Canon HV30

An old dog learns some new tricks

Canon HV30
  • Canon HV30
  • Canon HV30
  • Canon HV30
  • Expert Rating

    4.25 / 5

Pros

  • Performed excellently in low light, 25p Cine mode, unique and arresting design, extensive audio options

Cons

  • MiniDV is a dying format, may prove a bit bulky for some

Bottom Line

Despite its reliance on an outdated format, the Canon HV30 is a superior high-def camcorder that offers exceptional value for money. If you can get over your anti-tape prejudice and embrace MiniDV, this model will deliver on every level.

Would you buy this?

The HV30 is part of a rare and arguably dying breed of high-definition camcorder. Instead of coming equipped with an inbuilt hard drive, it sticks to the oldest and most venerable of digital video formats: MiniDV. Canon is the only manufacturer that still supports MiniDV in the high-definition sector, which gives an indication of its ailing popularity. For some, this will be enough to put them off buying the HV30 entirely — who wants to muck around with fiddly tapes when you can use flash media or DVDs instead?

We feel sorry for these people because they're going to be missing out on a superb little camera. Simply put, the HV30 offers some of the best video quality we've seen from any camcorder in this price range. It will prove particularly suitable for amateur film-makers and people who like to extensively edit their videos.

As its name implies, the HV30 is a minor reworking of Canon's HV20, sporting the same 3.1-megapixel CMOS sensor and 10x optical zoom. Just like the HV20, it records video to MiniDV tapes in the HDV format.

In recent years, HDV has been largely superseded by the AVCHD format, which offers superior rates of video compression. While this is beneficial to hard-disk-based cameras, it's not so much of an issue for MiniDV. Plus, because it has been around longer, HDV is more widely supported by non-linear editing applications. This means cutting your videos together will be a lot less problematic.

When it comes to video quality, Canon is generally regarded to be the best camcorder manufacturer in the business. The HV30 continues this stellar reputation, delivering superb visuals that easily surpass the majority of competitively priced rivals. We were particularly impressed by its performance in low-light conditions, with less noise marring the shot than we're typically used to. (No doubt this is largely due to the HV30's superior-grade 1/2.7in CMOS sensor.)

One of the main improvements over the HV20 model is the inclusion of a 25p progressive mode. Similar to Panasonic's HDC-SD9 25p Cinema Mode, this new recording option offers rich, true-to-life colours that mimic the feel of celluloid. This is obviously very handy if you make short films, and will give your subjects a smooth, filmic motion reminiscent of the big screen. Needless to say, when it comes to recording video the HV30 will give you very little to complain about.

In terms of design, the Canon HV30 is a cut above the usual HD fare, especially when compared to its HV20 predecessor. As has become the norm for high-end cameras, its body has been dipped in glossy black paint to give it a professional sheen. The shape of the camcorder is vaguely futuristic, with an unusual curvature that sets it apart from its rivals. However, at well over half a kilogram, the HV30 is not one of those super-sleek models that can be tossed in your jacket pocket and forgotten about.

This is one of the drawbacks of the MiniDV format, with the tape's housing compartment increasing the camera's bulk. On the plus side, the extra weight may assist in capturing smooth footage; something which is further aided by Canon's excellent optical image stabiliser. Most users will be more than satisfied with the way this camera handles (provided their fingers are small enough to manipulate the menu's joystick)

Special mention must also go to the HV30's excellent audio options. In addition to an impressive inbuilt microphone, the camera comes equipped with a hot accessory shoe and external microphone and headphone jacks. You can also manually adjust audio levels via the camera's miniature joystick. This makes the HV30 an excellent choice for budding film-makers and serious videographers who require crystal-clear sound.

The HV30 also comes equipped with a MiniSD memory card slot. However, unlike the majority of its competitors, this can only be used to capture still images — not video. We were mildly impressed by its stills performance though, with a maximum image resolution of 2048x1536.

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