Review: Canon Legria HF G25 (Vixia HF G20)

Great camcorder spoiled by awful touchscreen

One step down from the flagship HF-G30 is the Legria HF-G25 (also known as the Vixia HF-G20 in the USA), launched at the US Consumer Electronics Show in early 2013.

Featuring a native 1920 x 1080 Full HD sensor, a 10x optical zoom lens, 32GB of built-in memory as well as dual SDXC/SDHC memory slots, microphone & headphone sockets and a variety of manual controls, the G25 is a capable piece of kit which can work for almost any situation.

Canon HF-G25

Canon HF-G25

But despite its novelty, there are in fact only two differences from the prior model, the G10: a claimed 20% improvement in low-light capabilties and an improved lens hood design with an integrated flip-down lens protector.

Canon HF-G25 lens hood

Canon HF-G25 lens hood

Compared to many modern point-and-shoot camcorders, it’s quite chunky in the hands (though anyone who recalls the older generation of bulky DV tape cams might laugh at such a description!) but this gives it a solidity and weight which is quite reassuring. A manual lens ring with a decent feel to it crowns the front of the device, and a small but accessible thumbwheel on the back provides additional manual functionality, configurable from a handful of options.

Canon HF-G25 control dial

Canon HF-G25 control dial

You can watch our editor’s first look at the camcorder here:

In use, the auto mode proves to be perfectly capable, with generally swift and accurate autofocus and decent exposure. The danger of auto is more apparent in lower light situations of course, where image quality will degrade and the camcorder will attempt to compensate by adding in bucketloads of electronic gain which adds noise, and, perhaps, a slower shutter speed which can lead to a blurring effect.

Better then, to switch the camera to manual using a slide switch on the back of the unit. In this mode it can still operate almost fully autonomously but you have the choice of taking over control should you so wish, for essentials such as iris, shutter and gain, as well as white balance, audio recording levels and focus.

Focus is achieved easily using the lens ring, with the camera providing both “focus assist” (which zooms part of the image on the screen so you can better see what you’re focusing on) and peaking (which surrounds items in focus with a red line, thus anything so marked can be taken as being in focus).

Unfortunately, the focus assist doesn’t operate during recording so if you need to recheck your focus or you change subject, you either have to guess or stop recording while you reset. Sadly, the peaking is either on all the time or off, it cannot be set to come on only when adjusting focus such as in tandem with the focus assist. It makes you wonder whether any camera operators actually had input into the design or whether the engineers were left to their own devices…

Exposure can be easily controlled via the control dial on the back, with electronic ND (neutral density) filters automatically coming into effect above F4, to stop down the light entering the camcorder and keep the iris at its sweet spot. Tools to assist include zebra lines switchable from 70% to 100% and a waveform monitor. Irritatingly again, those tools don’t appear on screen automatically as you adjust the exposure; you have to go into touchscreen menus to switch them on, which is frustratingly slow and infurirating. It surely wouldn’t take much of a software update to have the option for all these very useful focus and exposure tools to appear at the point of adjustment (just like the focus assist already does)?

Using the menus also highlights this camera’s other main flaw, it’s resistive touchscreen which is hopelessly awkward in its response, requiring a firm thumb or finger push to operate rather than the slick touch we have all become used to on contemporary mobile phones (the new G30 has a capacitive OLED screen which should be far superior – at a price)

The video recording fomat is AVCHD up to 24Mbps or as low as 5Mbps which provides something like 12 hours recording time on the inbuilt memory. Although a 25p mode is included for that “film look”, it’s saved as an interlaced file so your editing software will need to understand what it’s looking at. No 50p mode is available, just the television-standard 50i. For creating DVDs and viewing on TV it’s perfectly fine then, and in fact, by the time a video has gone through an edit, output render, encode by YouTube, and display on who knows what kind of screen at the viewer’s end, de-interlaced 1080 50i looks perfectly fine to us too, so we wouldn’t worry too much about 50p unless you’re keen on doing lots of slow-motion filming for which it can be helpful.

Stereo audio is provided by two built-in microphones just behind the lens. Inside they’re OK but outside they need a fluffy wind jammer despite a menu setting to reduce the effects of wind noise. An external mic can be plugged in via the 3.5mm jack socket but take note that this socket does NOT provide so-called “plug in power” so only self-powered microphones will work. Also, the automatic mic settings are terrible and should immediately be switched off as a decent sound can be recorded if you muck about with the menus, as shown in this video:

Stabilisation on the camcorder is decent, with three levels of capability (standard, dynamic and powered) each of which is targeted at a different type of use. And the 10x optical zoom provides reasonable reach. Beware the menu option for 40x and 200x digital zooms though which do truly terrible things to the image and were a waste of Canon’s time to include, as demonstrated below:

One other irritation of the camcorder is its proprietary shoe design which Canon labels “Mini Advanced Shoe”. It is advanced in the sense that certain Canon accessories such as the DM-100 shotgun microphone plug directly into it so you don’t need to have a dangling wire going to the mic input but it’s not advanced in the sense that it’s a non-standard size so if you want to mount any other accessories to the top of the camcorder, you’ll need an adapter. Fortunately, these are relatively cheap.

Canon HF-G25 mini shoe

Canon HF-G25 mini shoe

In summary
The Canon Legria HF-G25 is capable of excellent images and has decent manual controls. It is not without flaws however and in terms of pure technology it is left behind by the likes of Panasonic’s x920 which boasts better image stabilisation, WiFi for remote control and live streaming, and 50p recording. Whilst the new G30 model will address those technology issues, it does so at a substantial price premium to the G25. If WiFi and 50p are not vital to you however, and you have a liking for Canon gear, then the G25 is a fine purchase.

You can watch our entire, 13 video sequence about the G25, on YouTube here:

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  25 comments for “Review: Canon Legria HF G25 (Vixia HF G20)

  1. Pam Gregg
    July 3, 2013 at 11:17 pm

    Really disappointed with my new Legria. The software does not work properly on both my computers and it is impossible to download video clips. I have spent hours trying to change them to avi. I will be using my old Hitachi for the family wedding. It is so much easier to use and takes great video and stills. Don’ waste your money on it!

  2. admin
    July 5, 2013 at 7:10 pm

    Thanks for the message. I think your comment is a little harsh though. It’s a terrific camcorder with great pictures and your problem seems to be with the software. Don’t give up! I have not used any of the Canon-supplied software myself; I use Sony Vegas to edit and it brings in the files with no problems and converts them to any format. Most of the major editing software packages are available in “consumer” forms if price is an issue eg Premiere Elements, Vegas Movie Studio. There are also lots of free file format converters around which could help you out. Best of luck.

    • Seun
      August 20, 2013 at 9:22 am

      Stunning camera, it worked fantastic from day 1. Unfortunately there is no training from Canon on this video camera which is very disappointing. I have only used it on AUTO since the day I bought it and it has never disappointed me with results, but only works good in proper daylight. I am looking at your videos to give me a guideline on how to use the other features, as I know nothing about photography but I will find out. I am using Corel Video Studio ProX5 and (Pinnacle Studio 15 (boring )) and also Adobe Photoshop Elements which is ok, but I want to get Sony Vegas. I have never used the Canon software either. I stick the camera cable in my computer and download all my movies through explorer.

  3. September 5, 2013 at 6:54 am

    I got this camera on the strength of your review clips, coming from a stills photography background I have a good understanding of manual controls and find this camera to be easy to use and record very good results.
    All of your findings in my opinion have been intuitive and bang on the money – thank you.

    I have no experience with audio although I have adjusted the levels as you posted and picked up a Lav mic and a half decent shotgun. I for one would be very interested to see an Audio workshop for techniques and applications recording audio on location as I will be documenting a round the world trip by motorcycle.

    I record onto SD card and use a card reader to transfer to the laptop, the comments of Pam are unfounded and as you say harsh.

    • admin
      September 7, 2013 at 12:15 pm

      Hi Paul; very pleased to hear you found the review helpful. I’ll bear in mind your suggestion of an audio workshop, sounds like a good idea.

      Your trip sounds amazing! Good luck.

  4. Rob Foulkes
    September 14, 2013 at 1:42 pm

    Great series of reviews, thank you very much. Not taken the plunge yet, but does it record using h.264, and is it a 4.2.0 colour space? Is there any way to record a “flat” image (eg like the 550D picture styles)? Looking forward to your next installments – very well done.

    Rob

  5. admin
    September 15, 2013 at 3:16 pm

    Yes, the recording format is AVCHD, the codec for which is H.264 and it is in 4:2:0.

    The amount of image adjustment that can be done is pretty minor really; you can adjust colour depth, brightness, contrast and sharpness but only by a fraction.

    I think the idea is that most people buying a consumer camcorder are unlikely to do much in the way of colour grading so they’re designed with a certain degree of saturation etc from the outset.

  6. Mark Wynn
    October 5, 2013 at 2:28 pm

    Really first class review of the Canon G25. It’s the first time I have seen one of your reviews. You certainly covered just about everything that a prospective buyer could want to know. I was pleased to note your views on the comparison to the Pan HC-X920 which is of course somewhat cheaper. (Interestingly my main camera is the Sony Z5). Thanks a lot.

    • admin
      October 5, 2013 at 4:25 pm

      Thank you for your kind compliment, it’s much appreciated. I use a Z5 almost every day; great camera albeit getting a little old now.

  7. Jay Singh
    October 18, 2013 at 7:02 pm

    Hi, Ive just purchased this camcorder, However I’m finding it nigh on impossible to use an external XLR mic with it, Im using an XLR to 3.5mm cable plugged into a shure sm57 mic, is it best to get an XLR adaptor and if so which type, or will it simply be easier to upgrade to the XA 10 with XLR inputs built in .
    Thanks, Jay

    • admin
      October 25, 2013 at 10:40 am

      Hello Jay,

      It is certainly possible to use an XLR mic without an adapter (though it is also not preferable). Can you be more specific about what the problem is – you say it’s “nigh on impossible” but what actually happens? Do you get any sound at all?

      Regards
      Dave

  8. Kurt
    December 2, 2013 at 5:43 pm

    Hi. Does this model or any other Legria HF G series shoot in 4:3 mode? Does not matter if it is SD or HD. And can it be plugged to a multi-camera mixer for live broadcast?

    Regards
    Kurt

    • admin
      December 2, 2013 at 8:37 pm

      Hi. Not as far as I’m aware. I don’t think they manufacture SD models anymore and all the HD ones shoot 16×9. As for live broadcast, yes, you could take the HDMI output from the camcorder and route it to a suitable mixer. Take a look at this video for an example set-up: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k0io0KyceB0

  9. Kurt
    December 3, 2013 at 11:48 am

    Thanks admin for the info.

    I need a switchable (4×3 and 16×9) hd prosumer camcorder. Any suggestions?

    Thanks & regards
    Kurt

  10. Ymanoel
    February 8, 2014 at 4:32 pm

    I just bought this Camcorder in Dallas, it is a wonderful buy, but now I have a problem with setting it up to record video to SD Card. It remains on the default internal memory no matter what I do. It does not have the option to set video to SD Card, (Only Photos) Is it because of the type of SD card I put? (Micro SDHC 32gb Sandisk Ultra, with a Sandisk SD adapter.) If it is that: what is the best type of SD card to use with the camcorder?

    • admin
      March 24, 2014 at 7:39 pm

      Hi. It occurs to me that you might have the camcorder in playback mode rather than record mode (there’s a switch on the inside panel that toggles this)? If so, there’s a note in the manual that says “Only Rec Media for Photos is available from the date index screen or gallery” so perhaps that’s what you’re looking at. Make sure the camcorder is in Filming mode not playback.

      Also, ensure that it’s set to Manual (not Auto) else you won’t get the Function menu to select the card options.

  11. February 21, 2014 at 12:22 am

    OK i am going to make a low budget film. will this do the job in filming ok, thanks

    • admin
      March 24, 2014 at 7:41 pm

      This camera will make videos so by that definition it will “do the job in filming” yes. Without more information about how you wish to use the camera and what kind of films you want to make, I can’t give you any more specific answer!

      • Joaquin
        April 9, 2014 at 6:07 am

        Hi , I bought this camera last year with the purpose of making short films, but then I changed my mind for not getting a DSLR, because of the look, do you guys think this camera was designed for making films, or just home videos?
        Should I stick with my camera? Or get a DSLR?
        Thanks

        • admin
          April 9, 2014 at 6:56 pm

          Really, ANY camera “can” be used to make a film, from a mobile phone to an Arri Alexa. It’s all about the storytelling, direction and artistic flair that make a film a good one, not what camera it was shot on. Having said that there are certain effects you can do with a DSLR (shallow depth of field, good low-light shots) that you can’t do with a camcorder, and there are things you can do with a camcorder (better stabilisation for handheld shots, deep depth of field for when you want lots of things in focus) than you can’t with a DSLR. I wouldn’t worry too much about whether you have the right camera – just start shooting and concentrate your efforts on the shots, the story and the edit. Good luck,

          • Joaquin
            April 13, 2014 at 3:09 am

            Hi. Thanks a lot for the advice. You’re right I’m worrying too much, I should concentrate more on my story. and my movie in general, I think I’ll stick to my camera and do the best I can with it. Thank you.

  12. Peter Brackenbury
    March 20, 2014 at 2:06 pm

    Hi, like your earlier correspondent I am also having trouble trying to record video on to an SD card (Sandisk Extreme 32gb). I have initialised the card as per the instructions ok but I cannot access the menu in order to select the card for videoing on. When. I open the record screen and press the FUNC button I get 6 boxes – AUDIO, ZOOM, Story Creator, IS, Decoration and Video Snapshot. From reading the manual. I should be able to access the menu after pressing FUNC but this doesn’t happen. Any suggestions please ?
    Thanks for the video tutorials, they persuaded me to buy the HF G25 – very helpful!

    • admin
      March 24, 2014 at 7:36 pm

      Hi Peter, and apologies for the delayed reply. Hmm, I wonder, do you have the camcorder in Auto mode? You cannot access the setup menus (for card configuration) in Auto (in the UK manual this is on Page 29). You must set it to Manual, configure the card, then set it back to Auto (if indeed you wish to shoot in Auto mode). Hope this helps.

      • Peter Brackenbury
        March 30, 2014 at 3:43 pm

        Hi,
        Many thanks for that. Putting the camera in manual mode has sorted the problem.

        • admin
          March 31, 2014 at 4:59 pm

          Superb, glad to hear it worked and thanks for letting me know. Cheers.

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