CES 2014: Canon launches auto-panning HF R56 camcorder and dual-lens PowerShot N100

Consumer camcorders

Canon HF R56
Pan-ready: Canon has designed a pan table for the HF R56 camcorder. Picture: Canon
CES 2014: Canon used this year’s Consumer Electronics Show to unveil a consumer camcorder with an unusual add-on option: a motorised panning table.

The Legria HF R56 is a mid-range, consumer camcorder with a fairly standard design for its class: an all-in-one handheld design with an LCD screen, but no viewfinder.

The camcorder is based around a 1/4.85″ CMOS sensor with a 32x optical zoom lens, and AVCHD and MP4 recording. The camcorder records up to 28Mbps in AVCHD and up to 50 frames per second, or at 50p, 35Mbps or 25p, 24Mbps in MP4. Recording is via the 8GB internal memory, or SD cards.

This is supported by optical image stabilisation, and WiFi connectivity, with remote monitoring via a smartphone or tablet, as well as remote control, and with a suitable internet connection, streaming.

The camera comes with a mix of manual or enthusiast-focused features: manual focus, via the touch screen, and manual focus assist. There is manual audio recording level control, and a headphone jack, although there is no facility to connect an external mic to the camcorder.

What sets the HF R56 apart from almost any other camcorder, though, is Canon’s decision to make a dedicated panning table for the camera. The panning table – the Pan Table CT-V1 – currently only works with the HF R56. However, it allows the camera to pan through 200 degrees, controlled via the Canon CameraAccess Plus app.

The panning table is designed so it can be left in standby mode, to save power, and activated via the app. But it can also be powered by two AA batteries, opening the door to field use.

Although the unit has only pan and no tilt, combining the pan table with the camcorder’s built-in zoom allows a wide range of shots. This could open the door to using the HF R56 as a lower-cost and compact alternative to a “hothead” or robotic PTZ camera for studio use, for webcasts, as a camera for remote contributors or as a possible budget option in areas such as reality TV or natural history.

The HF R56 will cost £329 or €429; Canon has not yet released pricing for its Pan Table CT-V1.

Canon also used CES to announce the PowerShot N100, a 12.1 megapixel compact camera with a 5x zoom, and with a second, photographer-facing lens. The secondary, 25mm lens operates at the same time as the main lens in both stills and video mode. Canon describes this as a “story lens”, with the idea of making it easier for photographers or videographers to include their side of the story.

The N100 will go on sale in May, at a price of £349.