The Canon Legria HF R18 should prove adequate for novice users who only want to shoot occasional home movies. However, everyone else would be better off with one of its more accomplished stable mates, such as the Canon Legria HF M31 or Canon Legria HF20. They might be a bit pricier, but the difference in image quality is definitely worth it.
Like the vast majority of Canon’s camcorder range, the Legria HF R18 uses removable flash memory to record video. In addition to an SD/SDHC card slot, it also comes with 32GB of inbuilt memory. This is enough to store up to 12 hours of high-definition video at the lowest possible setting. Other models in Canon’s entry-level ‘HF’ range include the 8GB Legria HF R16 and the memory-free Legria HF R106. Apart from storage capacity, all three camcorders are identical to each other — so if you already have lots of SD memory cards lying around, the HF R106 might be a better option.
With dimensions of 60x64x124mm, the Canon Legria HF R18 is slightly large for an entry-level camcorder; indeed, it’s around the same size as the feature-packed Legria HF M31. On the plus side, it handled very well during our test shoot, with the zoom rocker, record button and shutter all within easy reach. For menu selections, Canon has stuck with a traditional joystick interface located on the LCD's lip. We personally prefer those new fangled touchscreens, but at least you won’t get fingerprints on the 2.7in display.
Sadly, Canon has neglected to include its celebrated ‘Powered IS’ stabilisation tool on the Legria HF R18. Instead, an inferior electronic stabiliser is used. This may hamper handheld footage — especially when using the 20x optical zoom. Novice users will need to get in plenty of practice before their footage becomes silky smooth.
When it came to video performance, the Canon Legria HF R18 failed to knock our socks off — or even ruffle them a bit. Sporting a lowly 1/5.5in CMOS sensor with an effective pixel count of just 1.56 megapixels, it cannot hope to compete with its mid-range siblings like the Full HD Canon Legria HFM31. That said, it still does a reasonable job for a budget-level camcorder — you just need to keep your expectations low and favour bright lighting.
To assess the Legria HF R18’s imaging performance, we shot a variety of footage under different testing conditions and then played it back on a Pioneer KURO PDP-C509A plasma TV. Noise was more prevalent than usual, especially in moderately lit environments. Details remained sharp in bright lighting, but colours lacked the high-def ‘pop’ we have come to expect from Canon camcorders. All in all, the Canon Legria HF R18 is a reliable but unremarkable performer. The camera’s 1.5-megapixel stills mode, meanwhile, is as underwhelming as you’d imagine.
On a final note, the Canon Legria HF R18 does not come with any external audio options. We’d normally be willing to overlook this on an entry-level camcorder; however, the HF R18's North American sister model does come with a 3.5mm microphone jack. We contacted Canon about this curious anomaly and received the following explanation:
"Our research has shown us that the kind of demographic we are aiming the HFR series camcorder at just need a high quality, simple, easy to use camcorder. The NTSC version of the HFR series sold in the US does have a MIC socket. This is due to the popularity of this level of camera in the US school sector, who want the option to use an external microphone."
To be fair, it’s unlikely the average HF R18 owner would ever need an external microphone, but the fact this option has been removed is still a bit irksome. Nonetheless, the Canon Legria HF R18 remains a decent HD camcorder that wont break the bank.
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