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on December 29, 2008
Let me start by saying that I've been using camcorders for 20 years, way back to the full sized VHS days. Canon and Sony have been my favorites for many years, starting with their 8mm days. Since consumer HD seems to have stabilized in its second generation, I decided to upgrade from my six year old Sony 8mm.

The Canon Digital SLR cameras are second to none, I own three of them (Digital Rebel, Rebel Xti and an EOS 40D) and they blow the competition away. I fall into the "prosumer" category for digital categories, and the Canon Digic processor is one of the things that has separated Canon from its competitors. So certainly the second generation HD Canon Vixia 21 with the Digic II processor would be a no-brainer, right? Not exactly.

The good:

120GB hard disk drive - you can record up to 45 hours of video in LP mode, and about 11 hours in the best HD mode the camera has. The storage capacity will, by far, outlast the battery that comes with the camcorder.

SDHC slot - Unlike Sony and their proprietary Memory Stick, Canon has and continued to use SD and now SDHC memory. SDHC cards are available from numerous vendors and they are easier to find and less expensive than the Memory Stick.

12X optical zoom - this works extremely well, as advertised. Digital zoom takes away from the quality of the recording, so I prefer to stick with the optical zoom. The controls for the zoom are very fluid and smooth.

Picture quality - in daylight and indoors with good light, the picture quality is exceptional. Playing the video on my HDTV is just as good as any broadcast HDTV quality you'll ever see on TV.

Image stabilization - very few people can hold anything completely still. With the image stabilization feature, you don't have to worry about it - the camcorder handles it for you and does a great job of it.

The bad:

Short battery life - the battery that ships with the camcorder (BP 807/808) will give you no more than 80-90 minutes of operation. If you don't plan to use it any more than that on each outing, then it is not a big issue for you. If you plan to use it for a day of on and off shooting, you need to get another batter. The BP827 will give you almost five hours of running time, for a steep $144. Adding to this, you can only charge the battery while the battery is in the camcorder. The external battery charger is another $60 or so. In short, if you plan to use this camcorder for longer than an hour, buy an extra battery and the external charger so you can charge one battery while using the other. This is not a Canon specific problem, every vendor, including Sony, has its limitations with batteries and charging. They also have the "optional" longer life batteries and external chargers for a steep price as well.

Low light shooting - The picture quality is grainy and unimpressive. After seeing what the daylight shots looked like on the TV, then watching the low light shots, you will be somewhat dissapointed. Perhaps there is some special low light setting I do not know about - I've only had the camcorder for a week. Another reviewer indicated better luck in low light. I will report back if this is resolved.

Despite the additional battery and charger purchase, I think this is a very good camcorder. I hope to resolve the low light issue. Daytime and good lighting recording is breathtaking on replay. Given that this is a consumer grade camcorder, I doubt you'll find any better for the money.

Update:

As promised, I've worked with the camcorder for a couple of weeks now, and not much has changed. The daylight and well-lit room video is broadcast quality HD. Low light is still somewhat grainy. I also purchased a longer life battery and external charger from Amazon, which comes in very handy. I would still purchase this camcorder.
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on November 15, 2015
I searched for a long time before finally settling on this camera. I love it. It is small and light and compact, yet does everything I need and more. It's not hard to learn to operate and is quite user friendly. I heard lots of pros and cons about the hard drive for recording and storing video, but I really love it. Nothing could be easier for transferring video to the computer for saving or editing. It takes only a minute to two to transfer a whole file. It used to take hours to transfer video from a tape. And I have not encountered any problems with the hard drive. Makes it so easy to find and review the video. I love it!
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on June 21, 2009
After several weeks of research on the best HD camcorder for under $1000.00, I bought this one. I hadn't had a camcorder in about 7 years and the last one I had was a lot bigger. I wanted something small and easy to hold with a hard drive. I was originally going to buy the 60GB model, but for a few hundred more I thought it was worth getting the 120GB model. This camera is wonderful. I can shoot video of my daughter who plays soccer for Barry University in Miami, without any difficulties. I went all out and bought the extra battery, the light and the camera bag. I didn't realize how small it was until it was shipped to me. The picture is awesome on my 65" lcd Sharp Aquos TV and the sound is fantastic. The zoom is wonderful and the extra battery lasts around 4.5 hours for me. (it was worth $125.00) to be able to record longer lenghts then what the original battery lasts. I can tape the entire soccer game and the half time activities without needing to change the battery out. The software is OK. I wanted to buy a different software program that I can use with my Windows Vista 64 bit that runs in my computer, but I need to make sure it is compatable with 64 bit and not just 32 bit. ANY SUGGESTIONS???? Anyway if you are considering this camera- you will not be disapointed- I love it!! And with Amazon Prime, It arrived the next day for $3.99-can't beat that. Canon makes great products and I am extremely happy with this one!!
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on February 19, 2010
I am a young aspiring director, and am in the process of buying a lot of my own equipment for shooting videos to enter in film festivals. I have to tell you, what I've seen of the HG-21's sheer picture to price ratio has completely floored me. I've shot on many DV cameras that cost hundreds of dollars more than this one, but none of them can hold a candle to this camera's picture! When it came to buying my own personal camera, I'm glad I went with this one: a camera that proves size isn't everything when you're talking about quality of a camcorder.

I would like to address some of the complaints I don't agree with. Firstly, battery life isn't amazing, but I wouldn't expect it to be. Almost every camera I've ever shot on has had the same battery life as this camera: about an hour and a half for the small battery and over three hours for the large battery. Don't expect to have just one battery and be able to capture everything you'd like to capture for the next few days. Get extra batteries like you should do for ANY camera you buy, and you'll be fine (and yes, splurge on the canon batteries and charger as third party batteries can possibly hurt the camera and won't tell you how long you have left to shoot with them, and being able to charge one battery while shooting on another is EXTREMELY helpful). Also, about the graininess in low light... I shot a rainstorm at night with only lightning and a streetlamp across the street lighting the scene and had almost zero graininess that I could see when replaying it on my large high def 1080p TV via an HDMI cable, and I have a very discerning eye... trust me! If you are getting graininess or artifacting in your picture, chances are you need to play with your camera settings before you go blaming the camera itself. In short, READ the manual and KNOW your camera inside and out and I guarantee you that this camera is hands down the best before you move up to the near $2000 price range.

Now, I did give this camera four stars because there are a few things that annoy me about it. At the top of the list is the STUPID mini-shoe that is not "advanced," but just a reason to make you buy your shotgun and video light from cannon so it'll fit the thing. The decision to include this shoe, to me, is simply to ensure you give more money to canon and NOT to give you an "advanced" camera accessory. By the way, canon only offers one video light and shotgun that fit this mini-shoe and both are very overpriced in my opinion. I bought an (also very overpriced) adapter to make a universal shoe mount, and this gave me many more options. I suggest you do the same. It's better to overpay for an adapter than to overpay for a shotgun mic and video light. Oh, and don't expect to be able to use the viewfinder on this camera. It doesn't swivel and is more work that it's worth. Stick with the LCD screen and you'll be fine (though it will wear on your battery faster).

Other than that, it's just little annoyances with the camera. It is small, so expect quite a bit of camera shake when you try to freehand it, even with the built in shot stabilizing tech. The camera is simply too light for shot stabilization to really be able to do its job well. My suggestion: either learn to stop your breathing and heartbeat for rock-steady hands or invest in a tripod/monopod. Honestly, it's a good idea to have at least one of these anyway, so it's not that big of a deal. Also, I don't know why this camera didn't come included with a camera strap, but it doesn't. So, go out and splurge on a $15 camera strap and get the cushiest most awesome strap you can find. Your shoulder or neck will thank you for it. Finally, if you are going to hook this camera up to your high def TV, note that the HDMI connection in the camera is a MINI-HDMI, not a full size HDMI. So, keep that in mind when buying a cable to hook the two together. Don't have an HDMI input for your TV? It's okay, the camera comes packaged with composite and component out lines so the camera can hook up to almost any TV!

In short, for a young aspiring director like myself who has the want for quality but not the money for it, this is an excellent middle of the road camera. It has just enough features to make sure I don't feel stunted in what I would like to do (manual focus, auto-exposure, manual mic level adjustment, 12 hour shooting space at the highest quality picture, manual white balance, A HEADPHONE JACK - something apparently hard to find in small models like this one) as well as a rocking picture that beats every camera I've EVER shot on hands down, but is still affordable.

My suggestion: BUY IT!! Read the manual to acquaint yourself with the menus (they can be a bit confusing until you master them), then just play with it to see what options work best under what conditions. I think you'll be very happy you bought this camera and took the time to master it. I love it!!
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on January 18, 2009
I've used this camcorder for about a month now and I'm very happy with my purchase. Canon released the new 2009 models at CES2009 - and this model still compares well in comparison. (The newer models sport much better camera capabilities, but I already own a great camera.) Originally purchased this model instead of the HG20 for the viewfinder, and although the viewfinder works OK the additional hard drive space makes the purchase worthwhile. Picture Quality is awesome (I only record in MXP) and sound quality so-so, but I'll connect an external microphone if I need better sound quality. Due to the enhanced picture quality in MXP you will not get away with common standard definition recording mistakes - especially when you play back on a large size LCD or Plasma. Quick pans or bumpy recording could make you feel sick when watching playback on a large screen. Maybe a good book on the subject is in order before capturing that big event ... or let your wife do the recording ;-). Car power adapter and extra battery is a must for long trips.
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on February 7, 2009
Purchased this camera a month or so ago from Amazon -- extremely happy with this camera. Incredible image quality - especially in the 24mbs setting (the highest quality setting). The camera is compact and light in weight.

Some notes for purchasers : You'll definitely want to get the BP-827 battery for this camera -- it eats through the standard battery shipped with the camera quickly. Personally, I bought a couple of the BP-827's. Also, the cameras image quality in low-light scenarios is average -- so the VL-5 light (another accessory) comes in handy and seems to work very well with this camera. Best image quality from this camera will come from very well-lit scenes -- which is going to be true for almost any consumer grade camera out there.

Overall, I'm very happy with this camera.
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on November 8, 2010
This camcorder does everything and more. Options are awesome and picture quality is life like in good lighting. The battery that the camcorder comes with has a very short life (maybe 90 min), buy the upgraded battery (260 min) and charger when you buy the camcorder. Read all the manuals and I suggest reading some additional books on basic lighting and composition to improve your shots. Only draw back to buying HD is you had better have top of the line PC/MAC with some great software to make movies. By the way, the software that the Canon send with the camcorder is not worth making a coaster for your drinks out of. I had newer laptop that would not even pull up files from camcorder. I had to buy new PC, I7 with 1g independent graphics card and 1T hard drive in order to use software to do video edits and make movie. I use Sony Vegas 10 HD proSony Vegas Movie Studio HD Platinum 10 Suite and it makes awesome movies. Bottom line is this camcorder takes life like video, but you will have to have an amazing PC/MAC to get the video onto a blu ray.
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on July 11, 2013
I bought this again, when the screen died on my other camera - after 6 years (so not bad). I decided to find a new version or new camera that would work well with MACs (this doesn't), but there was nothing I could find with all the memory on a hard drive. The problems are that when the wide angle is on, edges can be seen. This requires cropping some photos. Since it doesn't work automatically with a MAC I had to purchase Toast Titanium. That converts all of the videos. It's an extra step I wish I didn't have, but worth it for the quality.
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on December 11, 2009
I purchased this camera for personal and work use. Although people complain about low light problems, I found settings that use aperature priority and take fine night video. It has fantastic automatic features and just takes some setting up and getting used to to make it produce incredible HD output.
I did a lot of research before buying this model. It is truly the closest thing I could find to a profesional camcorder in a small and reasonably priced camera. The option to use hard drive or SD card for recording or taking still pictures is very fast and easy to switch modes.
The still picture mode takes exceptional pictures and the included flash was something I had missed in my research and was a great surprise!
Note: The mini HD connector is recessed and will require a tapered mini connector! I was able to shave off the corner of the mini adaptor I purchased until I could get a properly sized cable.
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on July 11, 2009
I haven't had the camcorder for too long. What I can say is that I am soo thankful I bought the larger capacity battery. The original lasts about 30min on the highest settings. The high capacity battery is almost 3 hrs. The stabilization really makes this camera worth every penny. I am still messing with some of the settings to get the best picture for me. Quality is really high, almost too high. Transferring about 80min of video (60i mode) via the included USB took about 80min!!! I have since turned down the resolution a bit.

I do recommend this camera and have shown it to a few friends who are now looking to get it. The additional battery is a must, so factor that in the price. I have an Apple (running 10.5.7 iMovie '09) and had no issues importing and editing video without the need for Canon's software.

All in all, this camera was worth it for me. It has everything I want at a reasonable price. This will keep me for the next 10 years.
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