Canon confronts smartphones with the itty-bitty Vixia mini camcorder

Canon is betting that smartphone users—despite their outward enthusiasm for the all-in-one convenience of built-in cameras and camcorders—are privately pining away for a genuine, dedicated camcorder. On Wednesday, Canon comes to the rescue with the 12.8-megapixel Vixia mini compact personal camcorder—6.3 ounces fully loaded.

With a handprint roughly the size of a smartphone, this camcorder packs some serious specs, targeted to the blogger crowd. In Canon's estimation, these users seek superior video, image, and audio quality, along with greater shooting flexibility than smartphones can deliver. The Vixia mini’s built-in Wi-Fi lets you upload video to YouTube and Facebook (of course), as well as to your computer. Canon’s free Movie Uploader app for iOS, meawnhile, lets you post your Vixia mini movies from your iPhone or iPad.

What makes the Canon Vixia mini better than an iPhone or the veritable army of Android smartphones? “The pictures from this camera,” says David Porter, Canon’s marketing manager.

“We’re looking at the sensor in the camera, as well as the Digic 4 processor being able to give you a good hands-free type application," Porter says. While designed for stress-free operation in one's hands, the Vixia mini can also “stand and be mounted on a table or attached to a tripod, and give you that great angle of view,” said Porter. “The way that the screen tilts and rotates allows the users to get live feedback and see what they’re recording, and get a great view of what’s going on in their surroundings.”

Advanced functionality

The Vixia mini offers plenty of smartphone-defying features. For example, its Mirror Image Recording/Playback function lets you view a scene in real time so you can watch while you record. Smart Auto Mode lets beginners capture quick scenes via the touchscreen, selecting from 38 predefined setups for the best shots.

Special Scene modes include Food & Fashion, Sports, and Macro, and offer advanced presets to help capture footage at proper exposures. The camcorder’s Slow Motion mode allows shooting at two slow motion speeds, 1/4x (VGA) and 1/2x (720p), for fast moving subjects. Fast Motion mode also offers two speeds, 4x and 2x, for hastening the footage of slower action.

The camcorder comes with a built-in stand and tripod socket for hands-free operation. You can tilt and elevate it up to approximately 60 degrees while the camcorder’s tripod socket facilitates flexible positioning. There’s even an automatic lens cover.

Advanced features

The Vixia mini features an ultra wide angle F/2.8 fisheye lens for a 15mm wide viewing angle, so you can record video at a 160-degree and photos at a 170-degree field of view. Tap the 2.7-inch, 230,000-dot capacitive touchscreen, and you can shoot at low, normal, and high angles, or self portraits in Wide whole-scene or Close-up modes. The videographer can use the touchscreen to monitor the action and to participate in the video, and toggle back and forth between shooting video and stills. Scenes are recorded in HD MP4 format with a 12.8 megapixel CMOS 1/2.3-inch sensor, powered by Canon’s Digic 4 processor.

Video and stills are saved to a micro SD memory card and the camcorder also supports SDHC and SDXC cards. Photos are 12 megapixel resolution, but closeup HD video is 2 megapixels and close-up stills are 2.76 megapixels. You can record in slow or fast motion, with interval recording at 5, 10, and 30 seconds (with a maximum of 3 hours recording time), 1 minute (6 hours of recording time), and 10 minutes (60 hours of recording time). The battery supports 45 minutes of continuous recording time.

The audio system features a stereo mic recording at 256 kbps or 128 kbps in MPEG2, depending on shooting mode. Audio Scene Select modes let you choose the right audio setting for the best recording such as music, speech, or suppressing road noise for outdoor footage.

Sharing

To share video or stills taken with the Vixia mini, two free apps are available. The Canon Movie Uploader for iOS let you post movies from your iPhone, while the Canon CameraAccess2 app for iOS and Android facilitates live streaming from various smartphones and tablets and allows users to control the camcorder remotely. There's also an HDMI connection.

The Canon Vixia mini will be available in black and white in September for $300. Matching carrying case and strap are available separately for $15.

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