Canon VIXIA HV30 vs venerable HV20? Review is in!

hv30a.gifCancorderInfo has reviewed the HV30- the newest HDV camcorder from Canon that makes a few improvements on the HV20 that has garnered plenty of praise and quite an industry of people making it work as a “pro” camera by working around its consumer camcorder limitations.

Personally, I didn’t see much in the HV30 to warrant jumping at it, but after reading CamcorderInfo’s normally exhaustive hands-on testing, I’m prepared to rethink myself on the HV30.


CamcorderInfo’s review (oh how I hate separate pages) does a great job of not only assessing the HV30, but also providing a valuable comparison to the HV20 already in many user’s hands.

The Canon HV20 shares the same excellent 1/2.7-inch CMOS chip, as well as the same architecture and manual controls. At a glance, the HV30 is merely an HV20 with a ravishing coat of black paint.

That’s what I feared, but…

But under the hood, it’s a slightly different story. The HV30 is turbocharged with 30P mode in addition to 60i and 24P. Canon recommends this setting for video destined for the internet… Canon also revamped the Zoom toggle, hot shoe cover, and added a non-solarizing LCD screen with enhanced color reproduction.

Are these earth-shattering alterations? No. But those who missed out on the HV20 will enjoy the HV30’s additional stocking stuffers.


I’m going to side with David Kender here. If you didn’t already have an HV20, the HV30 makes the lure even more enticing than before by NOT screwing up what was good, and making a few subtle enhancements to make the good now even better.

The changes on this generation’s model range from the significant to the minor, but they are all improvements. Unlike Sony, Canon has not taken any backwards steps in their HDV line.

As someone who does corporate work a lot these days, and all of that is distributed on computer screens, 30p is an excellent addition to the lineup. It’s one of the reasons we purchased Canon GL2 camcorders there (long lens and Lanc control being two other key features, which the HV20 and HV30 don’t have). The better LCD screen is always good to have. The other features improve general usability which I have always espoused over any single technical feature.

It’s not what the camera can do, it’s what you can do with the camera. And, if the camera isn’t constantly hindering you with a bunch of piddly issues, you are more apt to get where your dreams are taking you.

So, if you already have an HV20, the HV30 does not look like enough of a change to make you swap out your gun. But if you were on the edge, or just starting to look, the HV30 should be more than enough for you to pull the trigger.

— — —

David brings up another good point: How long does HDV have to live?

For consumers, using flash media is fine. They’ve been doing it with still images for years now.
But, for professionals, whose jobs, and reputations, live on the shoulders of their images, I see such a fear as I have never seen before. So many immediately back up their images to a hard drive storage device- in the middle of a job. Then, back int he studio, they back up all their media to the computer. Then burn disks they send off to the print house. That’s four copies of their precious images. Only then do they start to breathe a sigh of relief.

Flash media is not infalliable. Neither is tape, but tape stretches & breaks in a known, physically repairable way. Plus, one HDV tape gives you more than 13 GB of storage for $3. At that price, you can put the camera original tapes on the shelf and never have to worry about a hard drive crash wiping several of your video productions off the face of the earth.

Every professional I know who uses a hard drive recorder, or switches a multi-camera show live to tape still rolls ISO tapes in the cameras themselves because it is cheap insurance. Sony’s new S270 and Z7 camcorders continue to use tape but augment the tape with compact flash media that can get the footage to the edit stage faster than real time.

Flash is good, but tape still has a place in the professional realm (corporate, event video, EFP) where time doesn’t equal money, the completed footage equals money.


. &


11 thoughts on “Canon VIXIA HV30 vs venerable HV20? Review is in!

Add yours

  1. You have cut to the main issues surrounding the HV20 and HV30.
    I’m ready to go right to click and drag footage transfer, but you bring up a good point about shelf-life and cost of tapes. I agree with Michael in the comments section of the HV30 review:

    I want a tapeless camcorder with HV30 body and features! And real focus ring and flip-up viewfinder! The GL2 is aging, the HX-A1 is miles ahead in price, features and size, there just should be something in between for, say, $1500. Come on, Canon! I don’t want to pay $$$ for Sony’s SxS cards.

  2. I think this is a common desire. The most direct answer to flash-HDV is Sony’s forthcoming HVR-Z7U.

    That said, there’s also Canon’s new HF-10 dual flash camcorder. It has the highest data rate AVCHD yet, and it has both internal and removable flash media. This looks like a couple good steps in the right direction.


  3. Hm, 13GB/$3 is a lot more expensive than DVD (4.4GB/20¢), but then again, I guess you can download from tape and burn to DVD.

    How many times can you re-use a tape?

  4. Ried, please elaborate.

    Can you shoot HD directly onto a full size 4.7g DVD? No.
    Does any camcorder record onto a full size DVD? No.
    Can you get an archival DVD for 20¢? No.
    Can you record for 80 minutes at 25 Mbps? No.
    Does a DVD RW cost 20¢? No.

    A DV tape is very cost effective, and very reliable.
    I have 2 year old DVDs that won’t play, and 7 year old DV tapes that play perfectly. With the time code- standard- all you really need to save is the project file and artwork with the original tapes.


  5. I have just got a HV 30 (PAL) and tested the HV20 before. One major advantage is not mentioned yet and it is the noice of the tape drive. It is significant quiet than the HV20. That was my reason to take the HV 30.

  6. The canon VIXIA HF100 hv30 is the latest canon camcorder and it’s tapeless so – tape engine noise NO MORE !!!

  7. Bought a Canon HV30 on May 1st 2008, returned it yesterday for refund. Reason: plasticky, poor build quality–not that it would fall apart on the first week, but that tape drive door wobbles in your hand, the little latches used to cover the av/mic/usb etc ports are hard to keep closed (one kept popping open whenever I inserted or ejected a tape); the lcd screen was quite sharp and usable in subdued daylight, but the viewfinder is pathetic, and not worth using. There is a place for a home movie camcorder that has some semi-pro features such as manual audio control, but overall, for the low, low budget documentary film style shooting I want to do, I need something more robust, and will be looking at a Canon GL2 or Sony A1U…the question now is, do I “future proof” myself by going HD or does it really matter, when it comes to small documentaries?

  8. I think it does matter, especially when you think of how you might try to sell an SD product 10 yeas from now.

    HDV can shoot SD, and HD, but more importantly, you can shoot HDV, and have the camera downconvert to DV when you digitize. Then you can do everything at SD now, but have HD source footage if the project “gets legs” and explodes to a wider audience.


  9. like the comments and reviews how ever however for perhaps some of not so digitize individuals that might want to know some of the acryonims like high definition (hd), Digital Video (dv), high definition video (hdv), and digital video imaging/illustration (dvi).

  10. Maybe work on spelling and capitalization before posting?
    acronyms (not acryonims)
    HD, DV, HDV [gee, Caps Lock is useful after all ;-]
    DVI usually means the interconnect standard used
    to connect displays (Digital Visual Interface) and
    is related to HDMI (HD Multimedia Interface)].

    So far, my HV20 (bought way before the HV30 arrived) has proven fairly durable, despite everyone’s complaints about “cheap build”. Visual results are stunning with good light, but I use an external mic most of the time — the Sony ECMMS907 works well with the HV20. For great audio (i.e. not MPEG), maybe use a separate recorder like the Sony PCMD50)? While I like tape, 1 hour is a bit too short (Digital-8’s LP mode is closer to 90 minutes, but the quality is awful compared to the HV20 — except that it sometimes wins in low light).

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at

Up ↑