Is The Canon Vixia HF R800 A Good YouTube Camcorder? You Be The Judge! (Review)

This entry level option from Canon continues to enjoy widespread popularity as a competent entry-point to the camcorder world

Daniel Rosehill
12 min readAug 13, 2021

Several years ago, I picked up a Canon Vixia HF R800.

The Canon Vixia HF R800 mounted on a scorpion bracket with the Saramonic Cam Mic Plus (battery powered shotgun microphone) as the external microphone. Shoot location: Gazelle Valley, Jerusalem. Photo: Author

My rationale?

It was one of the few budget / entry-level camcorders that had an external microphone input (3.5mm) which widened mic options significantly beyond the built-in microphone (usually of relatively poor quality). It was also made by Canon, which I knew was considered a trusted brand.

Those on lower budgets have relatively few good options in the camcorder world. So those seemed like more than good enough things to be getting for my spend. I haven’t regretted the purchase for a second.

My rationale for going budget?

Besides you know …being on a budget … I wasn’t sure whether it was going to sit lying on my cabinet for the next several years until I felt ready to actually finally ‘get into’ video.

And while the R800 certainly meant that I’d be starting out with some limitations (I’ll get to those below) it also meant that I could get into learning about microphones from the get-go, which I saw as a big advantage.

The good news is that although my entry to the world of YouTube-ing has been a little slower than I might have liked, it has absolutely gotten some good use. You know that point when you develop a sort of fond relationship with your key electronics despite the fact that … they’re inanimate objects and all that? I’m there. I love my Vixia.

I also reckon I’ll get at least six to twelve months out of it before I even start thinking about upgrading the core component of my camera kit. A few folks on YouTube and Reddit have already reached out to me asking what I think about it. So the TL;DR is this: I like it. And if you’d like more detail, read on.

But Why A Camcorder, Grandpa?

Doing some outdoor vlogging with the Vixia HF R800. Location: First Station, Jerusalem. Accessories: table-top tripod and scorpion mounts by Ulanzi. Microphone: Saramonic Cam Mic Plus. Thanks to the Crazy Will Tech Show for the tip to get the zoom into 57X for a wide angle shot. Photo: Author.

Firstly, I specifically wanted to pick up a camcorder. You may be wondering why. Isn’t that …. like so uncool? (Yes, yes it is.)

I know that DSLR and mirrorless are the flavor of the day among YouTubers, but I specifically wanted to purchase a camcorder — even if a very basic one — to get going with video.

While I respect what they do, I have precisely zero interest in still photography.

During my brief but halcyon days in freelance journalism, if I needed a still photo I’d reluctantly whip out my smartphone and then get back to doing whatever writers on assignment do (fiddling with notepads, operating voice recorders, trying to look curious and worldly). Don’t try to teach an old dog new tricks. But video … even I can see that is worthy of its own tool.

The Vixia with a smaller shotgun microphone connected to it on the top of an L bracket. Note: this camera doesn’t have any cold shoe / accessory mounts. So you’ll have to work around that if you want to mount them. Photo: Author

So why buy something originally intended for it even if they look a lot cooler and are being hyped up all over YouTube?

I don’t know enough about video yet to be able to say this with confidence. But I’ve found other Luddites who do (thank you, Google) and confidently espouse the belief that if video is what you’re aiming to do, a camcorder is still the best tool for the job. Their viewpoint makes total sense to me.

Yes, they’re clunky. Yes, they give you a slightly awkward-uncle-at-the-family-BBQ-with-his-camera-again look.

But I like them. Perhaps one day I will be that awkward uncle at the family BBQ (when I get to that stage, I better have a shoulder rig and something a lot chunkier; my family video footage is going to be broadcast quality and I’ll settle for nothing less).

What’s Good About The Canon Vixia HF R800?

So what are the positives?

Workable 1080P Video

Firstly it reliably shoots decent enough video with options for both a fully automated shooting experience (automatic white balance, focus, and exposure) and an option for more manual shooting.

Unless I’m missing something in the settings somewhere (note: I’ve checked the spec sheet several times; I’m pretty sure I’m not), it shoots in 1080P rather than 4K.

Personally, as a rookie, I find that 1080P looks good enough for my needs. I have so much more to learn (lighting, sound, stabilization, editing) before I can justify fretting about when and whether it’s time to go from high to ultra high resolution. So I edit in 1080P and wonder who needs 8K anyway?

Secondly, the thing works. It hasn’t failed on me yet.

The OEM battery capacity isn’t enormous at less than 3,000 mAh. Nevertheless, non-OEM ones (like the chargers) are plentiful on online marketplaces.

Naturally, if you go down this route you’ll be dealing with some limitations — so I’ll go ahead and forewarn you about what those might look like.

Many won’t interface the motherboard so the only means to determine remaining battery life is to … try talking to the battery (I jest). But they’re cheap enough that you can throw a few in your camera bag and live with the constant uncertainty of it all. Note: my ones also only charge with non-OEM chargers. Canon and Aliexpress’s finest batteries from some random factory aren’t exactly best friends, it seems.

1 x External Microphone Port (Minijack, 3.5mm)

Secondly, you have an external microphone port. It’s one humble 3.5mm connection. You also have an AV out line for audio monitoring. I maintain that this is a great camcorder to learn the ropes on — including monitoring your line in. You won’t be able to connect XLR mics to the camcorder and you’ll have to use a step-up adapter if you want to listen with headphones that terminate in a 1/4" connection. But for a rookie … I think these concerns are probably overkill.

A 1/4/20 Mount For

If you want to get the Vixia on a monopod or tripod, then there’s a screw-in 1/4"/20 thread on the bottom of the camera.

… And What’s Bad About The Canon Vixia HF R800?

The Mic Jack Doesn’t Supply Any Power — So Won’t Work With Mics That Don’t Provide Their Own Electricity

Remember that external mic jack that I mentioned?

The humble 3.5mm one that basically led me to buy this camcorder?

Yes, that one.

Well, it has a dirty secret to hide:

It doesn’t put out any power.

As in none whatsoever.

No phantom power. No plug in power (PIP). It’s output voltage is 0. Zero. Efes.

For connecting microphones directly to the camcorder, this poses something of a headache. Rode and many manufacturers do make on-camera mics that supply their own electricity via a built in battery but … I had a very hard time finding them in my local sales geography.

In the end I had to settle for the Saramonic Cam Mic Plus. Thanks for this breakthrough go to the patient staff at Erlich who kindly let me test the mic in store to make sure it would work before purchasing.

When you get knowledgeable sales staff who let you do this … you start to believe that bricks and mortar still has a place even in an online shopping dominated world.

Therefore, while you will be able to use external microphones with this camera and even plug in a mixer, you’ll always have to be cognizant of what the power situation with the hardware you’re trying to connect looks like.

The Saramonic Cam Mic Plus. Which does work with the Canon R800. Photo: Author.

There’s No Built In WiFi And No Compatible Remote Control — And The Default Zoom Setting Isn’t Ideal For Vlogging

Now what happens if you want to take some selfie-style vlogs with this thing you might be wondering?

The answer is that depending on what other gear you might have on hand you could be out of luck.

The R800 doesn’t have built in WiFi. As it shares a user manual with some other higher end Vixias that do this could be a little misleading.

There is a count down timer function. But there’s also no remote control.

For those that want to skip editing in post production, these limitations could prove quite annoying. As I post some video vlogs without editing them in post, I tend to record these using a webcam and microphone on my computer.

WiFi, a compatible remote control, and a zoom function for wide angle that were more clearly labelled in the firmware menus would make this camcorder a lot more useful for vloggers.

If you’re looking to vlog with the Vixia you might also find the default zoom settings far too close-up.

The Crazy Will Tech Show posted this excellent video about how to get over the lens issue without having a wide angle lens on hand — although you can also find one easily enough on the market (the lens size is 43mm if you’re wondering). I already thanked him in the comments but let me do so again here — thanks, Will. This little tip you shared truly helped me out!

You Can’t Monitor Video In Real Time

Like most consumer level cameras, the R800 does have a pop out monitor to let you see what’s going on in your shot. You can overlay it with a grid view based on both white and gray lines for more accurate framing.

However if you’re hoping to attach a dedicated hardware monitor to the camcorder then, again, you’re going to be out of luck. The playback functionality only works retrospectively through the navigation menu. Therefore, you’re not going to be able to hook up a monitor to the camcorder.

Again, for rookies, I don’t think that this is a deal-breaker. As I get into using my gimbal and monopods, not being able to monitor the video feed is starting to get a little annoying. When I’m speccing out my next camcorder, I’ll definitely be looking for this as a feature.

Wait For It … There Are No Cold Shoe / Accessory Mounts

Even when you can’t get a cold shoe onto your camera you can place one on top of it and dream about what could be. You can even take a photo with it on it. Photo: Author.

There’s only one thing that I do totally hold against Canon for omitting when designing this camcorder: there are no cold shoe /accessory mounts.

If the good folks at Canon ever read this, I’ve sized up a small patch of space on the top bezel of the camcorder. Surely it wouldn’t add much to the manufacturing costs to shave down some metal here and throw on a cold shoe?

This limitation really is kind of annoying — particularly as there’s the external microphone port. Canon gives you the ability to connect external microphones. But then makes it needlessly difficult to hook up a simple on-camera shotgun.

What you can do instead is purchase an L bracket for about $10 from your preferred camera retailer. But if you just need to get a small microphone or light on top of the camera, these clunky pieces of metal add a lot of size to a compact camera. I ended up having to buy a somewhat large shoulder camera bag simply to be able to carry the bracket and mounted accessories around with me.

But there is a better way.

It seems like it’s oddly hard to actually buy these things if you don’t live in the US (as for why, I have no idea) but you can buy adhesive cold shoes that have some 3M tape on the back and just stick on to the camcorder.

You can also go for hackier solutions if you have a metal file and some double sided tape on hand. Check out these YouTube tutorials from Bubba’s Workshop and R Brown.

Are There Any Gimbals That Are Compatible With The Canon Vixia HF R800?

Seems like a simple question right? Not so much.

For whatever reason, answering it took me months of digging. A veritable wild goose chase.

Firstly, various camera stores seemed aghast when I marched in with my tiny camcorder and demanded that they find their finest gimbal that would take it.

“It’s the wrong size,” they argued in protest (while getting back to the guy from the local TV station ordering a much-fancier microphone for his much-fancier camcorder). “Gimbals are for DSLRs and mirrorless cameras,” another affirmed.

Not one to be phased when I have my mind made up on something, I decided to dig around online.

B&H wouldn’t list any electric gimbals that they were prepared to stand by as officially operable with the camera. So I turned to YouTube and found footage from a couple of YouTubers who had evidently got the R800 on a gimbal. Searching listings of popular gimbals, I found other living breathing people in the world who evidently had gotten the R800 on a gimbal.

From YouTube: here’s what it looks like on a Zhiyun Crane 3 (footage: Nightcast Productions).

I see a little bit of wobble (like the kind I’m getting on the Ronin SC). But the results are nevertheless pretty impressive (says I). And the gimbal + monopod combination always looks very impressive for creating a fake crane/jib effect.

Here’s another YouTuber getting it working on the Zhiyun Crane V2:

Recently I went on a trip to the US.

Disregarding the wisdom of the sunk cost fallacy which tells gimbal-hunters to not continue the search because they’ve already written to three manufacturers and should really get back to doing whatever else they have to do today, I decided to drop B&H Photo Video an email.

And guess what? Near instantaneous success!

I walked into B&H and walked out with a DJI Ronin SC about fifteen minutes later — then decided to walk across the street into an Irish pub and celebrate owning what to many probably seems like an obscure and unnecessary piece of electronics.

Important note: the R800 isn’t officially compatible with the Ronin — and hence you won’t see it listed on their official comparability charts (here’s the one for the Ronin SC). More importantly, this means that the record button the gimbal that looks so convenient won’t actually do anything. But it’s not a major limitation.

I am sure that when I told him “this was kinda hard to find” the guy working at the gimbal counter had absolutely no idea that he was closing the loop on a gnawing and frustrating wild goose chase that had gone on for months, involved many futile visits to camera stores, and much … daydreaming about gimbals.

Is the gimbaly goodness all the gimbaly goodness I could have dreamed about?

Yes and no.

I don’t regret buying the Ronin for a moment and I have a lot to learn with the tool. But part of me thinks that a non-electric stabilizer would just be a far better tool for a camera of this size, even if it’s small. In time, I’m hopeful that I’ll get to learn both.

Canon Vixia HF R800 and DJI Ronin SC

Curious how it all looks together? Here are some photos:

Working on calibration. Photo: Author
The combination used together with the Ulanzi quick release plate — an amazing piece of gear. Photo: Author
The DJI Ronin SC used with the Saramonic Cam Mic Plus and a Ulanzi light. Photo: Author

What Accessories Can You Buy For The Canon Vixia HF R800?

  • 43mm wide angle and telephoto lenses are both available
  • You can find a variety of lens filters for this size online
  • To the best of my knowledge, there’s neither a remote control nor an underwater case for this camcorder

Where’s A Good Place To Discuss This Camera Online?

Check out the Camcorder section of the Canon Community Forums. There are lots of very knowledgeable posters.

There’s also an unofficial Canon subreddit. It’s at /r/canon.

Do I Recommend The Canon Vixia HF R800?

Yes, I do.

I think that it’s a great camcorder to learn the ropes of video on. That’s precisely what I’m doing. And I think that it can support my video voyage for at least another six months (to a year).

What’s the next step up for me? Probably something like the Vixia HF G50 which will shoot at 4K (among many other advantages) . I’d be happy to stick with Canon and with camcorder. But that’s already a significant chunk of change.

I can shoot with it. I can monitor audio. If I know what camcorders and mixers can work, I can attach them too.

What Does Video Shot With The Canon Vixia HF R800 Look Like?

As a rookie, I’m probably not doing justice to the camera’s full capabilities. So watch the gimbal clips above first.

But if you’re curious how the camera looks on top of the Ronin SC, here’s an example:

Shot through a sunroof:



Daniel Rosehill

Daytime: writing for other people. Nighttime: writing for me. Or the other way round. Enjoys: Linux, tech, beer, random things.