Video Accessories Misc

Canon VIXIA HF11 1080p High Definition Video Camera

ARTICLE INDEX

 

The Design

Because the HF11 is small, there are less buttons than on some previous video cameras, and I like that. Functions are generally handled through menus here.

Folding the LCD screen open reveals a Spartan layout of controls, shown in the photo below.

You can see the 2.7" LCD screen on the left, with a joy stick toggle at the left end, VCR-type controls underneath (some of them have double functions for zoom and back lighting adjustments), and on the main body is a control to turn the information display on or off, a battery information button, an "Easy" button which sets all the controls for you so you can't make a mistake (the idiot proof button), and a slider to open a drawer underneath to put additional SD memory cards in place. Keep in mind that you can't use just any SD card. It has to be a high speed card that can handle 24 Mbps (Megabits per second) recording rate. When shopping for cards, it will specify whether or not the card is suitable for video recording speeds.

Canon VIXIA HF11

The top of the camera has the zoom lens control, a snapshot photo button, and the power on/off button. (When the camera is off, a bladed lens cover slides into place, as seen in the top photo.) There is also a cover for what Canon calls Advanced Shoe, which is for accessories.

Canon VIXIA HF11

There are four basic settings for the camera, selected from the Mode Dial shown in the photo below. Starting from the left are the settings for taking snapshots (red snapshot camera icon), taking videos (red video camera icon), playing videos and copying them to your PC (blue video camera icon), and viewing snaphots and transferring them to your PC (blue snapshot camera icon). The button to the far left of the dial is used to start and stop video recording.

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The HF11 has a USB jack for copying videos to your PC and an HDMI jack to play them directly on your HDTV.  These are located on the right side of the camera at the bottom. There is also an external microphone jack and a headphone jack, along with the DC input battery recharging jack on the rear of the camera.

The photo below shows the front of the camera with the lens uncovered (this only occurs when the camera is powered on.) Beneath the lens are the built-in stereo microphones, and to the right and top to bottom are a quick focusing sensor, an electronic flash for snapshots, and a small light for taking videos in darkened situations. You can also use what they call the Night Mode in very low light situations, but the shutter speed slows down so much, I found it not to be very useful because motion and slow shutter speeds (0.5 second) just don't work. You could put the camera on a tripod and take a video at night of a static scene, such as the final stages of a sunset. The built-in microphones worked typically for microphones mounted on video cameras. The sound was nice and clear, but you need to be no more than about 4 feet away from the subject to pick up their voices properly.

Canon VIXIA HF11

The remote control is small and has all the necessary controls. What this might be used for is to put the camera on a tripod and get in the scene along with the rest of your family, and start recording with the remote Start/Stop button. You could also use it when the camera is connected to your home theater receiver or HDTV via HDMI, so you could navigate the video files in the camera and play them without having to touch the camera.

Canon VIXIA HF11

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shown below are some of the menus that are displayed on the LCD screen.

The first one is the basic screen that you see while you are recording videos (you can turn it off by pressing the Display/Battery Info button). It shows that Auto Focus is on, the battery condition, how much recording time you have left, and the recording quality, in this case, MXP which is 24 Mbps. I see no reason to use any of the lower bitrate modes, because at this highest quality recording (24 Mbps), you can get almost 3 hours of recording on the built-in memory card. Also, in the Bench Tests, you will see the effect that lower bitrates have on the image sharpness, as measured by the MTF50 standard.

Canon VIXIA HF11

The menu below is the most extensive of all the menu screens, and it is here that you set the frame rate, in this case, 1080i60. I used a mixture of 1080i60 and 1080p30 for the review. As you will see in the bench tests, however, 1080p30 produces images that are slightly less sharp than 1080i60, which surprised me.

You also turn on the Image Stabilization button from this menu. I found that I preferred to have it on all the time since I shoot hand held in general, rather than using a tripod. It made a huge difference in the steadiness of the image.

Canon VIXIA HF11

In this menu (below), you set the camera to Program mode, TV (Shutter Priority: you can adjust the shutter speed), AV (Aperture Priority: you can adjust the aperture), Cine mode (this gives a film-like look to the video), and Night mode.

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White balance is set in the menu shown below. Auto White Balance (AWB) worked pretty well, but there were situations that I needed to go into other modes. In particular, I found that scenes in shady areas really did require the Shade mode (the icon of the house with diagonal lines to the right), and Tungsten (incandescent bulb) mode was needed when indoors with incandescent lighting (the icon of the lightbulb).

Canon VIXIA HF11

The bitrate is set using the menu shown below. MXP is 24 Mbps, FXP is 17, XP+ is 12, SP is 7, and LP is 5. In LP, you can record more than 12 hours of video. However, the image quality is compromised as you will see later. Your home videos will become more precious to you as the years pass, and you will want them to be high quality. Use the MXP mode and get an additional high speed SD card if you think you will be recording more than 3 hours before you have the chance to transfer them to your PC.

Canon VIXIA HF11

When you are ready to copy your videos to your PC, you have to connect the battery recharger as well as the USB cable. Set the Mode Dial to the blue video camera icon (third from the left in the photo of the Mode Dial shown several photos above). Move the toggle to PC/Printer (photo below) and then press the toggle. Your PC will see the camera as an external drive. The videos are stored in several directories, and you need to copy all of the directories to your PC. First click AVCHD, then BDMV, and you will see the directories where the videos and associated information are located.

A screen shot of the directories you will see are shown in the second photo below. The most important directory is the STREAM, where the videos are stored as *.mts files. I create a directory on my PC with the date, such as Videos-10-08, and copy the STREAM, CLIPINF, etc. subdirectories into it.  For future videos, I create another directory to copy them into. Then, after you have made sure your videos have been copied properly by booting your video editor and opening a video file, you can delete videos from the camera to make space for new ones. To open a video in your video editor, go to the STREAM directory, and you will see all the *.mts files. To delete videos, set the Mode Dial to the blue video camera again, but without the USB cable connected. You will see icons for each video (third photo below). Use the toggle to scroll to the video you want to delete (it will be highlighted with a yellow border), press the Func (Function) key, scroll to the garbage can icon and press the toggle.

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