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Vixia HF R200 - Good value and quality for home movies, works with my Mac.
on July 13, 2011
Bottom line: A good value-oriented camera that works well with my Mac. It is easy to use with intuitive controls - although some of the advanced settings required me to read the instruction manual. For good quality home movies, it seems to be perfect; and the minor improvement in video quality available on higher-end models probably isn't worth the additional cost.
Opening the Box:
All items were packed securely in the box except the battery, which was just rattling around in the box; and the box was not taped shut. I don't know if this had to do with the seller or the manufacturer; but I wish that all manufacturers would get in the habit of sealing the boxes at the factory with security tape, so that there would be no question that the box remained sealed from factory to consumer. Maybe I am nit picking, but the lack of security tape on the box and the battery issue could signal larger quality control problems at Canon.
My 16GB SDHC card did not arrive on time, so I popped in a Kingston 4GB (class 4) card that I had. I wanted to take a short test video first thing, so I ignored the instructions about charging the battery first. I just plugged the camera in and began to use it.
After I took my test video, I charged the battery as indicated in the instructions: the first time you use it you are supposed to charge it to full capacity, and then use it until completely drained.
The camera's operations and controls seem very easy to me. I know that review sites like CNET give Canon low marks for hard to use LCD touchscreen menus, but I found them rather easy to navigate, even without reading the instructions. The exterior buttons and controls were intuitive.
I use a Mac computer, and it was easy to transfer video to iMovie for editing and uploading to YouTube. Instead of connecting the camera to the computer via the included USB cable, I just stuck the SD card into the card reader on the side of my MacBook Pro, opened iMovie and clicked the button that tells it to look for a camera ... and bingo, there was my movie. I did some quick editing and uploaded it to YouTube. I would say that the total time from plugging in the SD card to having the video on YouTube ready to go was no more than 10 minutes.
I have read other websites where people make a fuss about the software not working well with a Mac. The bottom line here is that the Mac recognizes the video shot with the camera and easily transfers it to the computer for editing and storage. Honestly, I can't think of a reason why anyone would need the software that comes with the camera. I'll probably never take it out of the package.
Complaints I have Read in Other Reviews:
1. Noise. I think I hear a very faint sound on playback that might be the noise people have talked about when shooting in very quiet locations. But it certainly is not anything I would ever worry about. The background noise from my computer equipment is louder than the faint noise I was hearing. I probably wouldn't have noticed it if I hadn't read about it. It might be an issue with Canon's 2010 models, but not with this one.
2. Battery Life: Using the Advanced Zoom and the Dynamic Image Stabilization features (and other such things, which are "ON" by default) suck down the battery pretty quick. If you don't need these features, just turn them off, and the battery will last much longer. There is a convenient button on the side of the camera labeled "Auto." You can turn off all of that stuff and run the camera in manual mode, and then easily use the "Auto" button to activate the other features, and switch back and forth. With a tripod I would leave the IS turned off all the time. You can also dim the LCD screen if you are doing a lot of indoor shooting to get a few more minutes of battery life. I spent a couple of hours shooting test video, turning different features on and off, and using the included HDMI cable to watch playback on my TV, and I still have 75% battery life remaining. I used various recording settings, including highest quality MXP mode, and that didn't seem to make a difference in the battery life. The reviewers who say that battery lasted only an hour must mean that the battery lasts for 1 hour of actual video shooting time with the IS turned on. An hour of shooting video is a long time. Full-length feature films are only 90 minutes. When I spend all day at the park with the kids, I'll carry an extra battery.
3. Low Light Performance: I suppose that if you are doing a lot of indoor low light video, you might want to spend more money to get a camera that has an advanced sensor, like Canon's CMOS Pro. But the R200 has better low-light specs than some other brands; and it has a manual exposure setting. This comes in handy when you are shooting indoor scenes with bright windows in the background. The automatic exposure tends to "underexpose" in these situations, but it can be manually adjusted to compensate. The video does come out a little grainy in low light ... but our standards for acceptable quality have been raised as technology has improved. You won't be able to produce a video on this camera like you see on TV. Duh!
4. Software issues: Honestly, I don't get it. Camera companies make cameras. If you want video editing software, buy it from someone who makes software for a living. As I said above, iMovie works for me.
I am glad that I did not spend more money on a more expensive camera! This camera is easy to use and will do everything I want it to do. As a casual user, I am mostly interesting in making home videos of the kids. If I find flaws after several months of use, I'll post an updated review.