Your Social Media Toolbox: The Canon Vixia HFR camcorder

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With that in mind, let me present to you another tool you should add to your social media toolbox:  The Canon Vixia HFR line of HD camcorders.  Canon has long been a leader in the still and video camera market, and they have come out with a stellar line of low-priced, high-quality "pro-sumer" high-definition video cameras priced well within the reach of PR pros and aspiring filmmakers alike." data-share-imageurl="http://markdavidzahn.com/sites/default/files/wp-content/uploads/r10-1.jpg">

r10-1

With that in mind, let me present to you another tool you should add to your social media toolbox:  The Canon Vixia HFR line of HD camcorders.  Canon has long been a leader in the still and video camera market, and they have come out with a stellar line of low-priced, high-quality "pro-sumer" high-definition video cameras priced well within the reach of PR pros and aspiring filmmakers alike.

Canon has given us three flavors of the Vixia HF R camcorder:  The R100, R10 and R11.  As of this writing, these models can be found online ranging from $319 to $599, depending on the model and retailer.  So what's the major difference between the three?  You have a choice of how much on-board flash memory, if any, you have on the camera.  The R100, the lowest-priced model of the line, features no on-board memory and relies solely on SD flash cards.  The R10 sports 8 gigabytes of memory, and the R11 packs a whopping 32 gigabytes.  Both of the latter models also feature an SD card slot allowing you to add additional memory and switch between those and the on-board storage.

What makes the Canon Vixia so much better than pocket HD cameras like the Flip or Kodak Zi8?  Here are my top reasons why the Vixia is the camera to own for social media pros (and practically everyone else too):

  1. Size.
    While it doesn't have the slim Blackberry-like form factor of a Flip camera, the Vixia camcorders are no behemoths.  In fact, they are quite tiny.  You would have no problems slipping a Vixia into a purse or a jacket pocket.  At about 5 inches by 2.5 inches and weighing practically nothing, a Vixia is super portable.  You could literally lose this camera under your couch if you're not careful.  That said, the Vixia packs quite a punch in such a small package.
  2. Screen.
    Unlike pocket video cameras, camcorders like the Vixia feature flip-out rotatable screens.  The screen on the Vixia is big and bright, with resolution akin to Canon's still cameras.  It's no iPhone Retina screen, but that's not really the point.  What makes this camera great for social media is the fact you can rotate the screen to face forward, giving you a video mirror to look at while recording yourself.  You can access the menu via a function button and a four-way toggle stick, making the Vixia's myriad of features easy to navigate.  The screen is also wide, giving you more real-estate to view your wide HD video than most pocket cameras.
  3. Lens.
    With pocket HD cameras, you're lucky if you get zoom, much less the higher-quality optical zoom.  Vixia packs a great lens with 20x optical zoom, as well as 400x digital zoom.  Not only can you get in close to a far away subject, the camera's zoom speed is variable and you can set the nature of how fast or smooth the zoom operates in the menu.  This gives you tremendous control over the quality of your videos when you're moving from subjects of varying distances.  But perhaps the best thing about the lens on the Vixia is the fact that it features an automatic lens cover that opens and closes as you switch in and out of camera mode.  If you're using this in a business where multiple people have access to the camera, there's no lens caps to lose, and your lens stays really well-protected.
  4. Still camera functionality.
    This is not exactly unique to this camera, but it does feature great digital still photos, and you can set photos to store on the on-board memory while video stores on the SD card, or vice versa.  The camera does feature a flash, as well as the capability to take still photos from recorded videos.
  5. Focus control.
    The Vixia features spectacular auto-focusing capabilities, especially Canon's face-detection mode which works extremely well.  There is also Instant auto-focus which seems to cut down on the "focus-hunting" you see on some cameras.  There is also an option for manual focus, and the screen will give you a zoomed-in view of your subject to make focusing easier.
  6. True 1080p recording.
    When your HDTV says it's 1080p, it means it has the capability to display 1920x1080 resolution.  What you may not know is that some "1080p" video cameras aren't really shooting at that resolution.  They are instead shooting at 1440x1080, and your TV or computer editing software is stretching it to fill that space.  The Vixia camcorders offer this more compressed recording (at bit rates from 5-12 Mbps) as options to fit more video on a memory card, but it does also offer full 1920x1080 recording at 17 Mbps.  This gives you a great deal of flexibility, and the capability of recording at stunning 1920x1080 full HD resolution.
  7. Cinematic 24p recording.
    If you're looking to achieve a more film-like look, the Vixia features 24p and Cine modes.  While it doesn't actually record at 24 frames a second (it actually saves at 60i), the warm, fluid look of film possible with the Vixia adds a unique layer of cinematic style to your shots.
  8. Image stabilization.
    The dynamic image stabilization found on the Vixia takes a tremendous amount of shake out of your hand-held videos.  I've used a number of video cameras of all price points, and I was thoroughly impressed by the quality of the image stabilization on the Vixia.  It doesn't appear to be optical IS (which is better than electronic IS is most every case), but it does an amazing job and evening out the little jitters that get amplified in HD.  You do have an option of standard and dynamic IS in the menu, and it gives you real-time demos of each as you select.
  9.  Robust audio control.
    If you've read my columns before, you know my biggest pet peeve is bad sound.  Unfortunately the vast majority of social media videos have audio that's hollow, soft, distorted or just plain cruddy.  Most inexpensive cameras leave a lot to be desired in the audio department, with most having only a cheap on-board microphone.  For the best results, I always recommend using an external microphone.  The Vixia features a stereo external microphone jack for a microphone with a 1/8" "minijack" connector, such as the Audio-Technica ATR-3350.  But one thing that really stands out about the Vixia is its on-screen sound level meter.  Sure, the Kodak Zi8 gives you a level meter too, but it's only visible inside the setup menu, and not during the actual recording.  The Vixia shows you your sound levels on screen while you record.  This is a great feature for a camera this inexpensive, especially if you're turning the camera on yourself.Not only can you see your levels, you can adjust them without diving deep into the camera's setup menu.  You can adjust your sound level on the fly during recording, using the toggle controls on the screen.  (You can also adjust the focus, exposure and other things during recording too!)  These level adjustments control either the on-board microphone or an external one you plug in, so you have a good deal of control over your audio even if you don't use an external mic.  The Vixia also features microphone attenuation, which protects against distorted sound when the level gets too high.  I've also successfully plugged line-level audio sources like an iPod into the external microphone jack, which few other cameras in this price range handle successfully.You can also monitor your sound during recording with headphones during recording.  This is something not possible with cameras like Aiptek's Action HD GVS, or on Kodak's Zi8 due to its lack of headphone port.  Being able to listen to your audio during recording ensures that you won't have to reshoot because your sound was poor or a problem occurred.The Vixia is hands-down the best low-priced video camera for those who stress the importance of quality sound.  I've never seen a camera this cheap with these features for audio.
  10. Video sharing features.
    One nice thing the Vixia gives you is the capability to down-convert your high-definition video to standard-definition in-camera.  This allows you flexibility to make your videos more compact for video sharing, DVD burning and other uses, without having to tie up your computer.If you have an Eye-Fi memory card, you can upload your photos and videos to your computer and sites like YouTube or Flickr effortlessly over wi-fi.  The Vixia is capable of using your Eye-fi memory card to upload converted standard-definition videos without plugging the camera into your computer.

In short, the Canon Vixia is the camera to buy if you want to get serious about making eye-catching, attention-grabbing social media videos.  A camera with exceptional quality and unprecedented flexibility is rarely seen under $1000, much less in the $350-599 range.  If you're willing to spend a little bit more than it would cost to purchase a Flip or a Kodak Zi8, you'll find yourself with a camera that will serve you well now and into the future, no matter what the project.  It's great for quick video blogs, as well as more complicated video shoots.  It's extremely portable, well-built, and designed to be your company's one-size-fits-all video camera solution.  Whether you choose one with its own built in memory (the R10 or R11) or one without (R100), Canon's Vixia HD camcorders are the video "Swiss Army Knife" of your social media toolbox!

Share it now!
With that in mind, let me present to you another tool you should add to your social media toolbox:  The Canon Vixia HFR line of HD camcorders.  Canon has long been a leader in the still and video camera market, and they have come out with a stellar line of low-priced, high-quality "pro-sumer" high-definition video cameras priced well within the reach of PR pros and aspiring filmmakers alike." data-share-imageurl="http://markdavidzahn.com/sites/default/files/wp-content/uploads/r10-1.jpg">
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