With a design that evokes a miniature projector more than the rough-and-tumble action cams the mini seems set to compete against, can Canon carve out a new niche in the market?

With a rotating LCD and kickstand—but no mounting options—the Vixia mini is more of a homebody than a go-getter.

Canon seems to be targeting the Vixia mini towards people who want to record musical performances, cooking demonstrations, or lectures, with the option to throw that content directly onto the web. With its wide-angle lens, built-in kickstand, and LCD that can twist to face towards you when you're on camera, the Canon mini is a cinch to setup and record all by yourself. On top of that, the Vixia mini has built-in WiFi that lets you send videos directly to YouTube or pair the camcorder with your smartphone.

The hands-free recording mentality is something Canon stole from adventure-cam models like the wearable GoPro or Contour models, but the Vixia mini doesn't have the mounting capabilities of those products. Instead, it offers more flexibility when setting up to record in a static environment. The result is a camera that's more geared toward people who want to capture wide-angle recordings in the comfort of their kitchen or living room—not while jumping out of an airplane or snowboarding in the Alps.

While the mini could certainly be adapted to work in those circumstances, the plastic construction and lack of mounting hardware are a real drawback there. The image quality, slow motion recording options, and portability are there, but right out of the box the $300 mini feels too vulnerable to risk by taking it anywhere too dangerous.

Can Canon's newest camcorder compete with GoPro? Or does the mini come up short?

The Vixia mini is a tad overpriced, but it's a good first step for Canon.

Is there a compelling reason to go with the Vixia mini over the incredibly popular GoPro? The mini is easier to use thanks to its built-in articulating LCD and kickstand, and its image quality was quite impressive (it is a Canon, after all), but at $299 the mini isn't all that cheap. GoPro, Contour, and Sony all make wearable adventure cams that are cheaper, far more versatile, and incredibly durable thanks to provided waterproof housings. There is an argument for the simple, user-friendly features that the Vixia mini provides, but we're not completely won over yet. Even so, the Vixia mini is an innovative move for Canon, and we're excited to see the company put an effort in this direction.
The Canon Vixia mini did better in our performance tests than we anticipated. The camcorder rocked in color accuracy, had reasonably-low noise levels, and came through admirably in our low light sensitivity test. Images weren't incredibly sharp—you won't get superb detail from this tiny camcorder—but the extreme recording angle on the lens is almost enough to make up for it.
The Vixia mini's sharpness scores were almost on par with what we saw from GoPro's leading camcorder, the Hero3: Black Edition. Video shot using the mini's 24p and 30p frame rates retained a good amount of detail, except in very low light conditions. In our lab tests, the camcorder managed horizontal and vertical sharpness scores of 700 lp/ph in each direction. That's not nearly as good as the image quality you'd get from a high-end Vixia, but it's similar to what you'd see on Canon's more traditional entry-level models, the HF R series, that cost between $299 and $499.

We expected the Canon mini to suffer greatly in our low light tests, as noise and artifacting are immediately visible when shooting in very dark settings. But in moderately-dim settings, like a living room lit by a single lamp, or outside at dusk, the Canon mini did just fine. The camcorder needed just 8 lux of light to reach 50 IRE on our waveform monitor, which is just a tad more light than the GoPro Hero3: Black Edition and Sony Action Cam required.
Battery life on the Canon mini was lousy, adding up to just 68 minutes of continuous recording at the highest quality setting. Compare that to the 92 minutes we got out of the GoPro Hero3: Black, 108 minutes from the Contour+2, and a whopping 162 minutes from the Sony Action Cam HDR-AS15. At least the Canon mini has a DC-input, which is something most compact camcorders lack (although many can be powered via USB). Still, the power cable is sold separately, so you may want to consider its purchase—or an additional battery pack—if you're gonna need to get more than an hour out of the Canon mini.

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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