• Color Error Map

The Canon HF R30, with its 8GB of internal memory and WiFi functions, is the middle child of Canon's HF R series of camcorders. The low-end HF R300 has no internal memory or WiFi, while the top-line HF R32 has 32GB of internal memory and includes the same WiFi functions as the HF R30. All three camcorders have identical video performance capabilities, as they each include the same lens and sensor systems.
The Canon HF R30 is a small camcorder with a traditional shape and a better-than-average handstrap. If you've handled a camcorder made in the past few years, it probably looked like a slightly larger HF R30. This camcorder is light and slim, has a decent grip, but doesn't have any thing all that special on its body. No flash, no video light, no special built-in connectivity features (other than a 3.5mm mic jack). The camcorder's LCD is 3-inches in size, which is good, but the screen resolution is so low that it makes the HF R30 feel older than it actually is. The 32x optical zoom lens gives you plenty of zoom to play around with, but you can get this amount of zoom on nearly any budget camcorder these days.

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When you're looking at camcorders that cost less than $500, it's usually quite hard to find one with spectacular image quality. The Canon HF R30 isn't bad in terms of video performance, but its videos don't look great—even in bright light. The camcorder showed more artifacting, more blur, and more interference problems than Canon's higher-end Vixia models (like the HF M series or the flagship HF G10), and we saw lots of distortion in low light video as well. This isn't to say Canon's HF R30 is a terrible camcorder. Not at all. It's just a cheap camcorder with limited performance capabilities and a number of serious flaws. But the same could be said about nearly all models in the sub-$500 price range.

Of course, the Canon HF R30 does a few things quite well for a budget model. The low light sensitivity was excellent for a camcorder in this price range, and sharpness was higher than most models we compared it to. Colors were also reasonably accurate and vivid in bright light, but that's something we see from most HD camcorders these days (including the cheap ones).

Colors captured by the Canon HF R30 in bright light were accurate, although they appeared a bit sedated to our eyes. We measured the saturation level at roughly 92%, which is a good score (especially compared to the competition), but the colors from the Canon's video image lacked the punch and depth that we see from the best consumer camcorders. The color error measured at 3.85, and anything under 4.0 is strong for a camcorder in the HF R30's price range. More on how we test color.

Color Error Map

The map above is a diagram of the color error. The length and direction of each line indicates how the camera processed each particular color while capturing video.

The Canon Vixia HF R30 produced a color error of 3.85 and a saturation level of 92.00% in our bright light color testing.

Canon included its "cinema filters" on its line of HF R camcorders this year, so the HF R30 actually has a few color modes up its sleeve. Normally, models in this price range don't include any kind of color settings, other than a black & white and sepia mode, so the Canon does stand out with its cinema filters. The cinema modes include a vivid filter, a cool filter with a bluish tint, nostalgic look, sepia mode, old movie, and dramatic black & white. There's also the standard cinematic look that is meant to be paired with the HF R30's 24p frame rate option to capture a film-like aesthetic.

We weren't crazy about the Canon HF R30's colors in bright light, but our tests still gave the camcorder a passing grade. In low light, however, the camcorder's color accuracy dropped a lot, and we found the colors looked murky, pale, and unpleasing in our tests. First of all, the color error measured in the R30's low light video was a high 5.0, which is worse than all the models we compared it to (including last year's Canon HF R21). The Canon's saturation level was 63%, which is also a score we don't like, but it isn't much different than the levels we saw from the Panasonic HC-V500 or the Canon HF R21. If strong colors in low light are what you're looking for, then check out the Sony HDR-CX210—it simply rocked in our low light color tests (warning: it didn't do well in many other categories). More on how we test low light color.

The map on the above is a diagram of the color error. The length and direction of each line indicates how the camera processed each particular color while capturing video.

The Canon Vixia HF R30 produced a color error of and a saturation level of in our bright light color testing.

Noise levels, even for a budget model, were high on the Canon HF R30. The camcorder averaged 0.85% noise in our test, and we like this score to be below 0.75%. Still, in bright light, it was very difficult to see much noise on the Canon's video image with the naked eye. In low light, this changed drastically, with the Canon HF R30 showing a very noisy image—one of the camcorder's biggest weaknesses. More on how we test noise.

Sensitivity was one of the strong points of the Canon HF R30, with the camcorder needing very little light—around six lux—to produce an image good enough for broadcast. Without using any optical zoom, the camcorder required just four lux to reach the same levels, which is another top-notch performance. But all this means is the Canon is capable of producing a bright image without much light. This doesn't meant he image captured in these situations looks any good. The Canon's low light images are blurred, noisy, and certainly can't be called "high-quality". If you want better overall low light performance, you simply have to spend a bit more money and upgrade to a mid-range unit instead of an entry-level model like the HF R30. More on how we test low light sensitivity.

The Canon HF R30 had some very big problems with noise in low light. The camcorder averaged 1.8% noise in our low light test, a result that is a bit worse than the Canon HF R21 measured on this test last year. It's also worse than most of the competition in this price range, including the Panasonic HC-V500 and the Sony HDR-CX210. But all entry-level camcorders struggle in low light, so we can't say the HF R30's image looks all that much worse than the competition overall. It's just that the Canon's video looks very noisy in comparison. Check out the comparison crops on this page for a better idea of what we're talking about. More on how we test low light noise.


We weren't crazy about the Canon HF R30's colors in bright light, but our tests still gave the camcorder a passing grade. In low light, however, the camcorder's color accuracy dropped a lot, and we found the colors looked murky, pale, and unpleasing in our tests. First of all, the color error measured in the R30's low light video was a high 5.0, which is worse than all the models we compared it to (including last year's Canon HF R21). The Canon's saturation level was 63%, which is also a score we don't like, but it isn't much different than the levels we saw from the Panasonic HC-V500 or the Canon HF R21. If strong colors in low light are what you're looking for, then check out the Sony HDR-CX210—it simply rocked in our low light color tests (warning: it didn't do well in many other categories). More on how we test low light color.



The Canon HF R30 succeeded in our motion test thanks to its two alternate frame rate options, PF24 and PF30. Having the ability to use frame rates other than 60i is a feature not found on most budget camcorders, but Canon includes it on the entire Vixia line (that's special). This gives users more flexibility when shooting. Want more of a film-like aesthetic? Go with the PF24 mode. Need to match footage shot at 30fps? Then switch to the PF30 mode. None of these frame rates are native, which means they're all converted from 60i to simulate 24 and 30 frames per second, but that should matter for most casual videographers.

Even though it has plenty of frame rates, the Canon HF R30 does still struggle at times to capture perfect motion. Artifacting will be present in your video, especially if you shoot in less-than-ideal lighting conditions. Video is fairly smooth, but we did see trailing in our tests. But this is a solid performance for a budget model, and the only way to get significantly better motion would be to upgrade to a higher-end camcorder (especially one with a 60p setting or native 24p mode). More on how we test motion.


If you spend less than $500 on a camcorder, you shouldn't expect your video to look perfectly sharp. And that's the case with the Canon HF R30. Its bright light videos look decently crisp, but the sharpness won't blow you away. The images look better than the competition by a hair, but compared to a higher-end camcorder they don't look so good. So, if you want better sharpness, you should take a peek at the Canon HF M50, Panasonic HC-V700M, or the Sony HDR-CX580V instead.

Here's the stats for those who want them: the Canon HF R30 managed 700 lw/ph in our horizontal sharpness test and 550 lw/ph in our vertical sharpness test. In comparison, the best camcorders we tested this year approached (and sometimes exceeded) 900 lw/ph of sharpness both horizontally and vertically. So, like we said, the Canon's performance isn't bad, but the camcorder isn't performing outside of its price range. More on how we test video sharpness.

A selection of sample videos from both inside the labs and out in the real world.




With the Canon HF R30 set to its dedicated auto mode, the camcorder is very easy to use. But when you go beyond the auto mode, the HF R30 becomes more of a challenge. We don't like the new "home" button on the inside of the LCD cavity, and we don't like the complex menu system on the camcorder either. So, if you don't care about venturing into the realm of manual controls or special features, the Canon HF R30 does offer a simple user experience. Getting those special functions to work, though, especially the spanking-new WiFi features, will not be an easy ride. Canon needs to clean up its user interface next year, because the 2012 Vixia camcorders are more of a challenge to work with than last year's models. And that's not a good trend.

The outright design of the Canon HF R30 is small and simple. The camcorder feels good in your hand, its strap is more comfortable than what you normally see in this price range, and the body design is fairly unassuming. The touchscreen is of decent size (3 inches), but the resolution of the screen isn't great—and that makes everything look somewhat murky and unappealing while you're trying to frame your shots.

Handling Photo 1

The menu system on the R30 is what really bothers us, as the basic design of the camcorder's body isn't too bad. But the menus are confusing and spread out into a variety of different locations, thus making it very difficult to find the setting you're looking for. Canon's new "home" button, which brings you to a main menu screen, is an interesting design implementation, but it's not handled well. We hate that the home button is hidden inside the LCD cavity, forcing you to turn the camcorder and find the button every time you want it pressed. Why not put it right on the touchscreen (or on the LCD panel) like every other menu button on the camcorder?

Handling Photo 2
Handling Photo 3
Handling Photo 4

These dedicated buttons give you quick access
to aperture and shutter speed controls.

Poor battery life is the Canon HF R30's most glaring weakness, and the camcorder did such a bad job on this test that it shocked us. We like to see a consumer camcorder last for around two hours recording video at its highest quality setting... the Canon HF R30 lasted for just 43 minutes. That's about half the time the Canon HF R21 lasted in this test last year, and it's a third of the time that most entry-level camcorders go for. Luckily, Canon does sell larger battery packs for the R30 that should get you longer battery life. Maybe this is just Canon's subtle way of forcing you to buy a new battery for your camcorder, but if that's the reasoning behind this poor performance, then that's just cruel. More on how we test battery life.

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Music Stand Light

Manual focus is present on the Canon HF R30, but without a lens ring or control dial you'll have a very hard time making precise focus adjustments. Manual focus is handled entirely through the touchscreen interface, which is both finicky and frustrating to use. You can alter the focal plane easily, but if you want that smooth focus adjustment like you see in the movies, well good luck trying. The camcorder does have a focus zoom assist that lets you see the focus changes in a magnified view, and this feature does help make sure you have the focus as crisp as you want it, but it still won't enable you to make smooth or precise changes to the focus.

Manual Focus Photo

The adjustment dial makes accurate focus adjustments easy.

Basic exposure compensation is available on the camcorder, but you won't find shutter speed, aperture, or gain control on the HF R30. This will bother manual control enthusiasts who may not like the simplicity of exposure compensation and want direct control over the iris or shutter speed to change exposure levels. The touchscreen is better for adjusting exposure than it is for setting focus, but it's still not the best system. We found it worked well for bumping the brightness up or down a titch, but that's about it. There is also a spot exposure (as well as a spot focus) mode that has the camcorder automatically expose a certain portion of the video frame (the area you tap with your finger).

Manual Exposure Photo

The manual exposure controls are only found on the Contour app, not on the camcorder itself.

You will find manual white balance and two white balance presets (outdoor and indoor) on the HF R30, and teh camcorder also has a slew of other minor manual controls. There's a manual zoom speed control that sets the zoom speed to one of three different settings, there is a grid option to assist with framing your video, and there is an auto slow shutter to boost low light performnace. Auto backlight reduction and flicker reduction are also available.

For a budget camcorder, the HF R30 has plenty of audio controls, most impressive of which is its built-in mic jack. Mic jacks aren't even found on all high-end camcorders these days, so including one on the HF R30 is a very cool move by Canon. Additionally, the camcorder has audio level control, audio level display, a wind screen, headphone output, and a mic attenuator function. If you want a cheap camcorder that gives you high-end audio control, the Canon HF R30 might be the very best option out there.

The most impressive features on the Canon HF R30 include the camcorder's multiple recording options, 32x optical zoom lens, and the numerous cinema filters that let you add effects to your videos during recording. The HF R30 also has a number of useful auto features like face detection and tracking, zoom speed controls, and auto backlight correction. This isn't a professional camcorder, so you don't get many manual controls other than focus, white balance, and basic exposure. If you want full shutter speed, aperture, and gain controls, you need to spring for a higher-end camcorder.


The Canon HF R30 is one of the best budget camcorders we've reviewed this year. As with most cheap models, however, the R30 comes with a fairly substantial list of weaknesses, most blatant of which is the camcorder's horrid battery life. Canon's provided battery pack lasted for less than 45 minutes in our test, which means you'll be lucky to make it to halftime of recording your nephew's football game before you have to recharge.

Poor battery life aside, the Canon Vixia HF R30 also struggled in our low light performance tests. Videos looked bland and noisy when we shot in less-than-ideal lighting conditions, but in bright light the Canon handled itself fairly well. Colors were more accurate than many models in the same price range, and the HF R30's set of three frame rate options are unique for a camcorder that costs less than $500. Basically, this camcorder performed better than average for a budget model, but its videos didn't look nearly as good as a high-end or mid-range camcorder would be capable of.

Canon did equip the HF R30 with a robust set of controls and features for a budget model, including a good set of automatic controls, a few basic manual controls, a 32x optical zoom lens, and 8GB of internal flash memory. Unfortunately, Canon's biggest new feature—built-in WiFi—was a bust. The function was too difficult to setup and its features were too limited, leaving us more frustrated than impressed.

Canon didn't make any bad camcorders this year, but its new Vixia models didn't blow us away either. The HF R30 should have performed significantly better than last year's HF R20, but it didn't. And that leaves us with a bad taste in our mouth. Don't get us wrong, the HF R30 is a fine camcorder for the price, but we expected more improvement from Canon.

Meet the testers

Jeremy Stamas

Jeremy Stamas

Managing Editor, Video

@nematode9

Jeremy is the video expert of our imaging team and Reviewed.com's head of video production. Originally from Pennsylvania and upstate NY, he graduated from Bard college with a degree in film and electronic media. He has been living and working in New England since 2005.

See all of Jeremy Stamas's reviews
Jeremy Stamas

Jeremy Stamas

Managing Editor, Video

@nematode9

Jeremy is the video expert of our imaging team and Reviewed.com's head of video production. Originally from Pennsylvania and upstate NY, he graduated from Bard college with a degree in film and electronic media. He has been living and working in New England since 2005.

See all of Jeremy Stamas's reviews

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We use standardized and scientific testing methods to scrutinize every product and provide you with objectively accurate results. If you’ve found different results in your own research, email us and we’ll compare notes. If it looks substantial, we’ll gladly re-test a product to try and reproduce these results. After all, peer reviews are a critical part of any scientific process.

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