Editor’s Note: This product has been removed from our side-by-side comparison because it has been discontinued. You can still read our original review below, but Top Ten Reviews is no longer updating this product’s information.
The Canon Vixia HF R72 is a compact HD camcorder that shoots 1080p video at 60 fps and features a 32x zoom, 32GB of storage, integrated Wi-Fi and more. Although its image quality isn’t quite up to the standard of the Panasonic HC-V770K, it’s incredibly easy to use and features a long zoom.
Image quality is determined by several different factors, and it can sometimes be difficult to discern why one camera might be better than another. To make this as clear as possible, we shot with the R72, compared its footage against the competition and analyzed specifications like sensor size, resolution, maximum aperture and still image resolution.
After shooting with the R72, we brought its footage into our lab for comparison with the other models we tested. Our impressions were that while the image quality was good for the most part, it struggled when in compared to our top picks, particularly in the areas of low-light performance and dynamic range. In other words, compared to our top picks, its video is grainer in low light and lacks details in the highlights and shadows.
These findings back up what we suspected after our analysis of the specifications. The 1/4.85-inch sensor, for example, is slightly smaller than those found in our best HD camcorders. Larger sensors often do better when it comes to low light and dynamic range.
In addition, its maximum aperture is f/1.8. While that’s a respectable aperture for a camcorder, it pales in comparison to the Panasonic HC-X920's f/1.5 lens. Since an f/1.5 lens gathers more light, a camera with an f/1.8 lens would have to boost the sensitivity of its sensor in order to produce an image of equal brightness. Boosted sensitivity leads to increased levels of noise in your images.
Although the R72 doesn’t quite reach the standard set by the top two picks on our lineup, its image quality is not bad by any means. It performs just as we’d expect a video camera in its price range to perform. Furthermore, image quality is not the only consideration to make when choosing a video camera, and those who prefer to Canon’s design, features and interface would still be well served by the R72.
As far as overall design is concerned, the R72 is the best camcorder that we tested. Granted, its exterior appears a little uninspired and its glossy black finish is a haven for fingerprints, but it’s the actual functionality of the device that we’re most interested in. And it’s the functionality of the R72 that we were most impressed with.
The exterior of the camera is just about as simple as possible and similar to the Panasonic HC-W580. There is one button, to start and stop recording, and one spring-loaded slider toggle, to zoom in and out. That’s it. Realistically, those are the only two functions you’re going to use for the vast majority of the time, so we think it makes sense to declutter the camera body as much as possible. We only wish that a built-in viewfinder had survived this simplification – they tend to make it a little easier to shoot in some situations, especially in bright sunlight.
With the display open there are a couple more buttons and a touchscreen display. Touchscreens are a fantastic tool for cameras as they allow for intuitive navigation of menus without necessitating an overabundance of buttons. In our experience, however, they can often be buggy or slow to respond in HD camcorders.
This wasn’t the case with the R72. Although it’s not nearly the same quality you’d find in a smartphone, we found it to be the most responsive touchscreen on any camera we tested. In addition to this, its menus were well labeled and easy to navigate.
Most camcorders require users to purchase a separate SD card to save video files. Rather than follow that trend, the R72 offers 32GB of built-in storage space – yet another reason why we think the R72 is one of the easier cameras to use. Some people would rather not mess with memory cards at all. If that’s you, the R72 understands.
The ability to zoom is one of the best reasons buy a dedicated camcorder rather than rely on your smartphone. The R72 offers up to 57x zoom, an absolutely enormous range that should more than suffice for the typical user. This kind of range gives you the ability to shoot comfortably in basically any circumstance.
When you’re zoomed in subtle hand movements become very exaggerated, so you’ll need to either use a tripod or turn on the R72's optical image stabilization. OIS counteracts the movements of your hand in real time to smooth out your footage as you shoot. In our testing, we found that the R72’s stabilization was able to keep the sharpest and most noticeable shaking out of our footage without compromising the natural feel of the video. Keep in mind that OIS only works at up to 32x zoom. After that, you’re on your own.
Canon offers the industry-standard one-year warranty with the Vixia HF-R72. For support, you can contact Canon via phone or email or check out the downloadable manual or FAQs section of the website to find solutions yourself. We prefer to have a live-chat option for support, but it’s a small complaint.
The Canon Vixia HF-R72 is a reliable camcorder that does well to balance image quality, usability and price. While it’s a competitive choice for anyone, this camera is particularly suited to those who are more concerned with simplicity and ease of use. For top-notch image quality, it’s better to look to our top pick.