Canon is one of the most recognized and trusted brand names in digital cameras and digital camcorders. The Vixia series is Canon’s flagship consumer line of camcorders. They range in price from as low as $299.99 to as high as $1,499. So, even though these are all consumer-oriented camcorders, there is a vast amount of variation between each model.
Near the bottom of the price range are two very similar cameras: the Canon Vixia HF R21 and the Canon Vixia HF R20. In this review, we’ll compare these two camcorders in order to determine which one is a better buy for you.
The Canon Vixia HF R21 has a MSRP of $499.99, while the Canon Vixia HF R20 has an MSRP of $399.99. You can likely find these cameras for a lower price at a retailer or as a refurbished item. This will probably be the main point of differentiation for you. Without reading on, you should know that both cameras will likely be highly satisfactory for basic HD video recording. So, if the price difference is as wide as the MSRP wherever you find these two cameras, you can safely go with the R20 on price alone. But if the margin is smaller—say $25 or $50—you may want to look into what’s the same and different about these cameras.
Both cameras are identical in terms of shooting quality. They have shooting resolutions of 1920 x 1080 and about 2.07 megapixels for video. With dynamic image stabilization on, you get about 1.47 Megapixels and a resolution of 1616 x 909. Things get shakier with advanced zoom, with a quality of about 1.04 megapixels and a resolution of 1360 x 765.
Both camcorders can also take stills of about 2.07 megapixels in either 16:9 or 4:3. This is about the same quality you’d expect from a smartphone.
The lenses on these two camcorders are also the same. They have an optical zoom ratio of 20x and a 400x digital zoom. The max F/stop is f/1.8-3.6 and the focal length is f-3.0-60mm.
Connections and Terminals
You can export videos and photos by saving them onto a SD card, or you can connect the camcorder to your computer. You can also connect it directly to a TV, monitor or projector via the component outputs and an HDMI mini connector. Both camcorders have a built-in microphone, but you can attach an external microphone via the 3.5mm stereo mini-jack.
Again, the two camcorders are the same in terms of form factor. They measure at 2.4 x 2.4 x 4.8 inches and weigh about 10.9 ounces with the battery pack included.
This is really the only substantial area where these two camcorders differ. The Vixia HF R21 has an internal flash drive of 32GB and has two memory card slots for SD, SDHC or SDXC cards. The Vixia HF R20 has an 8 GB internal flash drive, plus two SD slots for SD, SDHC and SDXC memory cards. That is the main factor that causes the R21 to cost about $100 more.
So, is it worth it? That depends. The maximum recording time on the RF21 is about 2 hours and 55 minutes in full HD recording, while the RF20 has about 40 minutes of full HD recording. But that’s before you factor in SD cards. You can easily expand the RF20 to 32 GB or more by buying an external SD card. But keep in mind that these cards are expensive—a 32 GB SDHC card will cost you about $60. So, in essence, you’re paying a $40 premium with the RF21 for more built-in memory. If you don’t anticipate needing that much shooting time, then definitely save yourself the money and go with the RF20.