It's not a very compact camcorder, but it has a nice heft and feels comfortable to grip and shoot single-handed. A mic input sits on the right side of the lens, and a flip-up cover beneath the strap hides the dual SDXC slots.
Like the higher-end HF G10 and HF S30, the HF M4xx series has three operating modes: auto, manual and Cinema. However, the Cinema mode in this camcorder doesn't support a 24p-encoded format, just 24p capture that's encoded as 60i.
The membrane button with the camera and book invokes Canon's Story Creator, a guided shooting mode intended to help you shoot a variety of content on a given topic. Basically, you choose a theme, such as Party or Travel, and the camcorder provides a list of scene options, like "Planning for the trip" and "Taking off!" They're organized in-camcorder, and you can rate individual scenes for playback filtering. There's also a generic, themeless story if you just want to use it for organizing a shoot. The files reside in the normal AVCHD directory tree, however; the organization is strictly for camcorder-based playback.
In addition to having more memory, the M41 distinguishes itself from the M40 and M400 by the incorporation of an eye-level viewfinder. That makes it one of the least expensive models available with an EVF.