Canon's mainstream HD camcorders get the modern touch

Canon replaces its extremely popular HF2xx with the rebranded and touch-screen-enabled HF Mxx series.

Vixia HF M30 Canon USA

Despite its somewhat high pricing, the Canon Vixia HF series has traditionally delivered solid AVCHD recording performance and quality for the money. Depending upon your feelings about touch screens, however, Canon's either improving on a good thing or ruining a great camcorder. Rebranding its Vixia HF series (replacing the HF20 and HF200) as HF M--with the "M" denoting its position in the middle of Canon's HD camcorder lineup--the three models differ primarily by memory configuration and some capabilities enabled by that memory. The cheapest, the HF M300, will cost $679 and have no memory, just an SDHC/SDXC-compatible card slot. For another $20, the $699 HF M30 adds a built-in 8GB; at $799, the HF M31 bumps up to 32GB.

The key specs remain the same as the HF20/200: the new models use the same 15x zoom lens, now with a Powered IS capability for theoretically improved stabilization at the telephoto end, and 1/4-inch 3.9-megapixel CMOS sensor. Canon says it has tweaked the sensor for improved low-light performance and enhanced the Digic DV III processor for better rendering of blues and purples.

Canon Vixia HF M300 Canon USA

The biggest change, however, is the switch from a joystick-based interface to a 2.7-inch touch screen. This enables features that I've always liked from Sony and Panasonic's touch-screen models, like spot focus and exposure, plus a Touch and Track mode, which tracks the selected subject while it's in frame. But I'm generally not a fan of touch-screen interfaces for capture on cameras and camcorders; they're fine for playback, but tend to be too clunky for quickly changing settings while shooting. I could be in a dwindling minority there, however.

The models with internal memory will also be able to downconvert and save video to standard def MPEG-2 files, which you'll be able to wirelessly upload if you have the requisite Eye-Fi card. They'll also support relay recording, the automatic overflow of video from one medium to another if you run out of space.

The camcorders will be available in late March

 

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