Until now I had always purchased digital cameras that could also take “very good” video (for a still camera) but they had their limitations such as standard definition quality and no auto focus or adjusting the zoom once video recording has started. I was ready for a real HD video camera and originally wanted to spend about $300 as they seemed to be good until I realized at that price range they are 1080i rather than 1080p and often don’t even use a 1080p resolution sensor and just upscale the video as it records (most have a 1.3 megapizel sensor while 1080p is 2 megapixels, so they are upconverting from a lower quality video source so you’re really barely getting half HD quality even though these cameras are still advertised as full HD which is deceiving).
I started by getting the Canon Vixia HF R300 since it’s one of the only ones in this price range with a 3.28 megapixel sensor so it can provide true full HD resolution, but still only records in 1080i. I decided to return it when I realized the included battery lasts a ridiculous 20-25 minutes of recording time, not only that, but an extended capacity battery costs over $100 which is a third of the camera’s cost. In fact when I returned it, the person behind me at the return counter was returning the very same camera for the very same reason. When I realized I had no choice but to spend over $100 just to make the R300 useful I decided to look at more expensive models and got the Panasonic HC-V700 which I also reviewed. It makes no sense to buy the Canon plus over $100 for a battery when for the same total price you can get a far, far better camera that comes with a long lasting battery.
The R300 has a 32x optical zoom and a 51x smart digital zoom with no quality loss. Zooming can be done at 3 different speeds depending on how far you are pressing the zoom slider, but the settings can be changed so that it’s always the speed you prefer. There is an image stabilizer to reduce shaking especially when zoomed in, however I found it to be not very good and it caused very robotic movements in the video, the stabilization technology from Panasonic is miles ahead of Canon.
I was reluctant to go with Canon as I had recently bought a Canon color laser copier which was very un-user-friendly and expensive to use. Well it turns out that also applies to their camcorders because not only to most of them come with a ridiculous 20 minute battery, but the menus and options are overly complicated to use. Menus aren’t well organized, are hard to navigate through, and aren’t pleasant to go through. Even deleting videos is excessively complicated as it first asks you what date was the video you want to delete taken, then it asks you if you want to delete one, multiple or all, then you have to select the ones you want to delete, then click Delete and then you need to confirm you want to delete your selections, this is an excessive amount of steps to simply delete a video. You also often have to use buttons that are “inside” the camera (the part that the LCD covers when closed) for accessing some menus and switching between playback and record mode which are also awkward to reach. I also do not like that you have 3 steps to remember each time you want to turn the camera on or off: 1. Open the lens cover 2. Open the LCD 3. Turn the camera on, and of course reverse this to turn it off (for comparison, with my new Panasonic HC-V700 I simply open the LCD and the camera turns itself on and opens the lens cover automatically).
The Canon VIXIA HF R300 is among the smallest camcorders of this form factor but I did not find it comfortable to hold, you have very little grip on it and the zoom slider button has a fair bit of resistance so I was almost forcing the camera out if my own hand whenever I had to zoom out.
Video quality is very good for the price of the camera but for a bit more you can get a true 1080p HD camera with many other benefits.
As mentioned battery life is a real joke using the small included battery at only about 25 minutes of recording time, and a battery that lasts about 3 hours costs over $100.
I would not recommend this camera, it has ridiculous battery life, isn’t 1080p, is uncomfortable to hold, and not user friendly to use.
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Amount Paid (US$): 300
Recommended for: Budget Buyers - Best Values to Fit the Budget