The Ultimate Canon HV20 Camcorder Review and Guide

canon hv20

When one of life’s amazing moments happens, will you be prepared to capture it? With a Canon HV20 camcorder in your hand, you will be! These cameras are light enough to carry around. Best of all, they shoot with amazing HD quality.

If you want to save money, you might be like me. Two years ago, I was in the market for a camcorder. My son had just turned one. Capturing minute-long clips on my iPhone just wasn’t cutting it for me anymore. I decided to get a dedicated video recording device to film all those magical moments with my baby boy.

Canon HV20 3MP High Definition MiniDV Camcorder with 10x Optical Image...

As you can imagine, that wasn’t a great idea. The camcorder worked great for a few days. Then it started to get glitches. Video would cut out at key moments. The “HD” became grainy on playback. Worst of all was the battery, which stopped holding a charge after only three months. It was $80 well wasted.

Don’t make the same mistake I made. Spend the extra money on a quality camcorder the first time -- it's worth it.

About the Canon HV20

If you want a quality camera for a reasonable price, Canon is for you. The company produces a range of digital HD and 4K camcorders. Canon was founded in Japan in 1937 as a precision optical instruments laboratory. As Japan rebuilt following the war, Canon switched to manufacturing consumer electronics, including the world’s first camera with an optical range-finder.

What all that means is that you can be confident that Canon knows cameras. One of Canon’s most popular camcorders is the Canon HV20. It's compact, light, and jammed full of top-of-the-line specs. You get everything at an amazingly competitive price!

Specifications

Canon HV20 3MP High Definition MiniDV Camcorder with 10x Optical Image...
  • This Certified Refurbished product is tested and certified to look and work like new. The refurbishing process includes...
  • HDV camcorder with 1/2.7-inch CMOS image sensor; 24p Cinema Mode
  • High-definition 10x optical zoom lens; super-range optical image stabilizer

The Canon HV20 is all about high definition. The premise is that HD is the basic standard that people expect. The Canon HV20 connects easily to HD televisions for flawless playback right from the camera. There’s no need to upload video to your computer first.

Also, this camcorder has a 10x optical zoom with 1080 pixels. The still camera shoots at 3-megapixels. There is a digital optical image stabilizer built in, and customers rave that the system works very well. You can zoom in on distant targets, and the computer will stabilize the image. That makes it easier to watch on playback!

A cool feature that the Canon HV20 packs is the “RGB Primary Color Filter.” This separates light into red, green, and blue components as it films, making your video and photos pop. You would need to spend a large amount of money on a DSLR to get the same results from another camera.

Finally, the Canon HV20 has a 24p cinema mode. It's a feature usually only found on professional-grade video cameras. It changes the frame rate to 24 frames per second (FPS), the same that Hollywood films use. The RGB color filter will adjust the light to give your video a film-like quality that you only get in the cinema. That’s something my cheap camera never had!

Pricing and Warranty

Canon HV20 3MP High Definition MiniDV Camcorder with 10x Optical Image...

The Canon HV20 has so much cool tech, you probably expect to pay a lot. Your expectations would be wrong. You can find the Canon Hv20 at much more reasonable prices at Best Buy, Amazon, Radio Shack, and even eBay.

In addition to a reasonable price, the Canon HV20 comes with Canon’s incredible two-year manufacturer’s warranty. Canon will replace the casing or lens without charge for any manufacturing defects. That doesn’t include normal wear and tear. Also, tampering with the lens will void the entire warranty. All in all, a two-year warranty on any product is amazing.

This means Canon stands behind their products. That makes me feel confident about buying from them. I have a hard time trusting companies who don’t warranty their products. Why would I trust their product if they don’t? When you buy a Canon, you’re buying a camera in which the manufacturer has supreme confidence.

How It Stacks Up

Canon HV20 3MP High Definition MiniDV Camcorder with 10x Optical Image...

If you’re like me, you probably like to check out all your options before you make a purchase. I’m one of those guys who slowly wades into the pool from the shallow end, and I shop the same way. Although the Canon HV20 is a fantastic product at a great price, there are always comparable products out there. How does it hold up to a Sony Handycam? Does the 24p Cinema Mode outshine anything Panasonic can do?

How We Reviewed

To compare the Canon HV20 to the competition, I researched four similar camcorders. I chose the Sony Handycam, the Gongpon 1080p Video Recorder, the Panasonic HC-V770, and the newer Canon VIXIA HD. You are certain to come across these cameras during your search. I went to each company’s website to learn a little about them.

Next, I went to Amazon to read customer reviews. Because I trust reviews written by real people, I read through a lot of them. I was able to get a good idea of how these cameras handle shooting in the real world. This gave me a good comparison to the Canon HV20.

Sony - HDRCX405 HD Video Recording Handycam Camcorder (black)
  • 50Mbps XAVC S1 1920x1080 at 60P, AVCHD and MP4 codecs. 30x Optical / 60x Clear Image Zoom to get closer to the action....
  • Automatically creates highlight video in MP4 from multiple clips. Optical SteadyShot image stabilization w/ Active mode....
  • Face Detection with voice enhancement and noise reduction. Get creative w/ 7 picture effects for video and still...

First up in this comparison is the Sony Handycam. Sony is one of the world’s biggest electronics brands. The company has a fantastic history. It was founded just after the end of World War II by a young Japanese engineer. He set up shop in the corner of a bombed-out department store in Tokyo and started assembling radios from spare parts he scavenged in the ruins of the city. He lived to see his company dominate electronics by the nineties.

The Sony Handycam has been a staple in camcorders for years. The most recent line of Handycams has 1080-pixel HD recording, a 30x optical lens, and a 60x digital zoom. It features “SteadyShot” technology much like the Canon HV20s stabilizer for zoomed-in recording. The Handycam can live-stream with a built-in Wi-Fi adapter, so you can record right to your audience on Instagram or Skype.

Although the Sony Handycam is similar to the Canon HV20, it has a higher customer rating. Buyers on Amazon rated the Handycam 4.1 out of 5-stars. Everyone loved how clear the picture is. The USB stores neatly inside the camera so customers never lost it. Several people complained that it doesn’t perform well in low-light situations.

Camcorder Digital Video Camera, Camcorder with Microphone IR Night...
  • 【1080P + 30MP + 16X zoom】The video camcorder captures clear video that 1080P HD resolution and 16X zoom (play on TV...
  • 【IR Night Vision Camcorder+Support Up 128 GB SD Card】The digital camera is equipped with an infrared LED light for...
  • 【Web Cam+Pause Recording Function】 This camera with flip screen supports webcam function, you can use the youtube...

Next up is the LINNSE Camcorder. The company, LINNSE, is a bit of a mystery. They have no website, so every search on Google brings up nothing. I highly suspect that this is a Chinese manufacturer of a different name who simply makes a range of camcorders branded with “LINNSE." It would appear that they sell almost exclusively on Amazon, although you may find some third-party retailers selling LINNSE cameras on the Best Buy site.

The LINNSE Camcorder is one of those cameras I warned you about. On paper, it seems amazing. 18x digital zoom, full 1080p HD recording, night vision, remote control, and more.

But that’s where the good stops. Customers on Amazon had many problems. They gave it 3.3 out of 5-stars. Every customer complained that the picture isn’t high definition, despite marketing the camera as an HD camcorder. Almost everyone said the quality is terrible.

Panasonic Full HD Camcorder HC-V770, 20X Optical Zoom, 1/2.3-Inch BSI...
  • 20X Optical Zoom: Long 20X zoom draws in the scene from far away; Compatible with Remote Pan Tilt Cradle (optional). The...
  • HDR Movie Feature: Exclusive high-dynamic range feature suppresses blown highlights and blocked shadows for crisper and...
  • Wireless Twin Camera: Wirelessly connect your smartphone's video camera as a sub-camera for a picture-in-picture video...

Next, we have the Panasonic HC-V770. Panasonic is one of the oldest electronics manufacturers in the world. The company was founded in 1918 in Japan to manufacture light bulb sockets. It supplied electronics to the Japanese military in World War II and created controversy over its use of slave labor in occupied countries. After the war, it switched to consumer electronics, where we find it today.

The HC-V770 is one of Panasonic’s most popular digital camcorders. It comes packed with a 20x optical zoom feature using a 4-lens system. It has Bluetooth, so you can connect the camera to your phone and broadcast direct to Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube. Some of the recording options include HD slow motion, HDR enhancements, automatic lighting sensors, and backside light suppression which allows the camera to shoot well in low-light conditions.

The Panasonic HC-V770 is a high-end model. It doesn’t do anything amazingly better than the Canon HV20. Customers on Amazon gave it 4.2 out of 5-stars. Almost everyone raved about how well this camera shoots in low-light. Panasonic has packed some useful tech in here to achieve this. Nevertheless, the image quality wasn’t any better than cheaper models, and many people received error messages on the LCD screen from time to time.

Canon Vixia HF R800 HD Camcorder (Black) Deluxe Bundle W/Camcorder...
  • MP4 1080/60p recording to capture sharp and clear videos even of fast-moving subjects.
  • 57x Advanced Zoom for easy shooting from far distances.
  • SuperRange Optical Image Stabilization minimizes camera shake ensuring steady shooting throughout the zoom range.

Finally, we have another camera from Canon, the VIXIA HD. I chose another offering from Canon because the VIXIA is the newer, updated version of the Canon HV20.

The VIXIA comes in several models, from 1080p HD to 4K. I’ve stuck with the standard 1080p HD to make this a relevant comparison with all the other cameras on this list. The VIXIA has an astounding 57x optical zoom. This means that when you shoot a fast-moving object far away, such as an airplane, the results are astounding.

Despite the crystal-clear image, it lacks some of the tech the Canon HV20 comes with, such as the 24p Cinema Mode. It also requires image stabilization, which is a HUGE oversight for a camera with 57x zoom.

It comes with Canon’s standard two-year warranty. Customers on Amazon rated the VIXIA 4.2 out of 5-stars. Almost everyone said the camera does the job it’s supposed to do. People were blown away by the zoom, but many people complained about the lack of image stabilization.

Pros and Cons

Canon HV20 3MP High Definition MiniDV Camcorder with 10x Optical Image...

Because most of these cameras, aside from the Gongpon, were rated so highly, it can seem difficult to determine which is the best for you. The Canon HV20 certainly holds its own, even up against a more expensive camera from the same company. However, it’s not perfect.

PROS

  • It does “HD” exceptionally well
  • Packed with amazing technology in a small package
  • Image stabilization
  • The 24p Cinema Mode is fantastic
  • Fantastic price
  • The best warranty in the camera industry

CONS

  • Shoots on Digital Video, which can become expensive
  • Low-light shooting isn’t as good as some other cameras
  • Not Firewire-compatible, so you can’t hook it up to a Mac

My Final Choice

Like I said earlier in this review: don’t just buy the cheapest camera you find. I did that, and it was a complete waste of money. I didn’t end up saving anything because after three months I didn’t have a camera to show for it. For that reason, I would avoid the Gongpon camera. Nobody even knows who Gongpon is. Even Google can’t figure it out!

You don’t need to buy the most expensive camera, either. The Panasonic HC-V770 is a fantastic piece of hardware, but it doesn’t do anything better than the Canon HV20. The Canon VIXIA is higher-priced than the Canon HV20 yet lacks a lot of features. It doesn’t even have image stabilization.

If you don’t mind shooting on digital video, then I highly recommend the Canon HV20. It does everything you want in a camcorder, and it does it exceptionally well. I’m a big fan of the 24p cinema mode. The image stabilization is fantastic. The two-year warranty is unbeatable.

If you’re not a fan of Digital Video, then go for the Sony Handycam. It can record in MP4, so you can easily transfer your files to your computer. Although it lacks some of the bells and whistles of the Canon HV20, you won’t be disappointed.

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