Canon VIXIA HF M4 review: Canon VIXIA HF M4

Canon Vixia HF M400 (Black)

(Part #: 5118B001) Released: Mar 15, 2011
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3.5 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

The Good With a nice set of features for home-movie-type shooters and pleasing video quality, the Canon Vixia HF M400 series has lots to like.

The Bad A small, coarse LCD that's hard to view in direct sunlight and touch-screen-impaired menu system hamper an otherwise solid design.

The Bottom Line A fine follow-up to last year's M3xx series, the Canon Vixia M4xx series should please most home-movie-oriented videographers despite its relatively high price. If you don't need the EVF, the M400 is your best buy, but if you'll be shooting a lot in sunlight, it's worth it to step up to the M41.

7.8 Overall
  • Design 7.0
  • Features 8.0
  • Performance 8.0
  • Image quality 8.0

With the Vixia HF M4xx series of HD camcorders, Canon maintains its reputation for delivering a solid midrange consumer camcorder, once again at slightly higher prices than those of the competition. The series consists of three nearly identical models. The cheapest, the M400, has no built-in memory, the M40 adds 16GB, and the M41 adds another 16GB plus an electronic viewfinder. All use the same HD CMOS Pro sensor found in the HF G10 , but paired with a smaller, less expensive lens. This review is based on the Vixia HF M41.

Overall, the camcorder's video looks relatively sharp--and like most looks even better played directly on a TV. There is some aliasing on edges, generally a result of the interlaced video format; one difference between the M4xx series and its step-up sibling is the lack of a native 1080 progressive encoding format instead of the AVCHD standard of encoding 24fps and 30fps video as 60i.

Exposure and color rendering look very good, with a broad tonal range--there's no excessive clipping in the highlights or shadows. Though the M4xx series uses the same sensor as the more expensive HF G10, the lenses are very different, and it shows in a variety of ways. In this case, the more pentagonal aperture renders less pleasing out-of-focus highlights. That probably won't matter to most potential users of this model, but will affect those seeking a more artistic look.

The camcorder's low-light video (about 17 lux) looks quite good; a little soft, but with a nice balance between sharpness and color saturation and accuracy in its noise reduction. Lower light--dim living-room quality--displays more softness and color noise, but I think most people would consider it acceptable.

For shooting stills, the low-resolution sensor may not suit some folks' need for large still photos. Like the G10, the stills look sharp and fall just short of looking too digital; they look fine onscreen and printed, but I wouldn't recommend printing them larger than 4.5x8 inches.

As for audio, the stereo microphone is quite sensitive with a bright sound, but the automatic wind filter doesn't work as well as I'd like. It has a decent set of audio tools, including the ability to mix internal and external levels, set directionality (mono, normal, wide, zoom), equalize (boost LF, low cut, boost MF), boost HF+LF), and attenuate.


  Canon Vixia HF R200/ R20/R21 Canon Vixia HF M300/M30/ M31/M32 Canon Vixia HF M400/M40/ M41 Canon Vixia HF S200/ S20/S21 Canon Vixia HF S30
Sensor (effective resolution) 2.07-megapixel CMOS
(Dynamic IS on: 1.47 megapixels
Advanced Zoom on: 1.04 megapixels )
2.99-megapixel CMOS
2.07-megapixel HD CMOS Pro 6-megapixel CMOS 6-megapixel CMOS
1/4.85 inch 1/4 inch 1/3 inch 1/2.6 inch 1/2.6 inch
Lens 20x
f1.8-3.6
41.2-824mm (Standard IS)
15x
f1.8-3.2
39.5-592.5mm
10x
f1.8-3.0
43.6-436mm
10x
f1.8-3.0
43.5-435mm
10x
f1.8-3.0
43.5-435mm
Closest focus 0.4 inch 0.4 inch 0.4 inch 0.4 inch 0.4 inch
Min illumination (lux) recommended: 100
standard: 5
low light: 0.4
recommended: 100
standard: 5.5
low light: 0.4
recommended: 100
standard: 1.5
low light: 0.1
recommended: 100
standard: 4
low light: 0.3
recommended: 100
standard: 4
low light: 0.3

EVF

None None None/None/ 0.24-inch 260,000 dots None/None/ 0.23-inch 123,000 dots 0.27-inch 123,000 dots
LCD 3-inch 230,000 dots 2.7-inch 211,000 dots 3-inch 230,000 dots 3.5-inch 922,000 dots 3.5-inch 922,000 dots
Primary media 0GB/8GB/ 32GB internal; 2 x SDXC 0GB/8GB/ 32GB/64GB internal; 1 x SDHC (SDXC on M32) 0GB/16GB/ 32GB internal; 2 x SDXC 0GB/32GB/ 64GB internal; 2 x SDHC 32GB internal; 2 x SDXC
HD recording AVCHD: 1080/60i @ 24, 17 Mbps; 1440 x 1080/60i @ 12, 7, 5 Mbps
(also encodes 30p and 24p as 60i)
AVCHD: 1080/60i @ 24, 17 Mbps; 1440 x 1080/60i @ 12, 7, 5 Mbps
(also encodes 30p and 24p as 60i)
AVCHD: 1080/60i @ 24, 17 Mbps; 1440 x 1080/60i @ 12, 7, 5 Mbps
(also encodes 30p and 24p as 60i)
AVCHD: 1080/60i/24p @ 24, 17 Mbps; 1440 x 1080/60i/24p 12, 7, 5 Mbps
(also encodes 30p and 24p as 60i)
AVCHD: 1080/60i/24p @ 24, 17 Mbps; 1440 x 1080/60i/24p 12, 7, 5 Mbps
(also encodes 30p and 24p as 60i)
Manual shutter speed (video) None 1/6 - 1/2000 sec 1/6 - 1/2000 sec 1/6 - 1/2000 sec 1/6 - 1/2000 sec
Manual iris None f1.8-f8 f1.8-f8 f1.8-f8 f1.8-f8
Built-in ND filter No No No No No
Accessory shoe No Yes Yes Yes Yes
Audio 2 channels;
mic, headphone jacks
2 channels (5.1 via optional mic);
mic, headphone jacks
2 channels (5.1 via optional mic);
mic, headphone jacks
2 channels (5.1 via optional mic);
mic, headphone jacks
2 channels (5.1 via optional mic);
mic, headphone jacks
Body dimensions (WHD, inches) 2.4 x 2.4 x 4.8 2.7 x 2.4 x 4.8 2.9 x 2.8 x 5.2 3.0 x 2.9 x 5.5/
3.0 x 2.9 x 5.8 (S21)
3.0 x 2.9 x 5.8
Operating weight (pounds) 10.9 (est) 13.1 14.3 18 17.6 (est)
Mfr. Price $379.99/ $399.99/ $499.99 $549.99/ $599.99/ $699.99/ $999.99 $649.99/ $699.99/ $799.99 $899.99/ $999.99/ $1,299.99 $1,099.99
Ship date March 2011 March 2010 April 2011 March 2010 March 2011

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