Bigger and bulkier than your average camcorder, the S21 isn't interested in fitting inside jacket pockets.
This is a camcorder that wants to be seen, and seen sitting atop a tripod is often the best place for it. It has a durable build quality and responsive control buttons, as well as a 10x optical zoom that's relatively smooth and easy to control.
The increased dimensions are partly down to that 3.5-inch touchscreen LCD, which offers a sharp and clear way of reviewing recently shot footage. The colour viewfinder – a rapidly vanishing feature – is a neat addition, too, though it could have done with being bigger.
The touchscreen LCD is a little disappointing, though, especially when it is needed to access and make selections from the menu. The problem is it's often unresponsive to the touch of a finger, leaving you looking like a tech-numpty as you repeatedly prod the screen.
It's wiser, and quicker, to use some form of stylus pen or pencil to scroll through what is often an intelligently laid out menu system.
There's no disappointment when it comes to image quality, however. You're simply going to drool over the sharpness, clarity and colour reproduction the S21 delivers. A close-up of a leaf reveals exceptional fine detail, and even when rapidly changing the subject and setting, the S21's autofocus and autoexposure systems react and adapt quickly to any changes.
Low-light doesn't deter the S21 and it produces watchable movies even in less-than optimum conditions. The camcorder's auto systems do noticeably boost the image brightness in low light, but without any major detriment to the overall picture.
The S21 is bundled with Pixela ImageMixer 3 SE software and in conjunction with a nifty HD-to-SD file conversion feature on the camcorder it's possible to share movies through websites such as YouTube.
Insert an SDHC into the cam and select the clip(s) you want to convert from Full HD to SD – these are then stored on the SD card. Open the software – you'll have the chance to enter YouTube log-in details – and use it to upload and share these clips. It's simple, intuitive and addictively easy.
Stills can be reeled off (using a four-mode flash: auto, on, off, red-eye reduction) at super fine, fine and normal settings, and the 8.59MP CMOS sensor delivers sumptuous colours and absorbing detail. As with movie clips, it's a straightforward process to create playlists and albums from favourite stills and videos.