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Lifewire / Jonno Hill
Small and portable
32x optical zoom
Noisy footage in darker settings
Below-average video quality
Scattered menu options can be confusing
The Canon VIXIA HF R800 is a modest 1080p camcorder that provides more than enough functionality to justify its equally modest price tag.
The Canon VIXIA HF R800 Camcorder isn’t the most feature-packed camcorder on the market, and it lacks a lot of more advanced functionality of higher-end options. To add further insult, the performance of the Canon VIXIA HF R800 Camcorder also loses out to plenty of modern smartphones by a lot of different metrics as well. And yet, with all those myriad disclaimers, HF R800 is actually a solid purchase choice for many users.
As paradoxical as that sounds, there are a few key selling points, ranging from the 32x optical zoom to the image stabilization performance. Let’s take a look at where the HF R800 shines, and where it could use some work.
When you’ve grown accustomed to testing and using larger video cameras, it’s definitely a shock to unbox this one. It’s a tiny device, with a small, barrel-shaped design that will be familiar to anyone used to owning a consumer-grade video camera. It would be easy to dismiss the HF R800 based on its appearance and price category, but Canon quickly makes up ground on the merits of the camcorder itself.
One of the first things we noticed was how few buttons there are anywhere on the camcorder—a result of the touchscreen. The side of the camcorder (right of the user during operation) has a physical lens cover switch. The top of the device boasts a zoom slider. And on the rear, awkwardly next to the battery, is the Record button. Below this, the power port.
Opening the LCD panel reveals the rest of the buttons and ports, including a playback button, On/Off button, SD card slot, Mini HDMI port, USB mini-AB port, microphone port, and a headphone/AV out combination port. That’s just about it though. Some users might prefer more specialized control of all their functionality in the form of physical buttons, but for most consumers, this reduced complexity might be a blessing.
The LCD display rotates outward and features tilt control, swiveling up to 180 degrees forward to face the front of the device and 90 degrees downward. This is certainly useful for users who need to use the camcorder for something like vlogging. The touchscreen itself performed admirably, giving us no trouble navigating the camcorder’s menu system. The LCD display itself left something to be desired, though, lacking the brightness and contrast necessary to make it usable under sunlight.
Despite impressing us with its physical design, the VIXIA HF R800 fell short for actual video quality.
At 10.8 ounces (including battery, memory card, and grip belt), the Canon VIXIA HF R800 Camcorder is not light, despite its meager frame. Most users will have no trouble holding the camcorder for normal recording durations, but it can cause fatigue over a long period of time. Canon omits mentioning any form of water- or dustproofing, which likely means there isn’t any.
Canon definitely gets high marks on the setup for the VIXIA HF R800. We were able to unbox the product, charge the battery, and start using the camcorder without any manual reading required. Even the outlined steps in the Basic Setup portion of the manual simply involve choosing a preferred language, setting the date and time, and then choosing between onboard memory or an SD card, which you will hopefully have inserted by this point.
If you’re not as familiar with video cameras and need more of a primer before you start using the device, you’re in good hands. The manual for the Canon VIXIA HF R800 Camcorder is clear, concise, and contains helpful illustrations to remove any ambiguity.
Users should note that the lens cover is operated manually, which is a little unusual since all the other camcorders we tested handled this part of operation automatically.
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As for recording formats, the HF R800 shoots 1080p/60fps footage at 17/24/35 MBps, and 720p/60fps footage at 4 MBps. Since you’re saving straight onto a standard SD card, you can either import footage by removing the card and putting it into a card reader, or use the provided mini-AB USB cable to connect the camcorder directly to your computer. This process was relatively pain-free, and we didn’t face any difficulties pulling footage from the camcorder. Take note though, you need to press the play button first, in order for the camcorder to establish a USB connection and be recognized by your computer.
Canon makes up some ground it loses on video quality by providing an adequate amount of functionality at a very attractive price.
After taking videos, Canon provides some basic functionality in the camcorder itself to trim clips and add decorative effects on top of clips. This feature doesn’t seem to be promoted too much and definitely feels a bit gimmicky.
Despite impressing us with its physical design, the VIXIA HF R800 fell short for actual video quality. The footage came out fairly grainy and lacked overall sharpness and clarity. There was a plainly noticeable green cast to the footage that was visible towards the edges of the frame. Additionally, edge sharpness suffered quite a bit, and we noticed a significant fall off from the center of the frame to the edges.
On the plus side, we were happy with the 32x optical zoom (57x in Advanced mode), which helped to make up for some of the sharpness loss by giving us the ability to get closer to the subject. Additionally, we were more impressed than we expected to be when it came to the image stabilization. The camcorder struggled when walking, but did a great job stabilizing itself in a handheld position, even at the far end of the zoom spectrum. This was definitely unexpected, acting as one place the R800 punched slightly above its weight.
The HF R800 also features a 0.5x slow motion recording mode and time-lapse functionality, allowing users to shoot anywhere from 2:1 up to 1200:1 ratios. Canon includes a zoom framing assist function that allows users to tap on the screen to decrease the magnification and locate your subject before continuing at the previous zoom level. Another interesting feature was the inclusion of a highlight priority mode, which attempts to provide backlight correction in bright scenarios.
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The Canon VIXIA HF R800 Camcorder doesn’t deliver any big surprises in still-image quality, unfortunately. Plenty of camcorders take photos at a higher resolution than the highest video resolution available, but the HF R800’s stills are only 1920 x 1080, or 2.1 megapixels. This is definitely on the low end of photo resolutions these days, so those looking to purchase a camcorder in part for still image quality should likely look elsewhere.
Since the Canon VIXIA HF R800 Camcorder isn’t winning over anyone in the video quality department, the $249.99 retail price (often less on Amazon) is key to justifying its purchase. Canon has priced the R800 low enough to still merit consideration for budget buyers who don’t want to rely on their smartphone. Overall, there is definitely enough functionality in the Canon VIXIA HF R800 Camcorder to make it competitive with other budget options.
Those looking to step up from the Canon VIXIA HF R800 Camcorder might consider Panasonic’s HC-V770, which provides a much better roster of features and functionality, and captures notably better footage. On top of this, you get a much better onboard microphone, better low-light performance, and a shoe adapter to add even more accessories, among other things. This comes at a cost, with the HC-V770 being double the price of the HF R800.
A low-cost fighter.
The Canon VIXIA HF R800 Camcorder isn’t the best choice for aspiring filmmakers, but budget shoppers looking for the suite of functionality that a dedicated camcorder offers should definitely consider this one. Canon makes up some ground it loses on video quality by providing an adequate amount of functionality at a very attractive price.