Given the reasonable price of the HFR36, it comes as no surprise that it looks, feels and performs like a cheap camcorder. For better-quality footage, check out this model's big brother, the Canon HFM52, which has a number of additional features that make its extra price worthwhile. However, if it's a lightweight, affordable camcorder you want, then this device won't disappoint.
Design and features
The biggest concern we had when using the Canon HFR36 was that it feels flimsy. It's far too small in the palm for anyone with slightly larger hands, and it does feel like you could crush it. Another irritating problem is the persistent rattling sounds we found when moving the camera — it feels like something's broken. Obviously, the body of the device uses a cheap, lightweight plastic, which is to be expected given the price. However, we are happy to see that Canon offers different colours for this model, making it an easy purchase for those shooters who want to make a splash.
With 32x optical zoom and 8GB of internal memory (plus SD/SDHC/SDXC support), there's plenty of scope for taking lots of footage. The 3-inch LCD touchscreen is very disappointing, though, mostly because of the menu interface. It's disorganised and frustrating to navigate, making it difficult to find many of the functions listed, as the category names don't adequately describe what you're looking for.
On a brighter note, it is extremely impressive to find Wi-Fi on this device, as it's unexpected in such an inexpensive camcorder. This sophisticated feature is something that one would expect of a far more expensive device.
Video and image quality
Overall, the video quality on the Canon HFR36 performs like one would expect from a cheaper camera. The footage appears fuzzy, reminding us of an '80s video clip. The colours are grey and dull, everything is flat and the texture is grainy with purple fringing.
To make matters worse, under low light, everything has a cloudy-green tone. We found ourselves thinking that some mobile phones would perform better.
The zoom on this camera also presents a problem, while the image stabilisation is not good at all. The stabiliser has a great deal of trouble focusing at the long end of the zoom, and jolts around erratically, making much of the footage unusable.
To continue the streak of bad news for the HFR36, the audio performs terribly. Maybe if there was an external microphone input, this could be salvaged, but as there isn't an option for this, you will have to endure the cluttered sound. Every shot sounds like you're standing next to the ocean, because it picks up so much background and atmospheric noise ... which is great, if you're standing next to the ocean.
While the HFR36 is a cheap camcorder, you definitely get what you pay for. Obviously, this is both a good thing and a bad thing; while it won't hurt your wallet too much, you may be left wanting on video quality. If you want to take your filming more seriously, try spending the extra money on the Canon Legria HFM52.