Canon VIXIA HF M4 review: Canon VIXIA HF M4

CNET Editors' Rating

3.5 stars Very good
  • Overall: 7.8
  • Design: 7.0
  • Features: 8.0
  • Performance: 8.0
  • Image quality: 8.0

Average User Rating

4.5 stars 2 user reviews
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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.

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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.

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Where to Buy

Canon Vixia HF M41 (Black)

Part Number: CNETM41 Released: Mar. 15, 2011

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Quick Specifications See All

  • Release date Mar. 15, 2011
  • Optical Sensor Type CMOS
  • Width 2.9 in
  • Depth 5.4 in
  • Height 2.8 in
  • Weight 12.7 oz
About The Author

Lori Grunin is a senior editor for CNET Reviews, covering cameras, camcorders, and related accessories. She's been writing about and reviewing consumer technology and software since 1988.