We had high hopes for the Canon HV20, just as we did for the Sony HDR-HC7, and at first glance they look like they are cut from the same cloth. These camcorders are nearly identical in size and shape, they both produce a beautiful image, and bring a strong core feature set to into the ring. As it turns out, the HV20s is an imperfect beast, and the physical handling of the HC7 puts it to shame. It’s also slightly weaker in terms of overall image adjustability without independent shutter speed and iris control, and fewer tweaks to attributes like sharpness and saturation. However, the Canon HV20 delivered in ways the Sony fell short. Despite it’s relatively stripped-down feature set, it’s built around the needs of a videographer like few consumer camcorders. And then there’s the 24P, which sets is apart in a big way. In this clash of the titans, the battle tilts back and forth but one camcorder does indeed emerge victorious. Read on for the definitive play by play…The HV20 has an oddly shaped retractable lens cover that is slightly more finicky and frail than the Sony HDR-HC7’s. Over time, the lens cover could become one of the camcorder’s first casualties, so be nice to it. Than again, a retractable lens cover on a consumer cam is always a perk. Along the left side of the lens is a vertical panel that encompasses, from the top: flash, instant AF sensor, and mini video light.
Based on its position to the left of and behind the lens, the flash is not particularly placed for even lighting, and the lens barrel may cast a shadow. The instant AF sensor, located just below the flash, adjusts very quickly to changes in focal distance or fast moving subjects. If you use a wide or telephoto lens, make sure the AF mode is set to normal AF, as the instant AF sensor will be obstructed. The mini video light on the HV20 doesn’t really contribute more than any cheap LED light would, and its the same one on Canon’s entry-level ZR850, but it is certainly a convenient way to illuminate interviews conducted in a coat closet. The remote sensor sits next to the mini video light.
Structurally, the HV20’s front end is similar to the HC7. Sony chose to mount the mic jack on the front, which could lead to wires obstructing the viewing pane, but their retractable flash protects from nicks and scratches. The HV20 gives you more features, a bigger filter diameter, and is lower and wider than the HC7.