Canon HV-20 HDV Camcorder 

Canon's new HDV camcorder. Presented with all the "hype" of a film star. Is it an "Oscar" or a "Razzer"?
Canon HV20 Digital HD Video Camcorder

The great day dawned and the parcel delivered. The Canon HV-20 had arrived. The first shock was its size - it is very small. This feeling of inadequacy was soon dispelled as the camera had a good solid feel and sat well in the hand.

The next pleasant surprise was the design of the controls, Canon have put some thought into the camera layout, the battery sits in a small recess out of the way, the joystick menu controller is on the back plate directly under the user's right thumb and the other controls located for easy use with the zoom toggle and the "photo" button on the top plate. The LCD screen, still located on the left side, now has four flush pressure switches, to control tape transport in playback mode, and is totally uncluttered. The HV-20 has four modes for recording. HDV, HDV Cine?, DV Wide and DV Standard

The body is wider than some lesser mini-dv camcorders and looks like a tube and a box stuck together. The tube carries the, all important, lens and CMOS chip and the box houses the tape transport and most of the controls. The LCD screen and viewfinder, which is noticeably wide-screen, give very good pictures. The camera operating information still clutters both screens but may be toggled on and off with the touch of a button. This really is an improvement as the viewfinders will now give an uncluttered display of the video picture.

The connections, to the outside world, are scattered, in logical groups, around the body. The right side houses the microphone socket, the AV input/output and a Component (RGB video) output. The AV socket doubles as a headphone socket and can be switched between AV and phones by a menu command. The back houses the HDV/DV (IEEE 1394 computer connection) and the all important HDMI sockets. The USB (photo) socket is on the plate under the LCD screen, next to the slot for a mini SD card.(Not supplied) Cables included with the camera cover the USB connection, the AV (two audio and composite video) and the Component leads.

Now to performance. In the short time that I have used the camera, I have recorded some country and river scenes in DV wide mode. The camera is connected to the TV (Panasonic 37" plasma) through the Composite lead for the video and the audio part of the AV connection. The results were Well - stunning! A crisp clear picture with good colour rendering. Can't wait to try HDV! To give a more accurate report will require a longer association with the camera and a choice of more varied subjects. First impressions are however good.

One of the requirements for camera selection was a microphone socket. The microphones on my Canon MV-960 were a total waste of space. They picked up every sound including the camera motor, the operator (most undesirable!) and anything else that happened to be passing. Why can't Canon fit directional microphones or, even better, microphone sockets to all their camcorders?

So to the HV-20. The result is no better. I listened, through headphones, to the camera mikes. Again a cacophony of camera noise, room noise, and echo, including the operator's heavy breathing! Fortunately I had kept my camcorder microphones from the old Sony Hi-8 days so I fitted my CamLink EM-800 stereo condenser mike to the camera input and sat the mike on the accessory shoe. The difference was amazing, no camera noise, no unwanted echo and the sound clearly emanated from the subject being filmed.

Incidentally the "Advanced Accessory Shoe" fitted to the camera is a standard accessory shoe with a series of contacts on its front end designed to drive and control Canon lights, flash and microphone.

The HV-20 is fitted with a standard tripod mount and locating pin socket. I expect the camera will spend a lot of time on a tripod as the Image Stabiliser, although good on wide shot, cannot cope with a hand held tele shot.

So is this the start of a love affair? I think so. I still need to get my head around the Canon menu system and use the camera more but everything so far has felt right. It is delightfully easy to use and the results look promising.

At the moment, prices are all over the place. I paid £699 at Equipment Express but was quoted £999 at Jessops. Potential buyers should also be prepared to budget for a mini SD card, leads for HDMI and computer IEEE 1394 connections and, if required, a set of headphones and a microphone.

Best price at the moment seems to be DABs at £692.99 :

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Comment by Terfyn, 30 Aug 2007 19:06

Well thats a condemnation! First I have no problem with the LCD in sunshine, I find it very clear. I have no problem with the viewfinder, I find it is only blocked when I have my microphone mounted on the shoe. The start/stop button on the back needs little pressure to push and being on the back means that the shake is back to front not sideways. I only use the LCD screen buttons on Playback so shake does not matter. The zoom lever is to small and fiddly as is the focus "wheel". We are all entitled to our views but I wonder why you bought the camera in the first place if it was so unsatisfactory?

Comment by Richard W. Brown, 30 Aug 2007 18:35

I have to give 4 out 5 as a rating purely because of the quality of video. However the Canon HV20 is one of the most awkward and consumer unfriendly camcorder I have ever used.  Perhaps its lucky we have had many dull days this summer because using the screen in sunshine reveals a really poor design fault. <br>The viewfinder is parallel to the battery and completely immovable so your nose is pressed against the battery. I would defy you to press the pause button right under your cheek without moving the cam. The press controls on the viewfinder are not the most responsive and sometimes need a good hard press to activate. Again causing camcorder shake. The casing is very plasticky and feels cheap. A few other design faults make it a shame because the quality through an HDMI cable into my HI DEF TV are simply stunning even with the shaking between shots.

Comment by Terfyn, 19 June 2007 19:03

First you can expect to get HDV 1080i output to a HD ready TV using an HDMI cable. You should also get an equivalent output from the Component Out terminal into the Component input (RGB) of your TV. In this case you should use the red and white plugs from the AV output for the sound. (Don't use the Yellow, the RGB supplies the picture.)

Editing. It is normal to use a computer based editing program. The tape is downloaded into the computer from the camera and the result, from the editing process, can be burnt on to a DVD, recorded on a VCR, (the HV-20 will rerecord your edited output from the computer) stored in the computer or uploaded to the web. The HDV/DV connector on the HV-20 is connected to the computer using an IEEE 1394 "Firewire" cable. (Ideally you will need a Firewire connector - but there are other methods) The HDV/DV is bi-directional so, if you wish, you can rerecord the computer output on to a miniDV tape.

I use Pinnacle Studio 11 software. This will handle HDV and produce HD DVD through your DVD burner. (AVCHD format will be available for Blue-Ray with a future update) You will need Studio 11 Plus to handle HD DVDs

HDV will record on normal MiniDV but the HD MiniDV is a better quality tape. I have recorded HDV on my normal tapes without problem.

Hope tha answers your questions. Refer to "" for the software and a useful Blog site "". Enjoy your camera and if I can be of any more help please ask. Mike.

Comment by plasma, 19 June 2007 16:15

My Panasonic ams have virtually been sold on Ebay.My readies are nearly ready to purchase the Canon HV20...however I would like to know a few things. Particularly on the editing side. If I play a tape from the HV20 directly into my hdmi lcd via the requisite connection will the picture shown actually be HD?

If I edit a tape in any editing suite and play that directly from the HV20 will that still play in Hi-Def?

There are mini Dv tapes that are made specifically for HD are these worth the money?

And finally(Who said thank god!?) What about editing HD tapes, are we trying to run before we can walk. Is there a programme that can handle HD and transfer it DVD without breaking the bank?

Comment by Terfyn, 9 June 2007 6:48

I have two condenser mikes, one old CamLink EM-800 from my H1-8 days and a new Yoga EM-268, buught from Maplins. I find the new mike has a better directional pattern. I also have an Azden radio mike which works well, it is mono so I bought, again from Maplin, a 3.5mm mono to stereo connector.(this gives both channels an audio signal)
The camera mikes are sensitive and, in a quiet location, pick up every noise especially camera sound. At least with the mikes, I can either point or locate them at the required sound source. To be fair, if the required noise is loud enough, the camera mikes will attenuate and do work well. ( see for many comments on mikes and sound)
There are a few domestic camcorders with a seperate mike socket but the HV-20 is just a great unit with super pictures. One or two professional videographers have been very impressed with the results, as they find that the output is often better than their expensive semi pro units, the gripe is that the HV-20, with its small size, doesent look professional enough!!! so their clients feel unimpressed and cheated. (image is so important.)
Jus to complete my own picture, I use Studio 10 Plus for my editing and, personally, like it very much. I am waiting for Studio 11 Ultimate. I understand that Studio 11 has web publishing features which may be of interest to you.

Comment by John Scarborough, 8 June 2007 23:34

Thank you for you comments about microphones.  I am looking for a camcorder to do video clips for a web site. Yours is the only review that has mentioned a wired mic.  I have been planning to use a lapel mic but condenser mics pointed in the proper direction may work better.

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