available as well. The camcorder also supplies a complete set of ports and connectors: component or mini-HDMI out for direct-to-TV playback, mini headphone and mic jacks, and USB for downloading to computer.

The lens performs surprisingly well. Not only does the SuperRange optical image stabilization system work satisfactorily all the way out to the end, but the lens focuses quickly and holds the lock in both dim and bright conditions. Images look sharp, too. On the downside, high-contrast edges show more fringing than usual. The stereo microphone sits beneath the lens and generally delivers good audio quality. However, in recent models, Canon changed the wind-filter option from a forced-on to automatic, and ever since we've found it far less effective. The microphone attenuation (zoom mic) works pretty well, too.

Video overall looks quite good despite the use of a small, 1/3.2-inch 3.3-megapixel CMOS sensor. Recordings were properly exposed, nicely saturated, and sharp. As expected, in low light the video displays a good deal of noise and a somewhat compressed tonal range, but retains a significant amount of detail and fares above average compared with the rest of its class.

For the most part, the 24Mbps video is indistinguishable from the 17Mbps except in low light; when viewed on a large-screen plasma TV, the higher-bit-rate video displayed significantly more luminance noise than the lower bit rate. The lower-bit-rate video looked slightly softer, however. The difference between the two was still noticeable, but not as pronounced, when viewed on my calibrated CRT display. Even when extracting individual frames, I didn't really see any fewer artifacts that would affect video editing. On the upside, there were no software incompatibility issues with the 24Mbps files.

An excellent choice for hard-disk-based HD recording, the HG21 gives the Sony HDR-SR11 a close run for the money and is a clear champion if you don't like the Sony's touch-screen interface. However, the real question is do you want more storage at a lower price or give up some storage space and extra cash for the smaller, lighter HF11? The HG21 gets my vote in that scenario.

Find out more about how we test camcorders.


Canon Vixia HG2x

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 8Performance 8Image quality 8
Shopping laptop image
Get the best price on everything
Shop your favorite products and we’ll find the best deal with a single click. Designed to make shopping easier.
Add CNET Shopping