Canon Legria HF R36
1/4.85in CMOS sensor, 1,920x1,080, 32.0x zoom, 273g
This review is of the Canon HF R36, however it also applies to the Canon HF R306, which is identical in every respect except it lacks the R36's built-in 8GB of memory
Canon’s HF R36 is a Full HD compact camcorder with a 1/4.85in CMOS sensor, 32x optical zoom, 51x intelligent zoom, a 3in colour touchscreen monitor and a whopping 8GB of internal storage space. That specification is already pretty good for a camcorder of this price, but Canon has gone even further by adding Wi-Fi connectivity, which means you can transfer recorded videos to your PC without a USB cable and stream videos to DLNA-enabled TVs and games consoles.
In fact, the HF R36 has many built-in features that are perfect for families that want to have fun with video, but don’t necessarily want to use a computer. Story Creator lets you create video stories using pre-designed patterns, various digital filters make your videos look like old black and white movies or a 70s TV show, and Memory Save lets you back up your images and videos to an attached hard drive from the USB host port.
Of course, image quality is the key feature of any camcorder. When shooting from our rooftop in bright daylight, the HF R36 captured enough detail to make a satisfying family movie. It adequately captured the texture and staining of paving stones, pebbles and walls within five metres of the lens, but from around 15 metres the camcorder captures less detail, so that individual bricks are no longer apparent, although individual patches of colour are. Overall quality isn’t bad for a camera of this price, although the automatic focus is a little too soft and there's some noise, even in daylight.
The camera's CMOS sensor is supported by a 32x optical zoom lens, which works well up until half of its full extension. After that, objects have a pronounced halo effect and more noise is introduced. You can further extend the zoom digitally to 51x and 1020x. The former is Advanced Zoom, which is a hybrid optical and digital zoom which gives you a zoom boost without degrading quality too much.
There are also has a number of image stabilisation options, including Dynamic IS and Powered IS. Dynamic IS aids stability when walking with the camcorder and Powered IS adds stability when using the zoom, although you can have both activated at the same time. The image stabilisation is reasonable for a camera of this price (it's not a patch on the Panasonic HC-X800's stabilisation, for example), but we recommend using a tripod where possible.
The HF R36 has a 3in touchscreen monitor instead of a viewfinder. Sadly, its horizontal and vertical viewing angles are poor, which can make it difficult to film at interesting angles. The touchscreen is also used for adjusting options, although the menu you see depends on the mode to which the HF R36 is set. The menu icons are clear and menu options easy to read, but they could be better organised. Even after some time with the HF R36, we still struggled to remember where certain menu options were located.