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First Look: Canon Vixia HF M41

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First Look: Canon Vixia HF M41

3:46 /

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.

Hi, I'm Lori Grunin, senior editor for CNET and this is the Canon Vixia HF M41. With the HF M400, M40, and M41 HD camcorders, Canon maintains its reputation for delivering a solid midrange consumer offering, albeit again at slightly higher prices than the competition. The series consist of 3 identical models. The cheapest, the M400, has no built-in memory, the M40 adds 16 gigabytes and the M41 adds another 16 gigabytes for 32 plus an electronic viewfinder. All of them use the same HD CMOS Prosensor found in the HF G10, but they paired with a smaller less expensive 10x zoom lens. It's not a very compact camcorder, but it has a nice heft and it feels comfortable to grip and shoot single-handed. A microphone input sits on the right side of lens and a flip-up cover beneath the strap hides the dual SDXC card slots. Like the higher-end HF G10 and the HF S30, these series has 3 operating modes: auto, manual and Cinema. But in this camcorder, Cinema mode doesn't support a 24p-encoded format, just a 24-progressive capture that's encoded as 60i. A membrane button in the LCD recess invokes Canon's Story Creator, a guided shooting mode intended to help you with a variety of content types on the 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. Overall, the camcorder's video looks relatively sharp and like most looks even better played directly on the TV. There is some aliasing jaggies on edges, generally as a result of the interlaced video format. Though this camcorders use 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 you if you're looking for a more artistic look. As for audio, the stereo microphone is quite sensitive with a bright sound, but the automatic wind filter doesn't work quite as well as I'd like. There are decent set of audio tools, including the ability to mix internal and external levels, set directionality such as zoom or mono, equalization like a low cut filter or a boost for high and low frequencies and attenuation. The camcorder meters and exposes correctly and consistently most of the time, but like many tends to underexpose in situations where there's not necessarily backlighting, but there's a large subject surrounded by a lot of ambient light such as a flag waving against, but not as really terribly bright blue sky. The image stabilization is solid; the Dynamic setting works well up to about 75 percent of the way through the focal range, and Powered IS is rock-steady even at maximum telephoto. I'm not crazy about the LCD; however, it's slightly larger and higher resolution than that of the preceding M300 series. It's still feels too small and coarse and frustrating for navigating the menus. A fine follow-up to last year's M300 series, the M400, M40, and M41 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 for the EVF. I'm Lori Grunin and this is the Canon Vixia HF M41.

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