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Great camera but the less expensive HF R500 is a better choice
on March 23, 2014
This review is of the HF R50 but should be applicable to the HF R500 and HF R52 as they are all the same camera but have a few minor differences:
The HF R50 (this one) has 8 gigabytes of on board flash storage.
The HF R52 is the same camera but with 32 gigs of on board flash storage
The HF R500 is the same as both the 52 and the 50 but lacks the internal storage (requiring a memory card that's optional on the other two) and also lacks the WiFi.
The bottom line is that if you want this camera get the HF R500 as it's really the same as the more expensive 52 and 50 and only lacks the built in memory and completely useless wifi feature. More details are below:
I am a big fan of Canon's cameras in this price range and use them extensively for my own video production. I own the old HV20, HF100, HFS200, and the HFS20. In fact I haven't needed to buy a new one in over 5 years because these cameras work so well for me. I picked this one up to see what Canon has done more recently.
Video quality hasn't improved all that much from where things were a few years ago. And it may be that there's just not much to improve upon at this price point. Low light is still pretty bad and grainy, but daylight shots are nice but a little over saturated in some of the auto modes. There still are some manual white balance and other controls to get a nicer image.
I really like how the camera feels. It's /very/ light weight and fits very comfortably in the hand. Improvements in the size of the sensor have dramatically improved the camera's ability to maintain a steady shot even while handheld.
I also like the zoom - especially since it's possible to disable the digital stabilization and remap the focal length of the sensor to dramatically increase the optical zoom length. It's the equivalent of an 1853mm lens on a 35mm camera! The image isn't all that sharp at that zoom level but it's certainly passable and impressive for a device so small. I do suggest putting it on a tripod as it'll be nearly impossible to hold steady when zoomed in that far.
Battery life has also improved over older models. The battery can power the camera for over 90 minutes which is dramatically better than the standard battery on prior models.
All three models have memory card slots that take SD cards.
The WiFI feature is pretty much useless.. It does allow camera control via a smartphone or tablet, but the video comes in choppy and delayed by a few seconds making realtime control impossible. And while it does stream fluid video that can be recorded on your smartphone or tablet via WiFi, it's horribly compressed and looks terrible. You cannot stream to anything other than the app, so using online services with the camera are out of the question.
With SD cards so inexpensive and the WiFi feature so useless, there's really no need to go with the 50 or the 52 unless you'd like to have some extra emergency storage. Otherwise the HF R500 is the best value of the three.