The Canon Legria HF S21 is Canon's flagship consumer camcorder.

Featuring a similar barrel shape, the Canon Legria HF S21 is about the same size as a small DV or HDV camera, and records AVCHD-format video on to an internal 64GB flash drive. This can be supplemented with SDHC Cards in its two slots.

The shape comes from the 10x zoom lens, which is much larger than you get on most consumer-level camcorders - and that holding it in your cupped hand feels more natural for video work than upright or traditional stills camera layout. The Canon Legria HF S21's high-class lens feeds a 8Mp CMOS sensor and a processing engine that records AVCHD up to a full-progressive 1080p. The HF S21 offers a variety of quality settings, but the best 'MXP' mode records at AVCHD's maximum of 24Mb/s.

For a consumer camcorder, the Canon Legria HF S21's footage is outstanding - lustrous and full of detail. Low-light performance was really impressive too. Of course, it's no match for a true pro camcorder such as JVC's HM100, but we'd be confident in taking the HF S21 out for professional projects to get the footage we needed.

One of the Canon Legria HF S21's most promoted features is its 3.5in touchscreen. As a display, it's excellent - showing a detailed, colourful representation of what you're filming. But as a control device, it's somewhat lacking - especially as there's no other menu controls. It's great for precise point focus or exposure - but for selecting general settings it can be painful.

The main problem is that Canon has got iPhone fever, asking for the same finger-sweep scroll controls. But the Canon Legria HF S21's touchscreen is resistive rather than capacitative, which means you have to press hard to make it work. Ultimately it's slow to scroll through menus and all-too easy to 'select' items when you mean to sweep them.

There's a good range of manual controls, with aperture and shutter priority modes that use the touchscreen well to adjust f-stop or shutter-speed values. There's a manual wheel for quick adjustment too, which seems an odd inclusion on top of the touchscreen, like an admission that the touchscreen can get in the way.

The Canon Legria HF S21 will be available in the UK from April 2010.

NEXT: our expert verdict >>

Canon Legria HF S21: Specs

  • 8Mp high-definition camcorder
  • 1/2.6 CMOS sensor
  • 64GB flash storage
  • 2 x SDHC card slots
  • 3.5in touchscreen LCD
  • EVF
  • 10x optical zoom
  • 6.4–64mm focal length
  • dynamic/powered optical image stabiliser
  • DIGIC DV III image processor
  • 1/2000–1/2 sec shutter speeds
  • still image capture up to 3264 x 2456 pixels
  • stereo audio Dolby Digital
  • USB 2.0
  • HDMI 1.3
  • Li-ion battery
  • 75x74x148mm
  • 480g
  • 8Mp high-definition camcorder
  • 1/2.6 CMOS sensor
  • 64GB flash storage
  • 2 x SDHC card slots
  • 3.5in touchscreen LCD
  • EVF
  • 10x optical zoom
  • 6.4–64mm focal length
  • dynamic/powered optical image stabiliser
  • DIGIC DV III image processor
  • 1/2000–1/2 sec shutter speeds
  • still image capture up to 3264 x 2456 pixels
  • stereo audio Dolby Digital
  • USB 2.0
  • HDMI 1.3
  • Li-ion battery
  • 75x74x148mm
  • 480g

OUR VERDICT

The Canon Legria HF S21 is a good HD camcorder but its implementation of touchscreen control prevents it from being a truly great consumer high-definition camcorder.

Find the best price